Syracuse University was scheduled to play a basketball game Tuesday night, meaning that afterward, Coach Jim Boeheim would be addressing the media for the first time since his long-time assistant and friend, Bernie Fine, was fired over allegations of child molestation.
What on earth would Boeheim say? What on earth could he say?
He began by reading a statement and then answered questions, receiving mixed reactions for the template he created on how to handle an unfathomable scandal. He spoke of friendship and loyalty, the fact that the investigation is ongoing. He professed to have no worries about his job status, denied knowledge of wrongdoing, accepted a measure of responsibility and talked about just how big a deal he perceives himself to be at Syracuse.
“I think there’s a misconception. ‘He’s been there 36 years ... he’s bigger than the program.’ If I was gone today, this program would be fine. This program would do great,” Boeheim said. “If ... 10 years from now, this program would do great. This is not Jim Boeheim, this is Syracuse University basketball program. It is not about me. It never has been about me. Roy Danforth won here. Fred Lewis won here. And the guy next, Mike Hopkins, will win here.”
Boeheim was asked exactly where the line of responsibility is drawn. “Ultimately, the head coach is responsible for everything. I think you know that, don’t you? Everything that I can control, I hold myself responsible for.”
Boeheim stressed that the facts are not all in yet, just as you’d expect. “What happened on my watch, we'll see,” Boeheim said. “When the investigation is done, we'll find out what happened on my watch. Right now there are no charges, no indictment, no grand jury and no action has been taken. When that's done, we'll see what happened on my watch.”
Boeheim was asked about his vigorous early defense of Fine with remarks that questioned the motives of two of the three alleged victims who have stepped forward. “I was supporting a friend, that's what I thought I was doing,” Boeheim said. He added that he had not heard a tape recording allegedly made by Fine’s wife. In the recording, played on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” a voice purported to be long to Laurie Fine confirms that Fine abused Bobby Davis.
“If you know somebody for 30 years, if you went to school with him, for what he did for this program, I thought he deserved my allegiance and my gratitude,” Boeheim said of Fine. “... I said when more facts came forward and more facts did come forward, and the university made a change. You know so much one day and three or four days later you know more.”
Although he laughed and said he’d never worried about his job status in 36 years, this still may end up costing Boeheim his job and sending him to the ranks of TV analysts. One report indicates that a fourth victim may step forward and, against the backdrop of the ongoing investigation, not everyone enthusiastically received his comments Tuesday night. Yahoo’s Pat Forde finds him still to be out of touch with the severity of the scandal. But at least he answered questions. It will be nice if, one day, Joe Paterno does that. What did you think of Boeheim’s comments?