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February 14, 2010 12:00 PM The Price of Athletic Success

By Daniel Luzer

Bearcats.jpg

Great college sports can arguably create a great university. With this no doubt in mind, in 1995 SUNY Binghamton began the process of becoming a Division II school, with the eventual goal of possibly becoming a Division I institution. Binghamton is now Division I and Binghamton has a very successful basketball team. In March, 2009 the school won the America East basketball championship. In May 2009, the Binghamton men’s basketball team participated in its NCAA tournament. The school even changed its name. As a Division III school, athletic teams were the Colonials; now they’re the Bearcats.

But something appears to have gone very wrong at Binghamton. In September, 2009 basketball point guard Emanuel Mayben was arrested and charged with selling cocaine. A week later five other students were kicked off the basketball team for “unspecified misconduct.” Then the athletic director resigned. In October Binghamton placed the basketball coach on indefinite leave. In December an adjunct professor at the school was dismissed after she accused the athletic department of demanding that she give passing grades to basketball players who didn’t attend her class. In January, 2010 Binghamton President Lois DeFleur announced her retirement.

Admit allegations of impropriety, the State University of New York Board of Trustees ordered an investigation into Binghamton’s basketball program. Well it doesn’t look good. According to an article by David Moltz at Inside Higher Ed:

The report - rife with details of a coach who unabashedly recruited academically unprepared players, an athletics director who pushed for exceptions to the university’s admission process to land them, and students who ran into trouble both in and outside the classroom once admitted - reads like a cautionary tale for any institution thinking of making the move to the big time.
“As the events that have occurred at [Binghamton] confirm, colleges and universities that have chosen to compete at the NCAA Division I level are subject to an intense and unremitting struggle to balance the desire to win games with the primary academic mission of an institution of higher education,” [report author Judith] Kaye writes. “At times, as this report shows, the intensity of the desire to win may undermine and compromise that primary mission.”

The report about Binghamton athletics is available here.

“I am disappointed that a great institution like Binghamton University would, in any way, because of its athletic program, compromise its terrific academic reputation, ” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. Zimpher did not say what actions, if any, SUNY plans to take based on the report.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer