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BU Athletes Ask America East to Rethink Ban

Petition seeks OK to play in championship tournaments

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Call it a Hail Mary pass: BU student-athletes will petition America East (AE) to rescind its ban on their participation in next year’s championship tournaments.

The presidents of AE colleges voted for the ban after the University’s decision to leave the athletic conference and join the Patriot League. BU students say they’ll circulate the petition here and among fellow athletes at AE’s other schools. The petition is being promoted on a Facebook page, Let Boston University Compete, created by the Dog Pound, the organization of BU sports fans.

The students behind the Facebook page hope to accomplish something that Michael Lynch, BU assistant vice president and director of athletics, and University President Robert A. Brown could not: each lobbied AE to reconsider its decision, both verbally and in writing. AE spokesman Sean Tainsh says the AE presidents have already rejected a BU appeal of the ban.

“While this situation presents unfortunate circumstances for all involved,” says Tainsh, “the board of presidents believes it must act in the best interests of the remaining eight institutions who are committed to advancing the league.” Those schools “deserve to be given every opportunity to be crowned America East champions,” Tainsh says.

The ban means that BU, a founding member of America East in 1979, loses one possible route into the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, since AE tournament champions get an automatic berth in the NCAAs. BU teams, however, will still have a shot at the NCAA tournament through the “at-large” process, which invites teams with excellent regular-season records to compete.

AE’s tourney ban was imposed in accordance with the league’s by-laws, Lynch says, although the conference “had discretion as to whether or not to impose it.” Because of the AE ban, BU inquired about joining the Patriot League in the coming season, a full year earlier than planned. Lynch says the Patriot League wanted to help but had already scheduled the season, and squeezing in a last-minute team proved impossible.

“I was disgusted and crushed” by the ban, says softball player Jayme Mask (CAS’13). “Our parents and people we looked up to for so long have always taught us that in order to succeed in life, you have to set goals and work hard to reach them,” a lesson the ban seems to make “null and void.”

“No matter how you put it, presidents from schools voted to bar us from the tournaments for no reason other than spite, and that is a horrible lesson to leave with students,” she says.

The petition’s wording hasn’t been finalized, Mask says. Meanwhile, soccer team member Megan McGoldrick (CGS’11, COM’13) says BU athletes “are not trying to complain or disrespect the decision made by the other schools. We just want to know we did everything we could to be eligible to compete.” She calls the ban “extremely disappointing.”

She and Mask say the ban actually will fuel their teams’ motivation to play this season, in part because amassing a good record is their only path to the NCAAs. Mask says a friend of hers, reacting to the ban, summed it up for many players by saying, “Now every game is a playoff game.”

A leader of the Dog Pound offered a different take. Ryan McKetchnie (SMG’13) says that while at first he considered the ban “unfair and childish,” he can’t condemn it after reflection, given that the rule serves AE’s interests and was known to BU. He also supports the University’s joining the Patriot League. “The only thing I regret is that the main casualties of this decision are the people who deserve it least—the student-athletes.”

Men’s basketball coach Joe Jones says America East allowed Northeastern to play in the 2005 tournament even though that school had left the conference. But ESPN reports that the tournament ban on exiting schools was adopted after Northeastern’s departure and with BU’s support. The network also reports that the Colonial Athletic Association imposed the same sanction for next year on two schools that are leaving that league.

AE commissioner Amy Huchthausen told an interviewer that BU was aware that a ban was a potential consequence of their move to the Patriot League, “and they obviously factored that into their decision.”

Women’s soccer coach Nancy Feldman says that the at-large path to the NCAAs is a tougher proposition than getting in as AE champs, although her team did it six years ago. While such a ban is common when teams depart a league, she says, “there are also many examples of conferences not being nearly as heavy-handed.” The presidents of AE schools, who decided on the ban, chose “the most significant penalty that they could impose. A conference that has consistently expressed supporting student-athlete welfare, and has approached many other decisions and policies with a student-centric philosophy, seems to have missed the mark on this one.”

While she’s confident BU athletes will continue to do well—they’ll still be playing for AE regular season titles and for regional and national rankings—“there is no question this is a major and significant disappointment to them.”

“We hoped there would be some other penalty that would still allow us to play,” Jones says. “We believe the presidents should reconsider their decision.” He predicts that the ban will lend “extra energy” to his players’ performance.

In June, the University accepted the Patriot League’s invitation to join that group, beginning with the 2013–2014 season, while playing one final year in AE. BU cited its compatibility with the academic and athletic quality of the Patriot League’s teams: American University, Army, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, and Navy, as well as three associate members competing in one sport each: MIT, Fordham, and Georgetown.

Under the agreement, four BU teams—men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s rowing and wrestling—will not join the Patriot League, but remain in their current conferences, so the AE ban won’t affect them.

23 Comments
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

23 Comments on BU Athletes Ask America East to Rethink Ban

  • Sam Stone on 07.11.2012 at 7:44 am

    The presidents and “poor sports” of the America East colleges that voted for the ban have demonstrated a level of immaturity reminiscent of a classic child’s response: “If you won’t let me play quarterback, I’m going to take the ball and go home”. Anyone of these colleges would jump at the chance to jump conferences… if they could. So it is a bit disingenuous for them to “punish” BU. And, in the end, their punishment misses the mark by chastising the student athletes rather than the BU officials that made the decision. This is comparable to not tipping the waitress because the chef overcooked your steak.

    However, these same college presidents will NEVER recant. Anyone who would make the decision they did – to target the student athletes for self-serving retribution – certainly doesn’t have it in them to admit an error. And there is a valuable lesson to be learned from this event: Maturity and good judgement are not necessarily attributes of the over-50 set, whether a college president or the “town drunk”.

  • CryMeARiver on 07.11.2012 at 7:51 am

    Everyone should have thought about the consequences before switching.

    • BU Student Athlete on 07.11.2012 at 9:40 am

      Oh really, everyone should have thought about the consequences? How about the student athletes who had no choice in the matter in the first place? It really is a shame that they didn’t get their voices heard in this decision because not only did they not have a say in the conference switches, they had no say in the leagues penalties. Every single student athlete thought about the consequences of leaving the conference, but it doesn’t matter because it wasn’t their decision. It sickens me that higher-ups would willingly vote to ban these student athletes, who have stayed committed to their sport for their entire lives and came to BU to compete for four short years.

      • Anonymous on 07.11.2012 at 10:17 am

        And it doesn’t sicken you that BU higher-ups thought of this move and didn’t think of how it would affect student-athletes in the short-term, only thought of the $$$ consequences?

        • BU Student Athlete on 07.11.2012 at 7:42 pm

          Yes it definitely makes me very upset that BU higher-ups knew that this was a possibility and it didn’t matter to them enough how it would affect the student-athletes. I know that the move is supposed to put BU in an academically similar conference, so I can understand the long term goals President Brown has in mind. I just wish this didn’t have to affect the student athletes how it does. And yes, I am very mad that presidents at the other AE schools willingly decided to punish the defenseless athletes. A simple fine to BU would have done the move justice and we could all move on and compete for a championship.

    • Teri on 07.16.2012 at 5:22 pm

      The athletes have no choice in the switch. The Big East is punishing the people who made the decision to leave the conference with fines, they are not punishing the athletes and the Big East stands to lose tons more TV money than the AE, but apparently, protecting student althetes is not important to AE presidents. In the article AE spokesman says that the other AE schools should have a right to play for a championship. Does that mean the rest of the schools in the conference are saying their teams are not good enough to win against BU athletics? Is that what this is really all about? If the rest of the schools do not want to have to play BU, then why care if they leave?

  • student on 07.11.2012 at 9:39 am

    just sue them

  • Anonymous on 07.11.2012 at 10:03 am

    I agree with CryMeARiver – BU should have thought of the consequences of their league-switching actions on those affected, namely the student-athletes, before switching. It’s a classic money move that in the short term adversely affects the athletes, who had no control over this situation.

    • DB on 07.11.2012 at 4:35 pm

      Oh, please. I’m sure they knew it was a possibility that this might happen…but they probably thought that maybe the other conference presidents were going to be reasonable and not perpetrate such a childish response. Obviously that assumption turned out to be wrong. But the fact that the conference has the power to do this doesn’t make it right, and you know that. So stop trying to impress people by pretending to be the voice of reason, you know this was wrong.

      • Andrew Smith on 07.11.2012 at 7:01 pm

        LOL! A money move? You must be kidding. BU athletics loses money on every single sport they operate in except hockey (which isn’t even in America East).

        The fact is that BU will probably lose as much, if not more, money in the Patriot League because they added another sport that will have almost $0 in revenue – Lacrosse.

        The Patriot League is just a better fit due to the league’s stronger academic focus, and slightly better athletics. BU was THE best of one of the worst leagues in NCAA division 1. It was time to move on.

        I do feel bad for the student athletes but BU had to think about the long-term direction of the university and what was best for the 300k+ living alumni as well as future students.

        A lot of people are quick to judge the BU administration, but considering their small per student endowment and operating in a city that has little interest in college sports, I think the current administration is doing a surprisingly good job. As an alumni, I fully support a move away from America East.

