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

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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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