Of late, Binghamton University has been recognized as the top public university in the region, as well as one of the best in the country.

We were never known for having stellar athletics. Until a few years ago.

A sea of white poured out of the Events Center bleachers in March 2009. The men’s basketball team had just won its first America East championship and clinched a berth to the NCAA tournament. School pride was at its highest.

Unfortunately for me, I was not on campus at the time. I didn’t transfer here until a year later, but have heard from plenty of friends that it was the single most memorable experience from their time at Binghamton.

The only students still on campus from that day will be graduating in a few short weeks. And when May 20 rolls around, they, along with the majority of the memories of that day three years ago, will be gone. The only remnants of that moment will be the banner in the Events Center and the America East trophy that sits in the athletic director’s suite.

The run of the 2008-09 men’s basketball team brought everything together. The school was already at the best academic standing it had ever achieved and application rates were at an all-time high.

The name “Binghamton University” was synonymous with all-around success. The basketball team’s run brought the local community and students on campus together as one. They united under one roof. Whether you were from Vestal, Long Island or overseas, you were proud to be at Binghamton.

Things sure have taken a turn for the worse in the three years since, and the athletic year that was 2011-12 may have truly been rock bottom.

It’s nothing less than unfortunate and disappointing that as quickly as that championship team was dismantled, so too did the buzz on campus surrounding the team disappear. These days, any time our Bearcats are brought up in a conversation, it’s soon followed by some variation of, “Oh, we suck at everything, right?”

Sure, we’re no Michigan, Ohio State or Duke. But brand names have never been the greatest part of college sports, at least not for me.

What people love so much about the college game is the sense of community — the sense that the fans in the crowd want to win just as much as the student-athletes on the field. It’s for that reason that such emotion accompanies every tip of the ball and every blow of the whistle. It’s the “oohs” and “aahs” that go hand-in-hand with the close calls.

But really, it’s about being able to see someone anywhere on campus and know that they take as much pride in wearing the name “Binghamton” as you do. Once upon a time, that feeling existed at Binghamton.

But our teams still take the field. The local community still fills the seats. It’s the student support that lacks these days, but that’s what makes the experience of college sports so surreal.

The pieces are all in place. They’ve been there since the glory days of 2009. You, the students, are the final ingredient in making this place all it once was and all that it can one day be again.