By Michael Kelly
Binghamton still does not seem to really get it.
After the university’s president, Lois DeFleur, “decided” (quotes there because it seems that she was also nudged, prodded and encouraged by other schools) to withdraw her school’s men’s basketball team from this weekend’s America East Tournament, the responses from students at her university were far from supportive.
Almost instantly, a Facebook event sprouted up—our generation’s form of public disapproval—calling DeFleur out for her “decision,” demanding the university’s students take action to show her their discontent in the form of a protest outside her office this afternoon. The event was titled “Tell Lois DeFleur: We’re Going to America East!” and had over 850 people say they would attend- though, many less actually did.
Some anger over this call is certainly reasonable. The decision about whether or not they were going to play in this tournament should have been made months ago (like, when half the team’s players were removed), and the school’s student body had a right to be excited over their team this year because of their strong fifth place showing despite the incredible loss of personnel.
But, when it gets down to it, what is it that the students are protesting? They are protesting that their university is not sending out its black eye to represent it (and them). Where was this outrage in the student body when the team disgraced itself and their university on a national level?
Here’s the deal: the men’s basketball program—with the university’s tacit approval and, sometimes, help—completely spat in the face of what it means to be a student-athlete. The result: six players had to be removed from the team, Head Coach Kevin Broadus is still in limbo, the athletic director has resigned, and the president is about to leave the university.
Want to forget about the people directly involved? The program brought national shame to the America East, a conference known for its strong academics and (seemingly) solid commitment to making sure its athletes go to class; Binghamton, a very strong academic institution, now has some alumni questioning the worth of their degree; and SUNY, while battling the constant calls for cuts to higher education, has been dragged through the mud in the process, leading many to question whether or not D-1 sports even have a place in New York’s higher education system.
However, this is in no way a defense of DeFleur. Everything that happened in the past year was under her watch, so the buck stops with her when looking to blame someone for what is likely the biggest college athletics-related scandal that has occurred since the incidents at Baylor several years ago. Instead, this is a critique of students who fail to see the big picture and only care about whether or not their mid-major basketball team gets a chance to compete in a tournament.
If there is one major lesson to learn from the past year’s events and findings, it is that trying to win at any cost will cost you in the end.
It seems the lesson still has not been learned at Binghamton.