Syracuse Basketball Scandal: Media Duplicity in the Bernie Fine Sex Abuse Case

Mary Ann ReitanoContributor IIINovember 29, 2011

Recently Fired Syracuse Basketball Assistant Coach, Bernie Fine
Recently Fired Syracuse Basketball Assistant Coach, Bernie FineJim McIsaac/Getty Images

As this quiet upstate New York community braced for the start of winter, another storm front came in the form of allegations of sexual abuse levied against Syracuse University basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine. Fine's initial accuser, Bobby Davis, was influenced by similar allegations that came out of Penn State just a few weeks prior.

In the past weeks, two more accusers have come forward. Additionally, Fine, who was initially put on administrative leave, was officially fired by SU chancellor Nancy Cantor just a few days ago. His firing came in light of a search warrant that was executed at Fine's suburban Syracuse residence on Friday, November 25th and the addition of federal investigators to the case.  

Yet for some, the firing of Fine is not enough—they want longtime SU head coach Jim Boeheim fired as well. CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel feels that Boeheim's words alone are cause for his dismissal. 

The mob mentality of the media at this juncture of the investigation would be laughable if the innocence of children weren't at the epicenter of this scandal. While ESPN's Mark Schwarz has gained national attention for breaking this story via the network's Outside the Lines program; he has also put ESPN in the hot seat, a point that Doyel conveniently ignores. 

In recent days the audio of a lengthy phone call between alleged victim Bobby Davis and Fine's wife Laurie has been the most compelling piece of evidence that the public has been privy to. Mrs. Fine clearly was aware of the alleged sexual abuse that was taking place under her roof where both she and her family lived, and went so far as to state that her husband was particularly smitten with Davis.  

Those who are clamoring for Boeheim's firing need to refocus their angst toward ESPN and Mrs. Fine. Both the University and Boeheim himself have made it very clear that he had no knowledge of what was going on, and while many are frustrated over quotes made by Boeheim in the early stages of the scandal, Monday morning quarterbacking is not going to take the heat off of where it certainly lies—with ESPN and Mrs. Fine. 

ESPN had the audio of said phone conversation between Davis and Mrs. Fine for close to a decade and were well aware that Fine was indeed an alleged pedophile. Yet they claim that they had no way of authenticating the voice as Mrs. Fine until recently. Clearly, ESPN was more concerned with being the one to break the story than a moral concern for the victims and any potential victims in the Syracuse community.  

Their justification is nothing more than a non sequitur. If the audio had been turned over to the authorities, they surely would have found a creative way to get a comparison sample. Considering the magnitude of the story, ESPN could have easily sent a crew to Syracuse under the guise of doing a story which included an interview with Mrs. Fine. Schwarz claimed that, "We didn't know what to do with it."

Mrs. Fine is, in the minds of many, even more culpable than ESPN due to the simple fact that she knowingly continued and profited from her husband's position as assistant coach at SU. Laurie Fine took an incalculable risk by keeping quiet.  

Was it to protect her family? Her position in the community? How a mother could knowingly allow these horrible things to go on under her own roof with her own children in the house while Davis lived in their basement simply boggles the mind. Her admission of having had a sexual relationship with Davis makes her role in this scandal even more suspect.

Laurie Fine, when word of the scandal broke, was relieved of her position as Director of Major Gifts Donations for the Syracuse Boys & Girls Club. The mere thought that her husband had access to so many young boys through his wife's position is nothing short of stomach-turning. 

The righteous indignation that some are directing at Boeheim needs to be redirected at ESPN and Laurie Fine. It is clear that Boeheim had no knowledge of any of this based on his staunch defense of his longtime friend when the initial allegations were made public. Many feel that he should have known.  

While understandable, how many of us truly know our neighbors, our work colleagues or even our relatives? At the time of Boeheim's statements, his words and anger were justified based on what was known and the fact that this was on the heels of the Penn State scandal.

Those wanting coach Boeheim's head on a stake are using hindsight, which Boeheim didn't have at the time of his statements. Based on his comments, one can easily assume that not only did he know nothing about the abuse, he also was not aware of the investigations that took place over the past decade. The media is simply using Boeheim as a red-herring to keep the heat off of Mark Schwarz and their counterparts at ESPN.