Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Goes Around Comes Around for Binghamton

Earlier this year on my blog, I noted a couple of articles about the shady doings at Binghamton, including Kyle Whelliston's commentary about "the hired guns" that Binghamton brought in. The New York Times article from February is a much more scathing account of what coach Kevin Broadus, with university blessing, did as far as recruit players with checkered backgrounds. Broadus' fellow America East coaches were so sickened by Binghamton's questionable tactics that they unanimously voted as a block for Marcus Blakely for America East Player of the Year over many considered the best player in the America East, the Bearcats' D.J. Rivera. Rivera, the Bearcats leading scorer, averaged 20 points per game for Binghamton last season.

Well, you reap what you sow and it's come back at Binghamton in spades. First, guard Emanuel Mayben, the Bearcats third leading scorer and assist leader, was arrested on possession and attempted distribution of cocaine. Mayben was immediately dismissed from the team. Then after Binghamton University President Lois DeFleur noted in a prepared statement that "This behavior does not reflect the quality of our program and the hundreds of student athletes at Binghamton University," five other Binghamton players, including Rivera and Malik Allen, the team's fourth leading scorer, were dismissed from the team.

One of the other players dismissed was Rutgers' transfer Cory Chandler, who averaged 11.5 points as a freshman at Rutgers, but lost playing time during his sophomore year. Chandler ended up being dismissed from Rutgers due to a violation of athletic department policy. Now Chandler has been dismissed again from another athletic program.

Then the man who hired Kevin Broadus, Binghamton Athletic Director, Joel Thirer, resigned shortly after the dismissal of the six Binghamton players. In a press statement that announced Thirer's resignation, DeFleur stated that she has directed Broadus to provide her with a recruitment and supervision plan for the basketball team. She also said an external consultant also will audit the athletic program to make sure it complies with America East and NCAA policies and procedures.

Then, it was announced that the State University of New York would pursue an independent review of Binghamton's athletic program following the dismissals of the six basketball team members. The SUNY Chancellor. Nancy Zimpher, who as president at Cincinnati University was responsible for the dismissal of former basketball coach Bob Huggins, announced that an executive committee of the Board of Trustees would over see the audit. The audit will be led by retired New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye (who I have actually met when she has spoken in the past at Hofstra Law School).

However, the Bearcats men's basketball dam continued to spring leaks as it was then next reported by newly appointed Interim Athletic Director Jim Norris that Broadus violated NCAA rules with illegal contact of prospective recruits. This resulted in Binghamton suspending off campus recruiting for the men's basketball team. As Andy Katz reported, the violations were apparently due to Broadus speaking to two prep guards on the first day of the evaluation period, an absolute no-no in NCAA recruiting rules.

Finally, the Bearcats tried to plug the dam leaks by placing Broadus on an indefinite paid leave of absence. Norris named assistant coach Mark Macon (yes the former Temple guard) as interim head coach.

The amazing thing about this all was that all these events occurred in the span of less than one month. Once Mayben was arrested and dismissed, it was like knocking down a wall of dominoes with the Binghamton team. Basically, this is the risk you take by taking second and third chances with players. Katz' article notes a comment by Dennis Wolff, former head coach of Boston University questioning why would Broadus do this with an America East team stating "It's a mid-major league that gets one bid"

It's a good question, but I think I have a good answer. That answer lies simply in the first paragraph of that New York Times Article I mentioned above;
Sitting 10 rows up at midcourt, Binghamton University’s president, Lois B. DeFleur, and athletic director, Joel Thirer, can look around the $33 million campus events center and see their dream of Division I men’s basketball unfold.

I remember being at the Binghamton Events Center back in November of 2004 when the Events Center in Vestal had just recently opened up. My friend Tony Terentieff and I saw Hofstra defeat Binghamton 76-63. This was a year before I started writing my blog. I remember noting to Tieff at the time that it was a really nice arena (minus the scoreboard which didn't have a large digital screen but had the old moving advertising screen boards instead). But I wondered also why was this arena built, considering it wasn't even half full that night. I mean Binghamton was never known for its athletics.

Well as the Times article notes, "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". It's really the vision that DeFleur, a former college basketball player, and the now former AD Thirer wanted. A Division I SUNY athletics school like Albany, Stony Brook and Buffalo. But they wanted a more - an NCAA Tournament team. And thus the deal with the devil, Broadus.

Here's the kicker. Outside of Albany's famed NCAA tournament game against UConn in 2006 and Buffalo's first winning Bowl season in college football this past season, these three schools really haven't been on the Division I athletic spotlight. Stony Brook is known for it's academics not it's athletics. And they are all either America East schools or in Buffalo's case, a member of the Mid American Conference. Chances are they never will truly be in the athletic spotlight, well in a positive sense. And there's nothing wrong with that.

However, by giving leeway to Broadus and his questionable recruiting tactics, Thirer and DeFleur have now put Binghamton in the national spotlight, of course in a negative way. For the past month, thanks to all these stories, Binghamton has been featured on ESPN's College Basketball home page. Binghamton now has its name along with Memphis as being the examples of "What Not to Do in College Basketball Recruiting".

Not exactly the spotlight DeFleur and Thirer were looking for eight years ago. But when they hired Broadus, that was the risk they took. They got the NCAA tournament glory and the filled to capacity $33 million arena they were looking for with the Binghamton Men's team (they sold out their America East Championship win vs UMBC). But the price they paid will set back their program and the University's name for years to come.

This will probably result in DeFleur's eventual resignation. She and Thirer allowed this to happen. The Times article clearly shows Broadus' recruited players that had shaky academic backgrounds and the questionable "diploma mill schools" from which Broadus recruited players.

I'll close by what Patrick Nero, the America East Commissioner stated about Binghamton in the Times article. He stated he had spoken with the Binghamton administration about Binghamton’s off-court issues and then said the following;

“I don’t know how I’ll feel a year from now or six months from now. Certainly there have been signs there that made me concerned.”"

Nero couldn't have been more Nostradamus if he tried. Wonder how he feels now.

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