Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Fall of Binghamton (Who?) Basketball

In March, Binghamton University went dancing for the first time, entering the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament as the America East champions. Seven months later, six student-athletes were dismissed from from the team, a faculty member critical of the school's athletics program was relieved of her duties, the Director of Athletics resigned and the school announced an external review of all athletic programs would take place. Did I mention that the week Binghamton was to take on Duke in the first round of the tournament a fund-raiser for the department filed a federal sexual harassment complaint against two athletics staff members?

When Binghamton won their conference tournament, I was on the court, a proud alumn celebrating a huge victory for a school that just transitioned to Division I in 2001. But now I must ask: was it worth it? Was it worth it to lower the social, ethical, and academic standards of the university to play one NCAA tournament game? Was the appearance in the headlines for 1) a player getting arrested and charged with the sale and possession of crack cocaine, 2) the school subsequently dismissing the player and five teammates, and 3) the AD resigning a fair price to pay for a small piece of publicity in March? I say no.

It seems that ever since Head Coach Kevin Broadus was hired that the team has garnered more negative publicity than positive, but yet he's the only one left standing (with a contract extension he signed in June keeping him in Binghamton until 2014).

Unfortunately, Broadus' recruitment of very good junior college transfer players and other players with questionable backgrounds is the quick way to building a successful program. Binghamton isn't the first school to follow this plan and it won't be the last. The question now becomes, where is the balance? How much does a school need to sacrifice to build a successful program? The benefits of winning include national exposure and money, but Binghamton is an example of what happens when a school risks too much and loses it all.

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