The Work

February 11, 2010 5:29 PM

Skadden's Judith Kaye Slams Binghamton Hoops Program

Posted by Zach Lowe

As a hoops junkie, we've been eagerly awaiting an independent report about possible violations and other shady behavior involving the men's basketball program at Binghamton University, which shot from obscurity to prominence last year behind a coach with a winning pedigree and several talented players. 

But by the end of last season, when Binghamton made the men's championship tournament for the first time, reports already had surfaced that the university had lowered its academic standards to beef up the team. Eventually, the university dismissed six of the team's players amid a slew of arrests and reports of payments to players, academic fraud, and other possible violations of NCAA rules. The school placed the team's coach, Kevin Broadus, a former assistant at Georgetown University, on paid leave, and hired Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom of counsel Judith Kaye to lead an independent review of the program. As you probably know, Kaye retired from her spot as chief judge of the New York Court Appeals after 15 years on the job.

Kaye's report came out today, and it's not pretty, according to The New York Times. But at the same time, we couldn't help feeling a bit frustrated at how depressingly typical these sorts of ethics issues have been in the history of college sports. Some of the report's highlights, according to the NYT: Broadus and the coaching staff asked professors to change grades; the coaches pushed students to take easy courses, and the school accepted transfer credit for fluff courses such as Bowling I and Tennis; one player asked an assistant coach for help altering an essay so that it wouldn't be similar to one the player had found on the Internet; coaches made phone calls to recruits in violation of NCAA rules; and coaches and players discussed the possibility that coaches might give players money to cover court fees stemming from drug arrests.

And the coaching staff generally seemed more concerned with keeping arrests from the public rather than using them as opportunities to correct misbehavior, the report says. At one point, according to the report, Broadus sent a text message telling a player who had been arrested for possession of marijuana that it was "very, very important that you get this off the books in the court. Trust me."

There is also the matter of a mystery $6,000 tuition payment on behalf of one player--a payment that cannot be traced to anyone, the NYT says. 

The NCAA will likely be interested in the compliance issues the report raised, the NYT says, and sanctions against the school are possible. 

We reached out to Kaye, but she declined to comment, saying in an e-mail that she would prefer the report speak for itself. Kaye and other Skadden lawyers who worked on the 99-page report for four months billed the school $913,000, the NYT says. 

None of this will shock longtime fans and observers of college basketball. Off the top of our heads, we remember the scandal in 2003 in which two University of Georgia basketball coaches resigned after revelations that an assistant coach offered a course called "basketball strategy" for academic credit. The tests asked players questions such as, How many points is a three-point basket worth? Players received credit even if they did not attend the course. The NCAA punished the University of Minnesota basketball program in 2000 for arranging for tutors to write academic papers for players, and, in the early 1990s, the NCAA placed the University of Kentucky on probation after it surfaced that an assistant coach had funneled cash to the family of a prized recruit. There are many, many similar stories.

And now there's Binghamton, which will await its NCAA fate over the next few months.

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