When two men came forward to accuse Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting them as children, head coach Jim Boeheim called them money-grubbing liars. Then he apologized. He should have stopped there, but now he's saying he doesn't regret defending his friend.
Boeheim initially said accuser Bobby Davis was telling "a bunch of a thousand lies" and that he and his fellow accuser Mike Lang "saw what happened at Penn State and they are using ESPN to get money." On Sunday, the day Fine was fired from the university, Boeheim apologized, saying, "I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse." According to the New York Daily News, Chancellor Nancy Cantor cited this apology when expressing support for Boeheim against calls that he too be fired: "We're very pleased with what he said Sunday night. And we stand by him." Unfortunately, Boeheim kept on talking. At a post-game news conference last night, he said of his initial liars-and-extortionists comments:
I supported a friend. I think it's important what I did. I'm proud I did that. I've known him for 46 years. We went to school together. I think I owed him a debt of allegiance.
It is possible to support a friend without publicly calling alleged child abuse victims liars — Chancellor Cantor herself, in a letter to the Syracuse community, affirmed Fine's right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty while still emphasizing the university's commitment to taking the accusations seriously. Boeheim, instead, chose to lash out. He also appears to be engaged in some preemptive buck-passing, saying, "ultimately, the head coach is responsible for everything he can control. But, outside the program, I have little if any control over what an adult does."
Fair enough. But multiple men now say they were abused while on team trips with Fine, trips Boeheim presumably went on too. If these allegations are true, it will be hard for Boeheim to claim he bears no responsibility — and hard for him to justify his attacks on Fine's accusers.