Jim Boeheim: One Big Bernie Fine Mess Is Anything but "Awesome"

Jill HopmanContributor IDecember 1, 2011

SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 19:  Head coach of the Syracuse Orange, Jim Boeheim looks on from the sideline during the game against the Colgate Raiders at the Carrier Dome on November 19, 2011 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images)
Nate Shron/Getty Images

Last night, at a birthday dinner for one of my very good friends, I realized the extent of my frustration with Jim Boeheim.

We were at this incredible family-style restaurant, Rubirosa, surrounded by heaping bowls of fresh sage ravioli, meatballs, vodka sauce pizza, hand-rolled pasta with sausage ragu, crisped calamari, mozzarella sticks the size of cucumbers and never-ending bottles of Prosecco.

It was like a scene out of The Sopranos, except with nine attractive women and one smallish man. The smallish man is a great guy – who happens to be a graduate of Syracuse. We always talk sports when we see each other, so it was inevitable that the Bernie Fine scandal would come up. And I couldn’t help myself.

When I asked him what he thought of Jim Boeheim’s press conference, his answer instantly riled me. I kept myself in check, but I didn’t even see the sudden burst of are-you-freaking-kidding-me coming.

His response? “It was awesome.”

Let’s establish that, from the start, I do not think that Jim Boeheim deserves to be fired—yet. I think he is a great coach who has built an otherwise commendable program.

But if he keeps up this overly cocky, flippant and oblivious attitude towards the storm clouds hovering over his team, my opinion will quickly change. (I mean, “storm clouds” just may be the worst synonym for “regular molestation of little boys” that anyone has ever written.)

When I said this at dinner, my friend replied, “But that attitude is just Jim Boeheim’s thing.”

Yeah, I’m sorry. If there is only one situation in which his “thing” would be uncalled for, it is the one that includes the regular molestation of little boys. Especially after we just watched a similarly horrific scandal bring down the legend that was Joe Paterno.

It all started with Boeheim’s initial, defiant defense of Bernie Fine. Remember? When he called Bobby Davis a liar who was just after money?

I get it. Without hard evidence, he was being loyal to someone who had served on his staff for 36 years. But that is where this gets so messy. Was there hard evidence that Boeheim ignored back in 2002? Are these victims credible? Is this solely an ESPN-inspired investigation?

That is how the Syracuse scandal differs from Penn State. With Jerry Sandusky, we have 23 pages of nauseating testimony and evidence to sift through; with Bernie Fine, we have a slew of questions and one damning audio tape. 

In both, however, there has been a common theme of blaming the victim. While it is natural to deny the fact that you employed a pedophile for four decades, Boeheim seemed angry that anyone would dare question his personal judgment, and worse, he openly intimidated victims of sexual abuse. 

It was borderline cruel. After Fine was fired, Boeheim seemed to change his tune and exhibit remorse. In a carefully worded statement—most likely prepared by the school (and lawyers)—he called the allegations “disturbing and deeply troubling.”

His second sentence selfishly reminded everyone that he was “personally shocked” because he had been in the dark all these years. He then called Fine’s firing “appropriate” and offered “regret” for any previous obnoxiousness that may have seemed “insensitive to victims of abuse.” 

You think? Victims of horrible sexual abuse usually appreciate being called gold-digging liars.

NEW YORK - MARCH 12: Assistant coach Bernie Fine of the Syracuse Orange looks on from the sidelines during their game against the Connecticut Huskies during the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2009 in New Yor
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The strangest part about this is that Bobby Davis has very little to gain by lying at this point. The statute of limitations has expired, so criminal charges can’t be filed. Without criminal charges, building a civil law suit would be extremely difficult. And he clearly isn’t looking for money in exchange for his silence. 

The more I learn about Bobby Davis, the more I see a tortured man who has been screaming for someone, anyone, to listen to him since at least 2002. He tried the police, the school and the media. I can’t imagine being repeatedly molested, finally getting the courage to report it and then being called a liar. 

