The 2015-16 St. Bonaventure basketball season made an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of Bona faithful.
It was a surprising, heartwarming and uplifting season, despite the fact it ended in disappointment. Yet that unhappy ending only makes the ties that bind Bonnies even tighter.
The season is affectionately relived in a new book, “Snubbed: A basketball season of triumph, crisis and despair at St. Bonaventure Univeristy.”
It’s written by one of Bona’s distinguished journalism alums, Brian Toolan, who as an editor at the Hartford Courant helped that paper win a Pulitzer Prize in 1999.
Toolan’s strength is perspective. He articulates a wonderful grasp of the essence of the university and how the basketball program is ingrained in the fabric of its students, alumni and community.
The book’s angle is to juxtapose the basketball season against the backdrop of the university’s economic straits. Like many small, private institutions, Bona is wrestling with an enrollment crisis. It’s enrollment last year of just 1,687 made it the third smallest school in all of Division I basketball, behind only Presbyterian and Wofford.
A quote from Bona Faculty Senate member Barry Gan helps set the scene: “My guess is there’s probably no school in the country that spends one-seventh of its budget on athletics.”
The tangible and intangible implications of this are fleshed out in interesting detail and interspersed with the tale of the 2015-16 season. That makes this not the typical sports book. The focus is not the human-interest stories of the players but the Herculean effort required by Bona to maintain a toe-hold on the big-time college athletics landscape.
It was Toolan’s good fortune that he signed up to document a season in which Bona wound up winning a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season title for the first time ever.
The book is published by NFB/Amelia Press and costs $19.95. Anyone with an interest in Bona would appreciate it.