Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Niagara won't fall for it

A recent news article related the story of the Niagara University men's basketball team, dismissing fifth-year senior Kamau Gordon for conduct "unbecoming" to the program. Good for Niagara, a small Catholic university in upstate New York. Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin said the university holds it student-athletes to a higher standard, and it was clear Gordon did not want to live up to those standards. Niagara plays in the MAAC Conference, with such schools as Siena, Marist, Fairfield and Loyola. These are all fine colleges, where the administration runs the basketball program, not the other way around. Niagara was 26-9 last season and played in the NIT postseason tournament, missing out on an at-large NCAA bid after falling in the MAAC tournament. From that spot, Niagara understandably could have bent a rule, or "made an exception," to try to reach the NCAA tournament and the pot of gold that goes with it. But the university stayed true to its values and mission, and should be lauded for that. Too often, the media is quick to tear down a program for running afoul of the rules (see the last few Binghamton posts in this blog) but slow to cite a program for doing things the right way. One big reason that Niagara does things the right way is that coach Joe Mihalich has been running the program for 11 years, and is quite happy to work at the mid-major level. No dreams of grandeur for Mihalich, no visions of roaming the sidelines at Kentucky or UCLA. He played and later was on the coaching staff at LaSalle University in Philadelphia -- for 17 years! He's comfortable with himself at this level, and the program has thrived because of the stability and continuity he brings. So kudos to Niagara for maintaining its high standards and emphasis on strong values, even at the possible expense of a few wins -- and perhaps a trip to the NCAAs.
-- David Rubinstein

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Binghamton Making Right Moves

Last week, I called Binghamton on the carpet for running a basketball program that seemed to place more emphasis on winning than on developing athletes as students and citizens, after its best player was arrested on cocaine possession and distributio charges. So today, I give the university some "props" for doing some housecleaning. The school last week dismissed five other players from the team for conduct detrimental to the program. I understand coach Kevin Broadus was backed into a corner; the perception that he is running a renegade program was growing and moves had to be made. But the fact that they were made is a sign that Binghamton recognized its program was headed in the wrong direction and took drastic steps to address that.
Also deserving of mention in this is new SUNY schools chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who does not tolerate athletic programs that run afoul of the rules. Zimpher was president of the University of Cincinnati when coach Bob Huggins was pressured to resign after a DWI conviction and the arrests of several of his players. She sent a strong signal to Binghamton expected that action would be taken, and it has been.
That said, let me say it's a certainty that some other small athletic program will be dazzled by the allure of big-time basketball -- and the revenue that comes with it -- and look the other ways as rules are bent or broken in the quest to move up. And that's too bad, because more players, coaches and universities will be damaged along the way.
-- David Rubinstein

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kudos to Commack.. and Brentwood boys soccer!

Saw in the paper that Commack knocked of Brentwood in boys soccer yesterday. Going into the game, Brentwood was top high school team in the country, according to ESPN. Newsday's Adam Ronis covered the game, and did a fine job of keeping the focus on the field. He did note that Brentwood was missing four of its players, but did not allow that to overshadow Commack's accomplishments. And Brentwood coach Ron Eden was gracious, saying "Commack is a good soccer team. They did a very good job."
Congratulations to the Commack players, who said the win over the best team in the nation felt like the World Cup. And congratulations to Brentwood for BEING the top team in the nation.
-- David Rubinstein

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Arrested at Binghamton? Really??

This from today's New York Times:
"The Binghamton point guard Emanuel Mayben was arrested Wednesday night in Troy, N.Y., on a charge of selling crack cocaine."

Wouldn't you expect to see this kind of story out of a major program, where a player's background is secondary to whether or not he can help the team win a title? But at Binghamton? What, they've won an America East title and gone to the Big Dance, so now that program sees itself on a par with the big-time programs?

It's not as if university officials could not see this coming. Mayben was recruited by big-time Syracuse, among others, but didn't make the academic cut, so he tried UMass for a season, and that didn't work out, so he then transferred to Hudson Valley CC before joining the program at Binghamton. Coach Kevin Broadus should have seen more than a player who could help lift his program to another level.

Broadus is a big part of the problem at Binghamton. This arrest -- the third since he took over the program in 2007 (that's an average of one arrest per season, for those of you scoring at home. That's gotta be some kind of overlooked NCAA record!) One player, a recruit from Serbia, reportedly beat another man into a coma in a bar fight, and then fled to his native land. Another was arrested for stealing condoms from a local Wal-Mart.

I have no problem with a coach starting at a lower level of basketball, winning, and moving up to a big-time program. It happens all the time. Jay Wright is a fine example of that; he coached right here at Hofstra and had great success before taking the top job at Villanova.

