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Syracuse forcing out Jim Boeheim is unthinkable … or is it?

Nov 28, 2011, 1:16 AM EDT

spt-111127-fine AP

A sexual-abuse scandal at Penn State ended the career of college football’s most celebrated coaches.

Could the same happen at Syracuse?

The school fired longtime assistant Bernie Fine on Sunday, not long after a third person raised allegations that Fine sexual molested him in a Pittsburgh hotel room nine years ago. Fine, 65, was in his 36th season with the school and had the longest active streak of consecutive seasons at one school among D-I assistants.

It also makes him essentially a life-long friend of Boeheim, which is why Boeheim was so vigorous in his defense of Fine roughly two weeks ago when allegations against Fine first emerged.

“I know this kid, but I never saw him in any rooms or anything,” Boeheim told ESPN then. “It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he has told. You don’t think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward?

“He supplied four names to the university that would corroborate his story. None of them did … there is only one side to this story. He is lying.”

He also told the Post-Standard of Syracuse that the whole thing is about “money.” Strong statements that carry some weight given Boeheim’s reputation.

Except now there’s another accuser. And Fine’s out of a job. And it seems certain that more details will continue emerging that cast this thing in several shades of what enveloped Joe Paterno. (Such as these excerpts from a taped phone call between Bobby Davis, the first man to accuse Fine, and Fine’s wife, Laurie.)

And that can’t be good for Boeheim.

There’s already one column out there, calling for Syracuse to fire Boeheim. Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com takes issue with Boeheim’s strong statement and the “most powerful, popular man in Syracuse” shouldn’t take that kind of stance when it comes to potential victims of sexual-abuse.

From his column:

I mean, sure, Syracuse can look back and say “nobody’s perfect.” But Syracuse also should look back and say, “Verbal intimidation of potential victims of sex abuse is not tolerated in the real world, and it will not be tolerated by this university. Accidental, intentional, no matter. Jim Boeheim said what he felt was right on Nov. 18. So now allow Syracuse University to say what we feel is right on Nov. 28:

“Jim Boeheim has been fired. Effective immediately.”

It could come to that. The school could decide that Boeheim was responsible for Fine and should be held accountable for his charge. Some would call that a prudent move. It would help Syracuse fine someone else to hold publicly accountable and avoid any semblance of a cover. Call it the opposite of Penn State.

Except … it’s all still incredibly murky.

The latest alleged victim, Zach Tomaselli,23, faces sexual assault charges of his own related to an incident with a 14-year-old boy in Maine. Tomaselli’s father says his son is lying, but Zach told the Post-Standard that his criminal charges have nothing to do with his allegations against Fine. (There’s more detail here.)

Even murkier for Boeheim is he actually may not have known about Fine’s history. Or Fine may have indeed been the target of some kind of extortion. Or a million other possibilities.

Boeheim’s a Hall of Fame coach. He’s built Syracuse into one of the elite college hoops programs and become an icon of sorts for the sport. He’s already issued one apology for his strong statements and will surely issue more this week and perhaps even do a sit-down interview to apologize again. He does all that, and it’s hard to imagine him not being Syracuse’s coach.

But we said the same thing about Paterno last month.

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You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

  1. florida727 - Nov 28, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    Title of another article said “Fine’s wife reportedly admits abuse concerns”. Uh, no. There’s no REPORTEDLY in there. They played many minutes of audio on ESPN. This guy is Syracuse’s Sandusky… to a lesser degree… but even if ONE allegation is true, it’s one too many.

    As for Boeheim, totally different situation than Paterno, at least based on what’s known so far. No assistant eyewitness came running to Boeheim telling him of an assault taking place. You always think the best of your lifelong friends until it’s proven otherwise. If Boeheim now apologizes and essentially throws Fine under the proverbial bus, he’ll come across as just not knowing, and it’ll save his career.

    What’s really weird if you listened to the audio is Fine’s wife knowing what she knows… and staying married to the guy. She even makes reference to her not being interested in him anymore, or he her. Great marriage relationship, huh? She saw him as nothing more than a meal ticket. They need to prosecute her as well.

