St. Joe's: Weather easy excuse for UA

By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 16, 1996

It looks as if an Arizona-St. Joseph's basketball game will not happen anytime in the near future.

The two teams were supposed to meet Saturday in Philadelphia, but the Wildcats did not make the trip, citing the bad weather that has rocked the East Coast in recent weeks.

Because of the cancellation, Arizona had been trying to reschedule the game for sometime next season, but Hawk head coach Phil Martelli has other ideas.

"Martelli said if we were to reschedule the game for next year, we would be looking for a new men's basketball coach," said Larry Dougherty, of St. Joseph's sports information department. "I don't think we'll be meeting them anytime soon outside of a tournament setting."

Martelli is steamed because he felt the weather was not the real reason behind Arizona's decision. He has said he believes it was St. Joseph's five-point overtime loss to No. 1 Massachusetts last Wednesday that scared the Wildcats from making the trip, an d that the weather was just a convenient excuse.

"It's clearly based on the competitive level of our last game," Martelli said. "In my neighborhood, if you didn't want to fight somebody, you ran and hid, and that's exactly what they did."

Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood, reached by phone yesterday, said, "The fact of who St. Joseph's played and how close the games were was never discussed."

Although St. Joseph's offered to postpone the game until Sunday, the school could not persuade Arizona to make the trip.

"Based on all the available weather, airlines and airport information we had at the time the decision was made, we felt from a safety standpoint that we could not afford to take the risk of putting our team in jeopardy," Livengood said in a statement rele ased last Friday. "First and foremost we have a responsibility for the well-being of our student-athletes."

While the weather turned out to be rather mild in Philadelphia in comparison to the last few days - temperatures were in the high 30s at game time Saturday with rain, but no snow - Livengood said the possibility of bad weather at the time the decision was made was still a reality.

"I had a couple of players' parents express concern to me during the week. You don't have the Blizzard of '96 every year," Livengood said. "I'd rather err, rather have St. Joseph's be critical of me, than be on the other side explaining why we took those risks."

Since Arizona did not show up at the arena, there is no procedure St. Joseph's can follow to have the game ruled a forfeit. Only if Arizona was in the arena and refused to play could a forfeit be considered, Dougherty said.

In Arizona's absence, St. Joseph's went ahead with pregame warmups and player introductions at the Palestra, then scheduled a mock opening tip. St. Joseph's stopped after scoring a layup.

"There are no forfeit possibilities," Arizona sports information director Tom Duddleston Jr. said.

What has furthered the controversy between the two schools are charges by St. Joseph's and the Atlantic 10 Conference - to which the Hawks belong - that Livengood lied when he said the game was mutually canceled Thursday night.

According to St. Joseph's and Atlantic 10 Conference officials, the two schools did not come to an agreement to cancel the game until Friday afternoon, not Thursday night. Even then, said Dougherty, "It was a one-sided agreement. St. Joseph's had no choic e. At 1:30 (EDT Friday afternoon) we got the final word that they weren't coming."

Ray Cello, director of communications for the Atlantic 10, was more direct.

"It was poor of them to say a decision was made Thursday by both athletic directors to cancel the game," Cello said. "That's not true. No decision to cancel was made. For (Livengood) to say that is a lie."

However, Livengood said he talked to St. JosephÍs athletic director Don DiJulia as early as Tuesday about the possibility of canceling the game. When the two talked again Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Tucson time, Livengood said DiJulia told him he would contact him in a few hours. When DiJulia did not call Livengood back by 10:30 p.m., and with the Wildcat team, fans and media scheduled to fly to Philadelphia the next day, Livengood said he was forced to make a decision, and said he telephoned DiJulia to inform him.

"Everyone has just made this into a much bigger thing," Livengood said.

Cello said Arizona head coach Lute Olson had not called Martelli to apologize or offer an explanation.

Pacific 10 Conference commissioner Thomas Hansen did not comment, other than to say the decision had been left up to Livengood.

Phone calls to Olson were not returned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.