With a police investigation just beginning into the accusations of molestation levied against Bernie Fine, Jim Boeheim has ramped up his “all-in” strategy. While at least one Syracuse blog has posited that it is ESPN that is playing “a dangerous game,” The Confidential thinks otherwise. Instead, the Confidential believes that it is Jim Boeheim that is playing the dangerous game here. A very dangerous game.
In fact, there is nothing unequivocal about Jim Boeheim’s statements in this matter. He is 100% behind Fine. He is 100% against the accusers. As reported by Syracuse.com, Boeheim has said:
“This is alleged to have occurred … what?” Boeheim asked late Thursday night. “Twenty years ago? Am I in the right neighborhood? It might be 26 years ago? So, we are supposed to what? Stop the presses 26 years later? For a false allegation? For what I absolutely believe is a false allegation? I know he’s lying about me seeing him in his hotel room. That’s a lie. If he’s going to tell one lie, I’m sure there’s a few more of them.”
Boeheim was speaking of Bobby Davis, the 39-year-old man who has declared that Fine, SU’s assistant basketball coach for 36 seasons, molested him on hundreds of occasions over a period of some 15 years beginning when Davis was 12 or 13. Specifically, Boeheim was referencing the charge by Davis that he, Boeheim, had seen Davis on multiple occasions in Fine’s hotel room on Orange basketball road trips.
“I never have been in Bernie Fine’s hotel room in my life,” Boeheim said. “This is what, 16 to 18 years ago, or whatever it is? But I don’t recall ever walking into any of my assistant coaches’ rooms. Now, could I have once … one time? I have a pretty good recollection of things, but I don’t ever recollect ever walking into Bernie Fine’s hotel room. Ever.”
Boeheim did admit that Davis, who lived in Fine’s basement for a while as a teen and served for a time as an Orange ball boy, did periodically travel with the SU basketball team. But, Boeheim offered, Davis traveled for a practical reason.
“I know Bobby,” Boeheim said. “He was one of 300 ball boys we’ve had. This kid ended up being a babysitter for Bernie. He babysat Bernie’s kids. That’s why he was on the trips. He’d babysit. The kid only traveled, to my knowledge, if he was babysitting Bernie’s kids. This is when he was 18 years old. He was helping to babysit the kids. That’s the only time I know about, from talking with Bernie.”
Asked what Davis’ possible motivation would be to tell his disturbing story at this time, Boeheim hesitated not at all.
“Here’s why,” he said. “The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money. He’s tried before. And now he’s trying again. If he gets this, he’s going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I’d say about $50 million. That’s what this is about. Money.”
No middle-ground here at all. Boeheim is calling the accuser a liar and providing a motive.
As a preliminary matter, as it relates to the singular question of whether Bernie Fine had inappropriate contact with two minors, there are only two possibilities. The first possibility is that the victims’ accusations are untrue. The second possibility is that Bernie Fine’s denial is untrue. What else is there?
Suppose the victims’ accusations are untrue. Who is going to make that determination? A jury found OJ Simpson to be not guilty of murder, but a fair number of people deemed that to be an incorrect verdict. Strictly speaking, the jury only made the conclusion that he was not guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” So maybe they were 80% sure he was guilty, but did not think that 80% guilty met the standard. If a jury finds Bernie Fine not guilty, will the public be satisfied with that conclusion? Or will there be the backlash: “sure, a Syracuse jury did not find the coach innocent…must have been a kangaroo court.”
The same goes for a decision by the police or prosecutor not to press charges. It is unclear whether any outsiders will truly give due credit to such a determination made by local authorities. So there may continue to be a sense of doubt.
In the best case scenario for Bernie Fine, not only do the police not press charges against him, the police press charges against the accusers for making a false allegation. That would be the type of message that suggests that not only is Bernie Fine innocent, but the evidence suggests otherwise. A similar scenario would be if the accusers were charged with conspiracy. Such a scenario could arise if one accuser decides to come clean that it is a false allegation.
Short of that, it is difficult to envision a situation where this issue is resolved without some lingering doubt. This means that, even within the “untrue” side of the equation, there is the possibility of Boeheim having miscalculated in his zeal. It’s difficult to prove a negative. This includes “my long-term assistant did not molest anyone.” You can be confident in his innocence, but that only goes so far.
In contrast, what if the accusations are true? The unwavering support is honorable; however, unless it is 100% impossible for the allegations to be false–failing to acknowledge the minimal possibility could be very troublesome. In the circumstance where the accusations are true, Boeheim will have put his reputation fully on the line to defend Bernie Fine only to have that blow up in his face. The honor in defending his colleague will shift to a valid criticism that he is incapable of making character determinations. What begs the question–why make the determination at all?
In fact, incorrectly calling someone a liar and accusing them of making up statements for the purpose of money will lead to lawsuits. While Boeheim might have avoided responsibility based on the circumstances of the conduct, false statements might open up a new door of potential liability.
And this will also cause Boeheim to be lumped into the same category as Paterno. Sure, you don’t believe it can happen. But you don’t make that decision–you make sure that the police make that decision. And you don’t interfere with the police making that decision by making public statements putting the weight of your reputation against the accusers. This could all end very badly for Boeheim.
It is also not clear what would qualify as “truth.” If the police open an investigation and find other victims, is that enough to be “truth”? If it goes to a grand jury, is that enough to be “truth”? If there is an indictment, is that enough to be “truth”? Or will it take a conviction. An argument could be made that it is “all of the above.” If so, there are many stages where Boeheim will have erred in placing his reputation behind Fine.
There is one more matter here. Syracuse University issued a statement. The Chancellor issued a statement. Unless Boeheim was encouraged to make a statement by the Syracuse legal team, he may have gone against the preferences of that team. If so, even if Boeheim is right, he may have caused more trouble for his employer.
Boeheim deserves credit for supporting Fine, but he has certainly gone “all in.” And even if you think you have a great hand, going “all in” is not without its risks.
What do you think? And not just whether you would respect what Boeheim has done, was it the smart thing to do?