    • kps159 - Nov 28, 2011 at 7:43 PM

      I would be careful assuming about Paterno too…as far as we know; keeping in mind that we dont have the actual transcripts from the grand jury report, just a summary. The Fine information was out there in 2002/2003, and people will do a lot of assuming about what Boeheim knew or didnt know. It isnt fair, but they will just like they did at Penn State. I dont think Boeheim should have to go, but Paterno shouldnt have gone either.

      What concerns me about Boeheim is his insensitivity to victims; it is one thing to support a long time friend, and quite another to publicly accuse child abuse victims of being liars (even if you think this).

      Espn is also culpable in all of this. They have had this audio tape since 2003, and did nothing. I can understand that they wouldnt know the best way to approach this (much like I can understand that Joe Paterno would be a deer in headlights at hearing about Sandusky), but they were screaming from the hills about “moral obligations” and how they would have handled things, and come to find out they had more evidence than Paterno, and did far less.

  2. turdfurgerson68 - Nov 28, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    Jim Boeheim has been fired, he was protecting an alleged pervert.

    • turdfurgerson68 - Nov 28, 2011 at 11:32 AM

      Jim Boeheim has to be fired, he was protecting an alleged pervert

      • florida727 - Nov 28, 2011 at 12:47 PM

        And you have PROOF of that “protecting” how exactly?

        Don’t rush to judgment quite yet. This MIGHT be significantly different than what happened at Penn State. It won’t take long for the FACTS to come out, and when they do, then, and only then, will everyone be free to assign responsibility to Boeheim… if warranted.

        Personally, I hope this is different, and is limited to Fine. We don’t need another Sandusky/Paterno scenario.

  3. mogogo1 - Nov 28, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    I wouldn’t want to live in a country governed by the rules that Gregg Doyel seems to advocate. A guy you’ve called friend for 30+ years is accused of a heinous crime you’re certain he didn’t commit. Yet, standing up for him isn’t allowed because the accusations MIGHT be true? That’s basically the equivalent of saying somebody is guilty until proven innocent. If Boeheim knew things like Paterno did, then he should be fired. But only if that is the case.

  4. amctjc - Nov 28, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    How is this any different than PSU.

    This tape has been in existence since 2002 , which means that Boeheim at least had an inkling of the problem—-probably alot more given what coaches know about their programs and the people directly around the program. In PSU case at least they removed the guy from his position as coach, Syracuse kept the guy as coach and continued to deny the existence of any problem.

    Boeheim should be fired immediately.

    • florida727 - Nov 28, 2011 at 2:47 PM

      The tape has been in existence since 2002, but it had never been made public before now. So there is a difference between this and Penn State. PSU is/was a blatant cover-up, from the top down. There’s no PROOF of that here… yet.

      • amctjc - Nov 28, 2011 at 3:24 PM

        Not available to the public?….but available to Syracuse for their investigation and ESPN for the possibility of a story, and anybody that would listen. The guy in the story made the tape available to anyone that would listen the problem nobody did….sound familiar exactly the same as PSU.

      • kps159 - Nov 28, 2011 at 7:46 PM

        actually, ESPn had the tape since 2003 and so did the University. Where did you get your information that PSU was a blantant cover-up… what facts are you referencing?

      • mogogo1 - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:07 PM

        @kps159

        Undoubtedly, he’s referencing the fact that charges have been filed in the Penn State case for failure to report the shower rape incident to the police.

      • kps159 - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:21 PM

        no charges against Joe Paterno… and failure to report charges are very different than blatant “cover-up.” Also, ESPN didnt report anything and they had a copy of pretty damning audio!

  5. amctjc - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    The amazing thing about this story is…. ESPN was out in front of the PSU story leading the fire Joe Paterno call…..however they are keeping a low profile on this story because they could be implicated in the same type of situation…. Espn had the tape since 2002 and did nothing to stop the abuse saying they couldn’t corroborate the story….what do you think Mike McQuery thinks about that fact

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