Sports Doing Not So Good

While this blog is usually about sports doing good, it’s also important to think about the opposite, when sport can be or do bad, to provide perspective and to motivate us to stay diligent in correcting wrongs and promoting the good.

Recently, SUNY Binghamton has been under the spotlight for questionable athletic department practices, particularly in regards to the men’s basketball team.  The University has been criticized for being blindly focused and determined to produce results on the court, which has allowed the players to treat university and NCAA policy irreverently.

An audit published earlier this year and commissioned by the State University of New York board, described a medley of transgressions including lowered admissions scores and flexible grading for basketball players.  Ten of the 16 men’s basketball players are majors in the department of human development where they received academic credit for courses like Theories of Softball and Bowling I.  They are often given preferential treatment to stay eligible.

Binghamton University is considered the crown jewel of the SUNY system.  Since these issues became public, the university president, Lois B. DeFleur, has announced she will retire in July; the athletic director, Joel Thirer, has resigned; and the men’s basketball coach, Kevin Broadus, has been placed on paid administrative leave.  However, as of late, there is growing concern amongst faculty members and administrators that those who carried out the orders in building a big-time basketball program remain and the intent to succeed on the court, at whatever cost, is alive and well.

It is important to remember that although SUNY Binghamton is currently in hot water for their transgressions, this university is far from the only or the first big-time college athletic program to be accused of compromising academic integrity and university values for a chance at sporting glory and the supposed riches that come with it.

This is a not so subtle reminder that while sports can do good, misaligning the values of sports can have damaging consequences.   This episode should serve as a reminder to everyone from big-time college programs to the local high school to revisit the purpose of the student-athlete and amateur athletics, and not simply to work harder to cover up their tracks.

You could read more about the SUNY Binghamton case here in a 2/27 New York Times piece.