Is Binghamton University's Basketball Program In Major Trouble?

Bryan Haas@@thehaastileoneFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2009

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 19:  Tiki Mayben #32 of the Binghamton Bearcats shoots over Gerald Henderson #15 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 19, 2009 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It is a well-documented fact that I am a former assistant sports editor of Binghamton University's student-run newspaper, Pipe Dream. And in my tenure at that position, I saw and heard many things, much of which dealing with the men's basketball team.

I saw a formerly sub-par team turn things around, and achieve victory on the grandest of stages (winning the America East Tournament and getting a berth in the NCAA tourney). I saw players' personal lives being called into question, their every move scrutinized.

And at the time, I defended it all.

But the time for defending is now over. My gloves are off, and it's time to face facts.

The Bearcats are in serious trouble.

The main problem does not lie with on-court issues. The team has held its own against some top teams, and will look to do the same this coming season when they play the likes of Pitt and St. Bonaventure.

The main thorn in the side of the program has been the off-court antics that the players have engaged in.

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Many remember the fiasco in Binghamton that eventually turned into an international incident over a year ago. Former Binghamton University basketball player Miladin Kovacevic was arrested and charged with the savage beating of a fellow student at a club in downtown Binghamton.

Kovacevic was released on bail, and then fled the county back to his native Serbia on a fake passport. The Serbian government refused to extradite him, and he remains there, a relative celebrity for outsmarting the American justice system.

This led New York State senators Charles Schumer and now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demand his extradition, to no avail. The student, Bryan Steinhauer, who remained in a coma for months, still bears the effects of the attack, including slurred speech and diminished motor skills.

Then, last October, Binghamton point guard Malik Alvin was arrested and charged with stealing condoms from a local Walmart, and in the process of fleeing, knocking over an elderly woman, who sustained a concussion.

Additionally, senior guard Dwayne Jackson and sophomore forward Theo Davis left the team under questionable circumstances for undisclosed reasons last season.

After all of this transpired, New York Times writer Pete Thamel published an article about the questionable recruiting practices of Binghamton men's basketball coach Kevin Broadus and quoted several sources close to the university and the team as saying that professors felt bullied by the athletics department to go easy on the players, and even change grades.

At the time, I wrote an article in response to this, defending the university and the athletics department. And I still stick by some of my points.

Kevin Broadus cannot police roughly 20 students 24 hours a day—it's impossible. However, he should have some accountability for their actions.

But now, standout point guard Emanuel "Tiki" Mayben has been arrested on charges that he allegedly was selling cocaine.

When Mayben was arrested, he was also allegedly found to be in possession of 3.4 grams of an off-white powder that field-tested positive for cocaine. As a result, he was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, which are both felonies.

Mayben plead not guilty to the charges this morning, and is expected to be released on $30,000 bail.

I interviewed both Alvin and Mayben several times over the course of my tenure at Pipe Dream, whether for pieces on upcoming games, comments in postgame press conferences, or for feature pieces on their individual merits. Both are soft spoken and humble. Both are talented athletes.

However, both were also big risks for the school in being recruited.

Alvin was a former standout at University of Texas-El Paso, before transferring to a junior college in Florida for academic reasons. Mayben was a top-flight recruit out of high school, and committed to Syracuse, but bad grades and other circumstances led him to UMass, and then community college, before landing on the Bearcats roster.

People make mistakes, that's a fact of life. But at what point do we finally say "enough is enough?"

The biggest mistake of all might actually have been made my Broadus and his staff. Recruiting players like these seems gallant on the surface, and second chances are nice.

But how noble are third chances? Or even fourth chances in some cases?

A lot of eyes will be on the Bearcats this season, that is certain. But instead of people looking at a burgeoning athletics program, they'll instead be wondering what the next scandal might be.


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