        • Kyle Potter on 08.07.2012 at 5:11 pm

          Andrew Smith for president. That is all.

  • Brendan Mahoney on 07.11.2012 at 10:42 am

    The effects short term on the student athletes are very frustrating, especially for seniors who must have been looking forward to this last chance to compete for championships. Although the other university presidents/ADs likely won’t budge on this issue, they would have been much better off letting this happen quietly. No need to have another program hating you when you could have been good out of conference matchups.

  • C on 07.11.2012 at 10:57 am

    Unfortunately, we are in no position to argue with the decision of America East. As the article says, BU was a founding member of the conference an was fully aware that a playoff ban could be a possible consequence of our switch to the Patriot League. My only problem with this decision is that it punishes the student athletes who had no say in the matter. The decision to move to the Patriot League was made in the administrative offices of BU and not by the athletic department. As a result, I personally believe that we should be able to compete. However, as a member of AE we agreed to a set of by-laws and we must abide by them even when they don’t work in our favor.

  • Toobadsosad on 07.11.2012 at 1:35 pm

    Well, it just looks like our basketball team is going to have to actually be decent this year if they want to make the march madness tourney (hah, yea right)

    For the rest of the student athletes it’s a shame that they have to be penalized for something that they have no say in, but does this really surprise you? This is BU, not some public state school. They can do whatever they want, and WILL do whatever they want. The only people they are trying to help is themselves. They do not care about the student athletes at all, they only care about the money they will recieve in the long term.

  • DB on 07.11.2012 at 4:32 pm

    Don’t try to be a diplomat, Mr. McKetchnie. You were right the first time… it IS “childish,” and swallowing your pride and pretending the conference presidents are being reasonable when you know they’re not isn’t going to change their minds. They’re not going to allow BU to compete no matter what, so you might as well just be honest and call it what it is.

  • Let BU Play! on 07.12.2012 at 3:01 pm

    Check out letBUplay.org !!!

  • BU student athlete on 07.12.2012 at 4:39 pm

    sign the petition! help out our BU student athletes. Terrier nation forever.

  • BUParent on 07.13.2012 at 10:26 am

    The provision allowing the America East’s presidents to ban a school’s student-athletes from championship play is not in the Conference by-laws, but in its Constitution — the same Constitution that contains a “mission statement” promising that America East is “committed” to holding “a broad based program of championships”, that America East’s “purpose” is to allow student-athletes to compete “in championship programs that are . . equitable” and states that its’ members’ responsibilities require “administrators to behave as role models for students.” The provision to bar students from championships is not mandatory, but only allows the presidents discretion to do so. One would think and hope that such discretion would not be abused in the manner it was.
    To those whose comments suggest that BU student-athletes (who had no say in this but are the sole target of the Conference’s reprisal) “should have seen it coming”, I would respond that they should not have expected it, but rather should have expected a more reasoned and compassionate response, and a response more in keeping with the Conference’s stated goals, from eight men into whose care we have all entrusted our children.

  • Majestic Mapp on 07.13.2012 at 6:30 pm

    I highly doubt the other AE Presidents will change their vote. It would be a PR disaster if BU knocked out their team from a tournament after being allowed to participate. Their student-athletes come first and I don’t blame them for this mindset.

    It’s too bad because I like the move to the PL. If this was a one-time only invite then I can understand why AD Lynch and the BU Admin would jump on it. But if not, and they were hoping the other AE Presidents would be accommodating, they made their bed…

    I feel bad for the seniors, but there is still plenty to play for.

    • BU student athlete on 07.17.2012 at 6:10 am

      plenty to play for? whatever do you mean? I’d love to hear your explanation

      you let me know what it feels like to begin a season, already knowing how limited you will be. NO BU TEAMS in the conference have a chance at advancing to any post-season championship, no NCAA tournament participation, etc.

      I’ve devoted three years to the America East.. I won’t even be around when BU joins the Patriot League. My season is cut short this year.. and you say there’s PLENTY TO PLAY FOR? I think you should maybe rethink that statement.

      • Majestic Mapp on 07.19.2012 at 11:06 am

        At-large bid.

        BU teams are only barred from the AE tournament, and a shot at the conference’s auto-bid, but can still get an NCAA, NIT, etc. invite with an impressive regular season. I know this is a tall task but it’s something to play for.

  • Shirley on 07.18.2012 at 6:31 am

    This is greatly affecting the students mostly but also the parents, grandparents,friends, and their opponents.Please reconsider to allow them to compete as usual. They are not in the other league this year. They are America East.

  • Shirley on 07.18.2012 at 6:33 am

    They are America East in 2012-13.

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