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The Butler Did It

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The Knights coach saw the Bucknell fans sitting together behind their team's bench, dressed all in orange. He thought it would be great if he'd see the same school spirit for his team's Division II NCAA tournament game Saturday at Bentley College.And he did everything he could to make that possible. He personally purchased white T-shirts for the fans who were going to be making the four-hour bus ride from Queens. It was going to be a special day for the Queens College coaches, players and their friends and families.But instead of a comfortable coach bus for the players' parents, family and friends, the school decided to save some money and provided slightly different transportation.Two big yellow school buses.That's right, for the Knights third NCAA tournament game in five years, the school's brain trust, more specifically its athletic director Richard "Doc" Wettan, went with cheese buses for those fans willing to spend their entire Saturday to watch their team play up in Boston.The parents who spent the entire season driving everywhere from Philadelphia to New Haven to watch their sons play basketball were promised a nice bus, with comfortable seats and a VCR. Instead they got the same buses that bring children to the Queens College summer camps."We made a financial decision," Wettan said. "Everyone who wanted to go to the game got to go for free even though it wasn't in the lap of luxury."There were 70 people who signed up for the bus, the coach bus -- not the cheese bus. Wettan said getting two buses from New Jersey-based Cadet Bus Company, the same company that provided the team - which usually travels in cramped school vans - its bus was not a viable option.Instead of turning fans away or even charging $10 a head to help soften the financial blow, Wettan decided to go the cheap route.It's sad and unfortunate, but it's not surprising. After all, this is the same team that had to play some of its games last year in near freezing conditions because windows in Fitzgerald Gymnasium weren't fixed yet.When the Knights were preparing for their NYCAC championship game, they had their walk-through in a dance studio, with the two large fans in the room acting as the nets. Their basketball floor was rented out.And when the Knights played their NYCAC championship game at C.W. Post, they did so without a trainer, as was the case for every road game this season. When star John Sikiric had blood on his leg late against New Haven in the NYCAC semifinals, assistant coach Kirk Liddelow taped Sikiric up while Brett Wierzbicki carried the medical kit.What does that say to the players' parents? Sikiric's parents were on one of the buses, as was Lance Hazel's family and Clyde Chapman's family and friends were on the other bus.Wettan still has time to make things right for the Hazels and the Chapmans, but they can't do that for the Sikirics. For eight years they watched two of their three sons - Steve and then John - play at Queens College and their final memory will be of sitting on a school bus, getting to their son's final college game late because the bus didn't leave Fitzgerald Gymnasium until 1:20 p.m. and then arriving back on campus 12 hours later.Of the 70 who signed up for the bus, 43 took the two school buses. Some of those who signed up decided to drive up to Boston on their own rather than sit on an uncomfortable school bus. Others went home.For those who were driving back that night, they had to endure slick and snowy roads in Massachusetts.But give the parents credit. They didn't complain, at least not outwardly. Mrs. Sikiric bought Dunkin' Donuts for everyone and the Hazel family played a spirited game of Taboo with a few of the women's basketball players who made the trip.As for Peponakis' vision, that didn't exactly work out as planned. Not every fan got a T-shirt, they didn't all sit in the same section and a combination of the uncomfortable ride and arriving late sucked the enthusiasm right out of the fans. An hour and a half after arriving, they were back on the cheese buses following the Knights' season-ending 85-68 loss at Bentley.But, hey, at least the school saved some money. It wasn't a total loss.Parting shotsIt's one thing when a disagreement between Time Warner and Cablevision blocks out Knicks and Mets games for millions of cable customers in the city, but when those same customers can't watch the PSAL finals on MSG, that's just wrong.The two conglomerates have already proven they don't care about the common fan, but high school hoops fans too?Playing on the Madison Square Garden floor is something those lucky enough to experience it cherish for a lifetime. But because of greedy millionaires the same kids, their friends and family members couldn't tape the games and have something to show their grandchildren. All they have is their memories and they have the suits to blame for that.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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