But Broadus, and his win-at-all-costs attitude, is not good for basketball, or Binghamton, or the NCAA. One player goes astray, you say, 'OK that happens.' But when THREE run afoul of the law in three years, you have to question the coach and his motives. Clearly, he's one of those coaches who sees a great athlete with a troubled past, and believes he can be the one who straightens the kid out. He sees it as a no-lose situation. If the kids toes the line and lifts the level of the program, the coach is a hero, a brilliant educator and shaper of young men. If the kid goes the wrong way, he can say, "I gave him a chance to straighten out, but he didn't have it in him." Broadus sees himself as blameless. But the fact is, his reputation is damaged, and certainly, people now look at Binghamton as running a program that places more weight on winning than on developing a student-athlete.

Yes, Tiki Mayben is to blame, for getting mixed up with crack cocaine. But Broadus and the university are equally to blame for running a program that doesn't take the character of the athlete into consideration, but only looks at whether or not he can get the school to the Big Dance -- and ultimately, the Big Payday.

What do you think?
-- David Rubinstein

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plaxico Burress Goes to Jail

From Super Bowl hero to Ulster Correctional detainee. How Plaxico Burress has fallen!
We all know the story of how he was carrying a concealed, unlicensed weapon into a nightclub and then accidentally shot himself in the leg when he grabbed for the gun as it fell from his waistband.
Interesting, though, how most of the area newspapers covered this story in the sports pages. The voices we heard were those of sympathetic sports columnists (we'll call them FOPs ... Friends of Plaxico) who pretty much all believe that Burress got a raw deal, that he was made an example because of his celebrity status, that his crime did not warrant the punishment he received.
Make no mistake. Plaxico Burress committed a crime, violating the laws of the state of New York. Whether he hurt someone other than himself or not is not the issue. And the point to all this is quite clear. The FOPs, and Burress himself, should not blame the judge for the sentence he imposed. They should not blame New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who called for the stiffest penalty allowable under the law. The blame here lies squarely with Burress. Had he not knowingly broken the law by carrying his concealed weapon into the nightclub, his life would be different today. He would not be kissing his pregnant wife and young child goodbye for the next two years. He'd most assuredly be playing wide receiver in the NFL today, whether with the Giants or another team. He might even have had a chance to be Super Bowl hero again last year, but his arrest derailed the Giants after they looked for all the world like the team to beat in the NFL after 12 weeks.
It comes down to making good decisions. Burress and his FOPs think he was made an example of by the judicial system. Now, after his prison term, Burress should make an example of himself, and offer himself up to speak to community groups, as an example of what making poor choices can to do what by all accounts had been a very successful life.
-- David Rubinstein

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Welcome Back!

Well, another school year is under way, and football and soccer are now dominating the sports pages in the local media (which includes the Internet). We'll be watching, ready to bring you the best of what's happening in Long Island sports, and point out the not-so-good stuff too.
If athletes participate for the right reasons, if coaches don't let their egos or visions of grandeur blind them to the needs of their players, and if parents simply enjoy watching their children participate without the need to inject themselves into the proceedings, then sports can be a truly rewarding experience. It's only when things go askew -- parents confront coaches and officials, coaches run up the score against weaker opponents to prove something to themselves, and players take a cheating route to gain an upper hand on the competiton -- that we're forced to examine sports as whole, and wonder if it can be saved. So... PLAY BALL!
-- David Rubinstein

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What "disposable income"??

About 10 years ago, I put my name on the New York Giants wait list for season tickets. At the time, I was told the list moves at a glacial pace, and that I might not ever be called. Today, I got an e-mail from the Giants offering me a chance to buy personal seat licenses and tickets, but limited to the three most expensive areas in the new stadium. The cheapest seats involved a PSL of $7500 per seat and tickets at $400 per game. So, if I got one seat, the total cost for an eight-game season (not including parking) would be $10,700! Divide by eight home games, and the average cost of going to a Giants game in the Mezzanine Club level (second deck) is $1337.50! And those are the CHEAPEST of the three remaining seating areas. Can you imagine spending that kind of money for a three hours of entertainment sandwiched between three hours of standing still in bumper-to-bumper traffic? Who's got that kind of disposable income these days? Are the Giants oblivious to the fact that we're in the worst economic condition since the Great Depression? I'm still angry that the Giants missed their estimate of how much a new stadium would cost and want the fans to foot the bill with these PSLs. I didn't ask for a new stadium, I didn't authorize a new stadium, and now, because of the price, I won't be going to the new stadium.
And speaking of disposable income, the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case of swindler Bernard Madoff is selling Madoff's season tickets to Citi Field, in attempt to recover money to reimburse investors who were scammed out of their retirements and more. Madoff paid $80,000 for the pair, in the second row behind home plate. That's an average of nearly $500 a seat over the course of the 81-game home season. Of course, the closest that Madoff now will get to Mets games this year is by sitting close to the 13-inch black-and-white television in the prison "lounge" -- and it's just what he deserves.
-- David Rubinstein