Binghamton University basketball scandal
The Binghamton University basketball scandal was an incident in the United States that arose out of concerns that Binghamton University had compromised its integrity in order to make the Bearcats men's basketball program more competitive in Division I. Following a series of incidents in the fall of 2009, an investigation by the State University of New York (SUNY), Binghamton's parent institution, found that Binghamton's administration had significantly lowered its admissions standards for prospective recruits under pressure from men's head coach Kevin Broadus and his staff. It also detailed several potential NCAA violations by Broadus and his staff.
The scandal resulted in Broadus resigning in October 2010, though he had been relieved of coaching duties before then. It also resulted in the resignation of the school's athletic director, the firing of two assistant coaches, and the dismissal of six players from the team. Due to the fallout from the scandal, Binghamton elected to sit out postseason play in 2010. The SUNY investigation was forwarded to the NCAA. However the NCAA was unable to find any major violations.
Binghamton had been one of the great stories of the 2008–09 basketball season. In the school's eighth season in Division I, Broadus led the Bearcats to a school record-tying 23 wins, a tie for first place in the America East Conference, and the school's first conference tournament title in 63 years. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Bearcats played powerful Duke fairly close in the first half before losing 86-62. Broadus was named the America East coach of the year.
However, many were concerned that Binghamton had cut too many corners in its bid for basketball glory, and sacrificed its reputation as SUNY's strongest academic institution in the process. Management professor Dennis Lasser, the school's former faculty athletics representative, helped lead the effort to move Binghamton from Division III to Division I in 2001 (after a transition period in Division II from 1998 to 2001), but was replaced as faculty athletic representative after Kevin Broadus was hired as head basketball coach. Lasser claimed that, after the coaching change, Binghamton had lowered its standards for admitting prospective basketball players to the bare minimum required by the NCAA. Additionally, ESPN analyst Tom Brennan, former coach at longtime America East member Vermont, suggested that given the risks Broadus was taking, it was possible that a conference championship might not have been worth the effort. One major reason for Lasser and Brennan's concerns was that at least three players on the 2008–09 team had transferred to Binghamton from other schools due to academic problems. One of the transfers, guard Malik Alvin, was arrested for stealing condoms from a local Walmart. While being chased by security officers, Alvin ran over a 66-year-old woman, giving her a concussion. Alvin was suspended three games, but charges were subsequently dropped and he was back in the lineup for the rest of the season. Earlier, forward Miladin Kovacevic (who was recruited by Broadus's predecessor Al Walker) beat a fellow student into a coma and fled to his native Serbia with the help of two Serbian diplomats. Former player Devon McBride told The New York Times that many of his teammates frequently drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, but Broadus did not seem to make any effort to keep a rein on their off-the-court behavior.
These concerns led America East commissioner Patrick Nero to talk with school president Lois DeFleur and athletic director Joel Thirer about the team's behavior. The America East's other coaches reportedly voiced their displeasure with the way Broadus ran the program by bumping D.J. Rivera, the conference's leading scorer and by most accounts the league's best NBA prospect, to the conference's second team.
Additionally, it emerged shortly after Broadus's 2007 hiring that while an assistant coach and recruiter at George Washington and Georgetown, he'd signed players from Lutheran Christian Academy, a school in Philadelphia widely accused of being a diploma mill. One of those players, Mike Egerson, transferred to Lutheran Christian after earning only a 1.33 grade point average at his Delaware high school and garnering an SAT score in the 600s. Shortly before Broadus was hired at Binghamton, the NCAA announced it would no longer accept coursework from Lutheran Christian and several other suspected diploma mills.
Arrests and dismissals
On September 23, 2009—just over a month before the start of the 2009-10 season—Binghamton's starting point guard and second-leading scorer, Emmanuel "Tiki" Mayben, was arrested and charged with possessing and selling crack cocaine. Broadus, saying he'd "done all I could" to help Mayben, kicked him off the team the next day.
