When Binghamton plays in the America East championship on Saturday they will be led by guard D.J. Rivera. The junior transfer led the conference in scoring and was top-ten in minutes, rebounds, steals and field-goal percentage. If he wasn't the best player in the America East this season, he was one of the best. Yet Rivera wasn't voted as the conference Player of the Year today, nor was he named to the five-man all-conference team either. According to Pete Thamel of The New York Times, Rivera was essentially blackballed by the conference's coaches (who vote for the awards) because of some controversy over Rivera's transfer from St. Joseph's.
It wasn't just Rivera either. No Binghamton players made the all-conference first team, despite the fact that they're the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Thamel suggests that it's because the coaches in the league are protesting the recruiting practices of Binghamton coach Kevin Broadus, who has been bringing in players with, um, questionable backgrounds. (Thamel described them in a Times piece from February.)
Of the snub, America East commissioner Patrick Nero said:
"It wasn't a protest toward the kid at all. It was a protest toward the N.C.A.A. in allowing him to be eligible. It's unfortunate, I don't think it's right. It's unfair to the young man. He didn't do anything wrong."
Whether the coaches meant their vote to be a protest of Rivera or not, the reality is that not voting him as POY or onto the all-conference team is completely a protest of him. Nero is right in that it's unfair, and credit him for speaking out against the league's coaches. But he didn't go far enough in his criticism.
If the other coaches don't like the practices of Broadus, there are other, more acceptable places to lodge that complaint. Blackballing Rivera and his teammates is petty and juvenile, no matter how shady Broadus' recruiting practices may be. Plus, it sets a terrible example to the players of those coaches.
Ironically, Broadus was recently named America East coach of the year. The coaches split the vote for that award with the conference's athletic directors.