By Jason Wirchin

In the wake of the Binghamton University basketball program’s fall from grace over the past year, a group of university faculty members are collecting signatures to press the school to drop its Division I athletics status.

Signed by nearly 20 faculty members, the statement recommended that the faculty senate decide on whether the school should remain in Division I, according to the New York Times.

The letter also noted outgoing University President Lois B. DeFleur’s failed attempts to control the basketball program as well as her desire to promote athletics at the expense of academic responsibilities.

“Lois B. DeFleur’s two-decades-long tenure as president of Binghamton University has ended in real harm to the university’s reputation and pride,” the letter said, according to the New York Times.

DeFleur, who has served as university president since 1990, will retire at the end of the spring 2010 semester. She will leave behind an athletics program whose reputation has taken a large hit under her tenure, after several reports accused the basketball team’s players and staff of breaching ethical standards.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will make recommendations on March 23 on how to deal with the Binghamton scandal, a decision that faculty members hope their letter can influence.

“Withdrawal from membership in Division I is in the interest of this university that aspires to be a ‘premier’ public research institution,” the letter said, according to the New York Times.

The statement also admonished university leadership for covering up mistakes in its athletics program instead of confronting them, the New York Times said.

The university fields 21 Division I teams, all of which have avoided negative media spotlight except for men’s basketball. This being the case, some Binghamton students said they see an exit from Division I as the wrong move.

“Why should the university punish the other sports teams for the faults of men’s basketball?” said Jordan Schiff, a senior economics major at Binghamton. “There have been many fine accomplishments when it comes to the other teams here. To punish the masses for the faults of a few does no good to anybody.”

Schiff also suggested that leaving Division I, which includes rival Stony Brook University, may come across as a simple solution to an institutional problem.

“It’s going to take time for the men’s basketball team to return to successful form,” Schiff said. “Still, it can be achieved without leaving D-1. In fact, it would be even more impressive. Dropping down to D-3 would just be the easy way out.”

John Hartrick, Associate Director of Athletics for Communications at Binghamton, could not be reached for comment.