The cost of excellence has proven too great.

President Lois DeFleur has said that Binghamton University maintains a tradition of excellence — excellence through academics, diversity and extracurriculars. When it comes to the men’s basketball team, the only tradition to speak of lately is negative attention.

A beating that leaves a student in a coma for months, a basketball player who knocked down an elderly lady as he allegedly attempts to escape Wal-Mart with stolen condoms, and now another charged with selling and possessing cocaine (see Page 1). It’s a disgusting string of events that have put BU’s name in major newspapers all over the country for the last year and a half. All for the wrong reasons, all in the pursuit of excellence in the basketball world.

To achieve Division I success, and the notoriety that comes with it, we needed the Events Center. One complete with an administrative suite that makes the offices and classrooms in the Fine Arts Building and Glenn G. Bartle Library look like they belong on a prehistoric planet.

Then, after a few years of modest on-the-court success, we needed a new coach.

Don’t be fooled. The University and head honchos in the athletics department knew of Kevin Broadus’ tendency to accept players who are often in need of “second chances” when they hired him. Those second chance students are the ones who brought us to the NCAA tournament for that trouncing by Duke — in front of a national television audience. Little Binghamton, right there on CBS.

Those days, the University was praising Broadus.

A second chance, in itself, is not a bad thing: there’s no way that Mayben’s academic shortcomings could have been looked at as a precursor for drug charges. In the same vein, Broadus could not have foreseen Malik Alvin toppling a senior citizen at Wal-Mart because Alvin previously had academic troubles.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Broadus wasn’t rolling the dice when he offered as many second chances as he did. But, perhaps most important, he was doing what he was asked: to win quickly. That meant recruiting players without spotless backgrounds and perfect academic records. This is the Southern Tier, not Tobacco Road — the country’s best players who also happen to be the country’s model citizens aren’t knocking at our door. And as long as the team kept winning, no one said a word. (That’s a lie. Pete Thamel did.)

Profit and popularity? Achieved. Excellence? Well …

Mayben, rightfully, is gone from the team. But you wonder, if the philosophy had been different, whether Binghamton would’ve been involved with this trouble at all.

After Mayben, there can’t be another embarrassment. Certainly, one player shouldn’t represent one team, and one team shouldn’t represent a student body. But it’s been multiple players, on the one team the school wants noticed above all others. It is, in the public’s perception, our school that is tarnished, not just one man. And the reputation of this University can’t take another round of court appearances and New York Post headlines.

Where you place the blame, at this point — Broadus, DeFleur, Joel Thirer — it doesn’t matter. From here out, there is no priority higher in athletics recruitment than caliber of character. Even at the expense of another return to CBS, it’s a cost we’ll have to bear.