For an entire decade.

How can we possibly blame Bobby Davis if he seems somewhat vengeful? Even if he did doctor or splice together the tape, as some are alleging, it does not change the fact that Laurie Fine said all of those things at one point or another.

And if he set her up—in terms of purposefully asking questions to elicit answers and create evidence—then good for him! Wouldn’t you do the same thing?

I think I would make it my mission in life to bring down whoever did this to me, no matter the cost or humiliation, especially if no one believed that it really happened in the first place. 

I am not sure what to think of the third victim, accused felon Zach Tomaselli. The Daily News discovered that Syracuse did not take a bus to Pittsburgh, where he alleged he was molested, but instead flew from Tennessee after a road game.

But now there is apparently a fourth victim, too. How many more are out there? Because every day, Bobby Davis becomes a bit more believable, Bernie Fine becomes a bit more disgusting and Jim Boeheim seems a bit more like an asshole.

What should worry Syracuse fans is that the former chief of the Syracuse Police Department, Dennis DuVal, was directly informed in 2002 that a ball boy reported sexual abuse by Bernie Fine. 

Dennis Duval played basketball at Syracuse in the early 70's when, yup, Jim Boeheim was the assistant coach. And even though these were very serious allegations, the police strangely did not even bother to prepare a report. So did Duval simply sweep this issue under the rug for his alma mater, or did he let his former coach know what had been alleged? He has refused to comment thus far.

It all seems very fishy. Fishy enough for the Feds to get involved. And fishy enough to make Jim Boeheim’s latest press conference sound ridiculous and short-sighted. He is putting all of his eggs in one basket and he doesn’t seem to be aware that the basket may have a huge hole in it.  

Boeheim’s press conference on Tuesday night was a complete turnaround from the carefully worded statement he released on Sunday and echoed his initial ridiculousness. 

To put this into perspective, he opened with a joke by asking the packed room, “Is there something special going on tonight?”

Yes, you moron, we wanted to know if you employed a sex predator. We wanted to feel the remorse you alluded to after Fine was fired. And we wanted answers, not a lecture.

But instead of feeling “regret,” Jim Boeheim is now “proud” of defending his maybe-predator friend. To the point that he thinks “it’s important” what he did, because they “went to school together.” 


He arrogantly riffed that he has “never worried about [his] job status in 36 years.”  (Well, maybe he should start). He then defiantly declared that “there are no charges, no indictments, no grand jury” and that, after three investigations, “nothing has been corroborated.” 

No charges have been filed because it’s too late to do so, Jimbo. It doesn’t mitigate the fact that you may have been BFF with a child abuser “for 46 years.”

Also? Newsflash, but a grand jury has opened an investigation. It is like Boeheim wants to remain clueless. He smirked, he joked, he criticized, he laughed—he didn’t get it. 

He claimed that he hasn’t even listened to the Laurie Fine tape (which blows my mind). I mean, wouldn’t it be the first thing you did, considering it is the only hard evidence that justifies Fine’s firing?

Finally, in a fraudulent display of self-depreciation, he said, “It’s never been about Jim Boeheim. This is about Syracuse basketball.” 

And that is the problem. It is about so much more than Jim Boeheim OR Syracuse basketball. It is about more than a brand.

Maybe when we start looking beyond the powerhouse athletic programs and the superstar coaches who built them, we will begin to see what this is really about: the extensive and perverse molestation of children. And only after we address that problem, can we move on to the cowardly teams who protect criminals in order to protect their own reputations.

Hopefully, Jim Boeheim will realize that neither he, nor his basketball team, is bigger than the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked college sports. 

Hopefully we, as fans, will realize that there is nothing “awesome” about how Jim Boeheim has reacted to the Bernie Fine scandal.

Please check out my blog, Chicks Dig the Fastball. We still dig the long ball, but it is just so 1998. We also dig slap bunt singles, long three-pointers and kickoff returns for TDs. 


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