Bernie Fine has been fired, but Jim Boeheim’s job appears to be safe. Although the Confidential previously opined that Jim Boeheim was taking a huge risk in going “all-in” with respect to the Bernie Fine molestation accusations, it now appears that there is stronger evidence against Bernie Fine AND that Jim Boeheim is nevertheless going to survive. So much for the “all in” analogy. At least, the Confidential beat the rest of the blogosphere with that analogy (prove us wrong).
The Confidential’s primary concern was that Boeheim could face serious trouble for calling the accusers liars and suggesting that they were making the accusations for the money. He was also extremely confident that Bernie Fine would be vindicated. Well, so much for that. The latest news is that Bernie Fine’s wife is on tape essentially admitting that Fine was very much capable of these acts. Feel free to read the details elsewhere. In addition, there is a now a third accuser too. Not surprisingly, the University wasted little time in firing Fine, which Boeheim concurred with in a statement that he obviously did not write himself.
The upshot is that Boeheim was wrong about Bernie Fine. Barring some sort of series of conspiracies, it would appear that Fine is going to have a permanent cloud over his name, which tarnishes Boeheim. If Joe Paterno got fired for simply being morally deficient, where does calling the accusers of child sexual abuse liars out for money rank? One would think that Boeheim would be in trouble. As usual, there are commentators who got their name in the press today opining accordingly.
But, overall, it has been surprisingly quiet. It does not appear that there is a groundswell of momentum against Boeheim. The question is why? The Confidential believes that there are five key points that aid Boeheim’s position:
- The Penn State matter involved an assistant coach observing the rape of a 10-year old, without anyone bothering to have the police notified. Ever. In contrast, the Syracuse matter involves allegations that nobody affiliated with Syracuse has ever witnessed. Also, while the evidence is mounting against Fine, there is not one piece of evidence that is not questionable–be it the credibility of the accusers or the allegations that the tape of Mrs. Fine was doctored. This is simply not open and shut. Nobody knows if Fine can even be convicted due to statutes of limitation, much less whether he will be. There may never be any trial. While things have gotten worse, they are still far below the evidence in the Penn State matter.
- Boeheim’s harshest comments were very much a knee-jerk reaction to an accusation against him seeing one of the accusers in Bernie Fine’s hotel room in the 1980′s. There was no sense that Boeheim would have seen any activity, and even the accused later clarified that Boeheim did not have knowledge. In between, however, Boeheim’s harsh response also addressed this misleading statement by the accuser. While the import of the allegations against Fine were the real news story, Boeheim had a legitimate right to respond to the one statement involving him. Unfortunately, he got carried away and commented on things that he should have left to the school to address. But because he had a fair reason to respond, going too far in his response is at least somewhat understandable.
- To his credit, Boeheim wisely backtracked from his harsh statements by at least allowing for the possibility of changing his mind if he was wrong. He had used harsh words, but the totality of his words did leave an opening for him to be wrong. Even if he never expected to be wrong, this was helpful in showing that he was not 100% dismissing the possibility that the allegations were true. In retrospect, this may have been very important.
- The Syracuse University response has been outstanding. Boeheim may not have lived up to what his bosses wanted in the first hours, but there is absolutely no indication that his bosses were beholden to him. In a strange way, Boeheim’s harsh remarks demonstrated that he absolutely does not tell the administration what to do. He was harsh, but the Chancellor has been very measured. And then the decision to fire Fine was swift, appropriate, and agreed-upon by all. Within hours of Syracuse University learning about the audio tape, Fine was done. And, most importantly, Boeheim apologized. The words were likely written by another, but he did what he needed to do.
- ESPN’s failure to release the tape earlier. Had ESPN provided the tape originally, Boeheim’s response may have been very different. Because ESPN didn’t show their entire hand, Boeheim probably deserves a mulligan on his “all in” approach. Everyone was misled by the veracity of these allegations. Nobody was 100% convinced it happened when first reported. Even with the tapes, the holes in this story are such that reasonable doubt may always exist. Because we all got fooled, Boeheim’s remarks go from a terminable offense (perhaps) to a regrettable statement.
In the end, it would appear that the Confidential’s concern that Boeheim was going too far will not be realized. At least today. Nobody knows what the news will bring tomorrow will bring. This story gets weirder by the day.
The good news is that the news media did not choose to punish Jim Boeheim for merely his words. This happens in society and Boeheim would not be the first to suffer a severe penalty for the wrong words. Syracuse University would have been well within its rights to have a zero tolerance approach to insensitive statements. But this was not so severe that he HAD to be fired. And this country has always been quick to forgive the truly contrite–and with Boeheim being part of the decision to fire Fine AND issuing an apology–the healing process began before anyone could jump in to say he should be fired.
But the best news is that Boeheim is now in a position to advocate from a position of strength for all of us to be a bit more careful when assuming that allegations are false. Although we can think of motives to lie and reasons to disbelieve, Boeheim can go on the speaking circuit and advocate that we all be a little more sensitive. Kind of like Michael Vick and the pro-dog promos. Not all incredible stories are false. Not all people who report abuse are doing it because they plan to sue. If he can share that message going forward, this is a great opportunity for meaningful change to happen. And that’s something that the accusers and Boeheim should be able to agree on as a silver lining of this very strange situation.