An unnecessary stain

Published 10:19 am Thursday, December 29, 2016

These are heady times for Longwood University.

Farmville’s economic anchor continues to bask in the afterglow of hosting the nation’s only Vice Presidential Debate. A master plan for physical improvements stands to transform the campus into one of the nation’s most dynamic and functional in the years ahead, with downtown Farmville a big beneficiary. A long-range academic emphasis on citizen leadership should position Longwood uniquely in a crowded higher-education landscape.

And then there’s men’s basketball.

Like the drunk uncle who shows up and ruins the family Christmas, the Lancer basketball program continues to bring unwanted publicity to an institution that is otherwise thriving. The latest in a series of off-the-court incidents involving LU basketball players — a rumble with Hampden-Sydney students on the H-SC campus — was serious enough that Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Clark got involved, eventually deciding against criminal charges because of conflicting accounts by the participants and eyewitnesses.

Clark, a Longwood graduate and rising star in prosecutorial circles, would be wise to ask a Prince Edward grand jury to take a look at the incident. At minimum, it would clear the air of any perception of preferential treatment for her alma mater.

Regardless of what becomes of the matter in the courts (civil lawsuits by families of the alleged victims are almost certain), Longwood basketball players again have made headlines off the court, following two years of player arrests, suspensions and recruitment of athletes with track records of misconduct at other institutions.

On the court, Coach Jayson Gee’s teams are getting worse rather than better. The Lancers, with a record of 3-8 at this writing, are ranked 344th out of 351 NCAA Division 1 teams in the Ratings Percentage Index used to evaluate performance quality.

Off and on the court, the men’s basketball program is an unnecessary blot on an institution whose reputation has never been better.