On September 25, Broadus announced that five other players had been kicked off the team for unspecified violations of team rules. They included Rivera, Alvin, transfer Corey Chandler (recently arrived from Rutgers), junior college transfer Paul Crosby and walk-on David Fine. Within 48 hours, Binghamton had lost its three top scorers from the previous season. With only seven scholarship players and no experienced guards, it was widely believed that the Bearcats' 2009-10 season was over before it even started. Indeed, Lasser said that these dismissals amounted to an "implosion" of the Bearcat program. Although Broadus claimed the decision was his alone, the dismissals came on the same day that SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher demanded that DeFleur give her a full accounting of what being done to address Mayben's arrest and other unspecified incidents. Zimpher was known for having little tolerance for athletic misconduct. While president of the University of Cincinnati, she'd forced longtime basketball coach Bob Huggins to resign in 2005. Although Huggins had taken Cincinnati to heights it hadn't seen since the 1960s, Zimpher had been displeased with the team's poor academic performance and misbehavior off the court.
On September 29, Sally Dear, a lecturer in the department of human development, was told she was being let go as part of a cost-cutting measure. However, Dear alleged the real reason was that she had gone public in February with accusations that she was being pressured to give preferential treatment to basketball players. She also said that others in her department had been pressured to change players' grades. Back in February, Dear told the Times that several players in her class had been so disruptive she'd frequently had to stop teaching. She'd said that she didn't think some of the players were taking their studies seriously. She also claimed the pressure she'd been under to cut a break for basketball players amounted to harassment.
On September 30, Thirer resigned as athletic director, a post he had held since 1989.
On October 2, Zimpher announced plans for a full audit of Binghamton's athletic department. Significantly, Zimpher stated that the audit would be overseen by the SUNY board of trustees, and not by Binghamton itself. On the same day, it was announced that Dear had been rehired. The probe was directed by Judith Kaye, the former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals.
On October 14, Binghamton suspended Broadus indefinitely with pay. In announcing the suspension, acting athletic director Jim Norris cited numerous "incidents of concern." Assistant coach Mark Macon, a former star at Temple, was named interim head coach. The announcement came a week after Broadus publicly apologized to several of his athletic department colleagues for bringing "shame" to Binghamton by not properly controlling his program. Earlier, Broadus had admitted to contacting recruits on the first day of the period when coaches aren't allowed to speak with prospects that they're scouting.
On February 11, Kaye released her findings in a 99-page report. Kaye found that under pressure from Broadus, Binghamton had lowered its standards for admitting basketball players to the NCAA minimum. In bowing to this pressure, Kaye said, DeFleur (who had announced her retirement a month earlier), Thirer and other officials had significantly compromised Binghamton's academic standards even though Binghamton was not prepared to take in so many academically marginal students.
According to the report, the mass dismissal of September 25 had not been Broadus's decision, but was ordered by Thirer. The dismissed players had been involved in several incidents reported to BU police earlier in the month. Fine had been suspected of smoking marijuana in his dorm, but wasn't charged even though he appeared to be high. Mayben had been cited for speeding and possession of marijuana that he said belonged to Fine. Most seriously, Rivera, Alvin, Crosby and Chandler were suspected of stealing another student's check card and using it to buy several items. The last incident was forwarded to the Broome County district attorney; the investigation is still pending as of October 2010. School officials had been willing to let Broadus handle the raft of discipline problems at first. However, after Mayben's September 23 arrest, Thirer called Broadus into his office and told him that Rivera, Alvin, Chandler, Crosby and Fine all had to go.
The Kaye report found evidence of potential academic fraud by Broadus and his staff. The most damning evidence was in text message exchanges between Alvin and assistant coach Mark Hsu. In one, Alvin asked Hsu to help rewrite a paper for him because Alvin had copied it off the Internet. In another, Alvin copied another paper off the Internet, but added a conclusion in his own words on advice from Hsu. Broadus was also accused of having professors change players' grades.
