Unlike state colleges in other states, the S.U.N.Y. system of New York has never had one of those massive athletic departments with top football and basketball programs. Fans here enjoy the basketball (mainly because of Syracuse, a private school), but we don’t really share the college football obsession that our inter-regional counterparts do. So it was no surprise that until last March, Binghamton University was largely unknown outside of New York State. Even to New Yorkers it was known for little else than being an academic bastion of the state university system.
That all changed last March when the men’s basketball team gained national attention for winning the America East tournament, notching its first ever NCAA berth and finishing 23-8. A lasting image is its fans rushing to midcourt to celebrate with the players. They even emerged as a favorite to upset Duke in the 1st round (Didn’t happen: they got blown out 86-62.)
It was a hollow glory, however, as a report from a four month investigation details the lengths at which school administrators were willing to go to win.
One player who transferred to Binghamton received credit for courses like Bowling I and Theories of Softball, according to the report. An assistant coach and a player discussed cash payments and having the assistant write part of a paper for him.
Fueled by the lofty ambitions of the school’s president and athletic director to become a big-time program, the men’s basketball team was allowed to operate on a different standard than that of other student-athletes. The team’s head coach, Kevin Broadus, hired in 2007, recruited players of questionable character who were rarely held accountable for their actions in the classroom or out of it:
The report also showed Binghamton to be unprepared for so many high-risk academic athletes. For example, two players’ failing grades were turned into passing grades after late work was handed in, the report said. Another failing grade was turned into an incomplete after Mr. Broadus lobbied the professor.
A number of the star players had legal troubles as well. Emanuel Mayben was arrested for possession and sale of crack cocaine; Malvik Allen arrested for stealing condoms from a Wal-Mart; several players were arrested for purchasing goods with a stolen debit card.
The fall from upstart to has-been was swift. Alvin, Mayben and Rivera – who accounted for 43 points per games last year – were kicked off the team and Broadus was placed on paid administrative leave. The team is 11-15 and has a respectable 6-5 conference record this season, but the N.C.A.A. hasn’t even begun its own investigation yet. Recruiting sanctions on the program could follow.
Before the tournament last year, Pete Thamel reported on the toxic atmosphere within Binghamton’s basketball program in a foreboding piece for the Times. From the other side of the athletic glory, the takeaway is prescient:
The Bearcats finally have what DeFleur and Thirer have yearned for since ignoring a faculty senate vote and pushing the athletic program to Division I in 2001: a team talented enough to possibly reach the N.C.A.A. tournament.
But how they got here, and whether it is all worth seeing Binghamton’s name pop up on CBS on Selection Sunday, has led many on campus to wonder at what cost the university has pursued big-time men’s basketball.