CHICAGO – There is growing frustration at DePaul University over the dismal Blue Demon’s men’s basketball team. A group of students and alums are saying it’s time for change at the top of the athletic program and are calling for the athletic director’s firing.
The men’s team suffered another losing season and will be watching the NCAA tournament from home for the 14th year in a row.
The steady decline of the school’s once vaunted basketball program is a story that Jonathan Bellew and the reporters at the DePaulia, the university’s student newspaper, have been following closely.
The student newspaper is running an editorial calling for the firing of Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, a member of Chicago’s famed Lenti family, the sister of the legendary Mount Carmel High School coach.
“Over the decades, you’ve seen this clear regression – and a lot of people blame Ponsetto for three hires basically, what people point at where she has failed spectacularly,” Shane Rene, student newspaper sports editor, said.
Alums are just as upset. A group of concerned DePaul fans took out a full page ad in the Sunday s Chicago Sun-Times blaming Ponsetto for overseeing 233 losses and 11 losing seasons.
“Our position is that we are absolutely asking DePaul to hold the athletic department responsible and for her to resign,” Matt Martinez, concerned DePaul alum, said.
A 2012 DePaul graduate, Matt Martinez paid for the ad through a GoFundMe campaign.
“What’s been most disheartening is over the last decade plus, we’ve seen an administration that continues to make strange moves, to push out the voice of those who care about DePaul basketball, and really don’t care about fielding a competitive team,” Martinez said.
The university responded to the Sun-Times ad:
“Fans and students are entitled to voice their opinions, but not everyone may agree with it. Our men’s basketball team is a fine group of student-athletes who are terrific ambassadors for our university. All of our student-athletes make us proud every day with their many accomplishments — both in athletic competitions and in the classroom.’’
But back at the student newspaper, the story is a campus calling for accountability from the athletic director.
“If your flagship program is not performing as a billboard for the university, then that’s a problem,” Rene said.
Ponsetto’s accomplishments include success in other sports like soccer, softball and tennis and the building of the new Wintrust Arena as reasons she should keep her job.
So far, there’s no indication that the university is ready to make a change.
The school’s public relations office issued the following statement:
Under Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto’s leadership, our student athletes continue to make us proud. Consider the following:NCAA SuccessDuring Jean Lenti Ponsetto’s time at the helm of the department, 14 of the 15 Blue Demon athletic programs have represented the school in NCAA championships including 15 straight NCAA appearances by the women’s basketball team, two trips to the Women’s College World Series for the softball program, and trips to the NCAA Tournament by the men’s and women’s soccer programs after winning BIG EAST Conference regular season titles.Academic AccoladesSuccess has also come in the classroom during Ponsetto’s tenure as more than 1,200 Blue Demon student-athletes have been named to conference academic honor rolls.Best in the BIG EAST in 2016-17The 2016-17 academic year saw the Blue Demons lead the BIG EAST with six team championships and eight team academic awards. Academically, DePaul has led the conference in team academic awards for seven straight years. In addition to the eight team academic awards, a DePaul record total of 170 student-athletes were named to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team for 2016-17.Wintrust ArenaShe was also instrumental in bringing DePaul basketball back to Chicago and played a key role throughout the negotiations for Wintrust Arena – the new home for DePaul basketball – which opened in the 2017-18 season. Ponsetto led DePaul’s efforts in all stages of the project including securing naming rights of the facility and fundraising that has met or exceeded all goals at the outset of the project. One of the strongest challenges DePaul has faced with the men’s basketball program has been in the facilities area. Now that this challenge has been met, we remain confident that the improvement the men’s basketball program has made will continue and that DePaul athletics will remain a point of pride.