Almost as disturbing was a text message exchange between Broadus and Hsu in which they appeared to discuss coaching the players on what to tell school police during the investigation of the stolen check card. Indeed, school police believed that Rivera was taking the fall for the check card incident to cover for his teammates.
Also damaging was the role played by Valerie Hampton, an Affirmative Action Officer, charged with ensuring that the university is free of discrimination, harassment and violations of civil rights. She questioned admissions about their reasons for denying admissions, something that would happen only if there were allegations of discrimination.
The report revealed that many of the America East's coaches and athletic directors were also concerned that Broadus was recruiting players with a history of behavior problems. The America East has long believed that one member's perception can directly affect that of the whole conference. For instance, Mayben had previously been recruited by Syracuse, but the Orange lost interest due to Mayben's academic problems and frequent suspensions from high school. Another recruit, Theus Davis, had been kicked out of Gonzaga for drug problems. By the fall of 2009, several of the conference's athletic directors and presidents were making noises about throwing Binghamton out of the league if things didn't improve. Reportedly, this prompted DeFleur to promise her fellow conference presidents that Thirer's contract wouldn't be renewed.
Kaye recommended, among other things, that SUNY appoint an "athletic oversight officer" for the entire SUNY system, reporting directly to the chancellor.
In a conference call with reporters, Zimpher said, "I am disappointed that a great institution like Binghamton University would, in any way, because of its athletic program, compromise its terrific academic reputation." She also promised sweeping changes.
Macon was forced to hold tryouts in October to replenish his decimated roster. He also had to deal with two of his assistants, Hsu and Julius Allen, being fired in midseason, leaving him with only one assistant coach.
Under the circumstances, he kept the Bearcats fairly competitive. The Bearcats actually managed to finish with a .500 record in America East play, and 13-18 overall. Seven of their losses were by 10 points or less.
On March 1, DeFleur announced that the Bearcats would sit out the 2010 conference tournament and were withdrawing from postseason consideration. She said that given the current turmoil in the program, "it is not appropriate that we play in this year's postseason." Although Nero said the decision was Binghamton's alone, two America East sources told the Times that the league's other members didn't want the Bearcats in the tournament and pressured them to withdraw. As mentioned above, some of the America East's other athletic directors and presidents were seriously considering expelling Binghamton from the league.
Zimpher eventually assigned SUNY’s interim provost, David K. Lavallee, to lead an overall effort for the SUNY system to ensure that academics remain the highest priority; and Charles R. Westgate, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Binghamton, as a special adviser for academics and athletics for the SUNY system: moves some critics of the over-emphasis on athletics decried as insufficient. Zimpher also announced that while Broadus will not return as coach, a permanent replacement will not be hired until the school has a permanent president and athletic director.
On March 26, Broadus filed a racial discrimination complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Broadus claimed that he was being treated more harshly than other Binghamton coaches whose players had been arrested simply because he was the only minority coach at the school.
The Kaye report was forwarded to the NCAA, which could have issued its own sanctions in addition to Binghamton's own decision to pull out of postseason play. On October 18, the NCAA found that Hsu had committed two secondary violations by providing impermissible travel to two players. However, due to lack of cooperation from involved parties, the NCAA was unable to find any major violations. At the same time, Broadus was reinstated to the athletic department. Although Broadus's lawyer stated that he believed his client had been exonerated, Zimpher reiterated that he will not return as coach.
On October 28, Broadus announced he was filing a federal discrimination lawsuit against Binghamton and SUNY. Hours later, the three parties reached a settlement in which Broadus would resign and take a $1.2 million buyout in return for dropping all legal action against BU or SUNY.
In Fall 2013 Valerie Hampton was promoted. In May 2014 Binghamton University was one of four New York universities, the only SUNY, being investigated for suspected Title 9 civil rights violations.
Binghamton has never recovered from the scandal. The Bearcats have only won 39 games since Broadus' ouster, including only 23 in America East play. This is at least in part because school officials have significantly increased admissions standards for all student athletes.
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