What a night it was for tiny Bellarmine University (2,635 undergrads) in Louisville, Kentucky after the school, in its second year of competing in Division I, won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
But there’s a catch: Bellarmine is “transitioning” to Division I, after years of basketball success at the DII level, and the NCAA rules state that during a four-year transition period, a team isn’t eligible for the NCAA Tournament even if it wins the conference championship tournament. It’s said to be a rule that forces schools to be serious about moving up to DI.
Not one to let a pesky NCAA rule ruin his vibe, Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport headed straight to the bars after Tuesday night’s 77-72 win over Jacksonville at Freedom Hall in Louisville where students rushed the court in celebration.
“Listen up,” Davenport barked at the jubilant students at Shenanigans Irish Grille. “Just to show how much we appreciate you and how much we thank you, your first or your next, ’cause it’s not your first, your next drink will be on me.”
And with that speech, Scott Davenport became a hero.
— Doug Davenport (@doug_davenport) March 9, 2022
Jordan Mincy, the head coach of Jacksonville, couldn’t stop saying good things about Bellarmine after the loss.
“1st class program with high character young men. Speaks volumes to the job Coach Davenport has done in taking the program from D2 to D1. This group of young men deserves an opportunity to play in the NCAA tourney,” Mincy wrote.
Even though it was the conference tournament runner-up, Jacksonville won’t represent the ASUN in the NCAA Tournament.
That bid will go to Jacksonville State, who won the regular-season title only to lose to Jacksonville in the ASUN semifinals.
Confusing? Yes. Typical NCAA bureaucracy? Of course.
To put this story in perspective, let’s look at teams Bellarmine faced in 2019-2020 as its run in DII was coming to a close. The Knights faced Missouri S&T, McKendree U., Michigan Technological U., Quincy U., Truman State, William Jewell College.
Now the school is celebrating what should be a trip to face a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. You’re damn right Scott Davenport’s buying drinks for an entire bar.
“When you go from (Division) II to (Division) I, just … Hey, you can’t one foot in, one foot out!” ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said Thursday night. “They should go to the Dance! Unacceptable! Ridiculous!”
— Bellarmine University⚔️ (@bellarmineU) March 9, 2022
— Bellarmine Men’s Basketball (@BUKnightsMBB) March 9, 2022