The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Syracuse Assistant B-Ball Coach Fine Being Investigated for Molestation

Longtime Syracuse University Assistant Basketball Coach Bernie Fine has been placed on administrative leave based on an investigation into possible child molestation.  On the heels of a major scandal at Penn State (as well as an issue at The Citadel), this report hits close to home, as Syracuse University is set to join the ACC in the near future.

While the Penn State and Syracuse situations share the common bond of accusations of molestation against a person associated with the program, it should be noted that there are substantial differences between what is known about the situation at Syracuse and the situation at Penn State.  As the New York Times has reported, Syracuse University conducted its own investigation into these allegations in 2005:

In a statement, the university said that “an adult male” came to them in 2005 and the university started its own four-month investigation into the allegations. The statement said that the university’s legal counsel spoke with people who “the complainant said would support his claims” and that “all of those identified by the complainant denied any wrongful conduct” by Fine. The statement also said that Fine “vehemently denied the allegations.”

In other words, Syracuse investigated after the police declined to investigate.  So this is not a matter of Syracuse not informing the police.  By the time it got to Syracuse, it was post-police.  And Syracuse still investigated.  Syracuse was apparently unable to corroborate the information that the alleged victim said would be corroborated.  The alleged victim suggested that certain witnesses be interviewed and those witnesses did not confirm the accusations.

Significantly, in order for this matter to rise to the level of Penn State, it would require an assistant coach to witness an incident and report it to Jim Boeheim, who would have to then pass the matter upstream and lose interest.  This certainly is not alleged to have happened at Syracuse.  And there is no sense that Jim Boeheim or anyone at Syracuse University was ever presented with enough to conclude that the report was credible. Most importantly, the report is not grand jury findings, but the version of events provided by a 39-year old victim, not under oath at the time.  No third party has deemed them credible yet.

And these are just some of the differences.  Under the circumstances, while there might be a rush to judgment to criticize Syracuse, there should be an equally compelling rush to judgment to not criticize Syracuse.

At least at this early juncture.  There is certainly more to come.

In fact, the Confidential certainly does not want to suggest that the alleged victim is not being truthful.  Only the victim and Fine know for sure.  All that can be hoped for is that any investigation that takes place uncovers the truth–whether it is the alleged victim’s allegations or Fine’s denials.  In the wake of the Penn State situation, it is understandable that this might be the environment that would persuade a victim to feel more comfortable coming forward.  Perhaps the alleged victim is hoping for same.  But nobody really knows.  And in the absence of numerous allegations by victims, as in the Sandusky situation, it is harder to rush to judgment for any side.

Nevertheless, the Confidential does take issue with Jim Boeheim opining on this issue.  He should probably let his University leaders do most of the talking here.  He cannot be objective when it comes to his long-time assistant.  And, from a strategic standpoint, does he really want to go “all in” by taking a position.  A more reasoned approach would have been to at least hedge his bets somewhat.  You never really know anyone.  He may be confident that Fine is innocent.  But can he be 100% sure?   According to ESPN, Boeheim responded strongly to the alleged victim’s statement that Boeheim might have seen him:

“He makes the point that he was around and traveling with the team,” Boeheim said. “Not that I know of. I never saw him. He is quoted — (that) I saw him in the room. I have never been in Bernie Fine’s room in my life. That is an outright lie.”

Yep, that’s going “all in.”  He better be right.

Finally, the Confidential was strong in its criticism of Penn State in opinions such as this, this, and this.   The Confidential will be equally critical if facts come out demonstrating that this is closer to the Penn State situation than it seems right now.  Needless to say, this will be newsworthy for quite some time.  A major university, and its various departments, cannot support child molesters.  They also cannot cover-up instances of child molestation.  But the current “facts” just do not come anywhere close to suggesting that anything of that sort has occurred at Syracuse.

What do you think?

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