Saturday, November 19, 2011

Syracuse mess impossible to decipher

I am a graduate of Syracuse University so I’m closely following the allegations of molestation made against associate head coach Bernie Fine. But I don’t know what to make of them at this point.

Bobby Davis, a former ball boy for the Syracuse University men's basketball team, has accused Fine of molesting him for a period of 15 years, which Fine has vehemently denied. His claims are so far backed up only by a relative who also claims that Fine molested him. The Syracuse police have just started investigating so it will be some time before we get any answers.

Unlike in the Penn State University situation, we have no independent corroboration of the charges. We do not have an extensive grand-jury report that describes the accusations in graphic, stomach-turning detail. We do not have eight (and likely more) victims. We do not have an independent witness such as Mike McQueary to confirm the abuse. All we have is two men who are related (and we know families lie for each other all the time) against the word of a coach who may be completely innocent.

What is curious to me is the fierceness of the defense of Fine by head basketball coach Jim Boeheim, who has publicly called Davis a liar for claiming that Boeheim saw him in Fine’s room many times. The legendary basketball coach has also accused the two men of concocting the story for money in the wake of the Penn State scandal.

But Boeheim lost credibility with me when he defended Eric Devendorf after he was suspended for harassing a female student who accused the then-Syracuse shooting guard of hitting her. It’s clear that Boeheim is willing to go to the mat to protect someone in his inner circle. Does that mean that he’s lying? I don’t think he would lie about something as serious as child abuse, but he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt either. And if it turns out that Boeheim did see that kid in Fine’s room, that means he is the liar and should suffer Joe Paterno’s fate.

To some extent, I do fault Syracuse University for failing to inform the police of its 2005 investigation of the claims made by Davis. Even if Davis told them he had already gone to the police, they should have informed the authorities of the investigation and their failure to corroborate his claims so that the police could take over if they chose or just record it in their case files. A university investigation does not carry the same weight as a law enforcement probe, with district attorneys that can put people under oath and compel them to testify truthfully.

The frustrating thing about this scandal, if you can call it that, is that we have to wait and see how it all plays out. It’s impossible to decipher this mess right now because we simply do not have enough information. If it turns out that Davis is telling the truth, then heads need to roll at Syracuse, as they did at Penn State.

Photo of Boeheim coaching a game.

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