National Columnist

Boeheim's statements go too far and should cost him his job


Boeheim says he regrets his remarks that might have been 'insensitive to victims of abuse.' (US Presswire)  
Boeheim says he regrets his remarks that might have been 'insensitive to victims of abuse.' (US Presswire)  

Syracuse fired Bernie Fine today, and that's the first step. What's the next step?

Firing Jim Boeheim tomorrow.

I'm dead serious.

Lots of you don't agree with that, and don't even understand it, so I'm going to lay it out for you. By the time I'm finished here, if you still don't get it, congratulations. You care more about a famous coach than you do about innocent kids. And if that's how you want to roll, fine. But own it. Because after I'm done, after you read what I write, this will be the question you'll have to answer:

What matters more to me, a famous coach whose name I know? Or a bunch of kids, whose names I don't?

Up to you, but buckle up. Because here I go.

Jim Boeheim has to be fired -- but not because of anything Bernie Fine is alleged to have done. This isn't Joe Paterno 2.0, with the head coach being told about the alleged child molester in his midst but doing nothing about it. This isn't that. As far as we know, and I'm at peace believing this, Jim Boeheim had no idea that his longtime assistant, his close friend, his neighbor, was allegedly molesting boys. I'd never advocate firing someone for something they didn't know, and Boeheim didn't know about Bernie Fine's alleged behavior.

More on Syracuse investigation

Where Boeheim screwed up -- and screwed up in a way that cannot be tolerated by Syracuse University -- is with the comments he offered, voluntarily, shortly after ESPN first reported the allegations against Fine.

Understand, the issue is not that Boeheim said on Nov. 17: "I have known Bernie Fine for more than 40 years. I have never seen or witnessed anything to suggest that he would been involved in any of the activities alleged."

That's wonderful. That's loyalty. That's allowed. Good for you, Jim Boeheim. That's being a good friend.

Nor is the issue that Boeheim also said on Nov. 17, "This matter was fully investigated by the University in 2005 and it was determined that the allegations were unfounded. ... Had I seen or suspected anything, I would have taken action."

Also, no problem. Tell us what happened in the investigation. Tell us how nothing came of it in 2005. Point taken.

Nor is the issue that Boeheim also said on Nov. 17, "Bernie has my full support."

Fine. Terrific. Support your friend. Well done.

Where Boeheim went wrong -- and by "wrong" I mean, "Where Boeheim should be fired" -- is what he told reporters the next day, including this comment to the Post-Standard of Syracuse : "The Penn State thing came out, and the kid behind this is trying to get money."

That's enough right there. Had Boeheim ended the interview at that moment, I'd beg for his firing today -- especially now that the school itself has decided there's an awful lot of smoke around Bernie Fine, so much so that the school thinks maybe, just maybe, there's some fire there as well. Otherwise, why was Bernie Fine fired on Sunday, before he's even been charged by police? Perhaps because the earlier developments Sunday, including a taped phone call involving his own wife, are so damning?

But anyway, that comment alone is enough to get Boeheim fired. But then he went farther. He also said, on Nov. 18 to the The Post-Standard of Syracuse: "If [the alleged victim] gets this, he's going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I'd say about $50 million. That's what this is about. Money."

Boeheim also called the first two alleged victims "liars."

By Sunday night, it finally dawned on Boeheim that he had gone too far back on Nov. 18. After Fine was fired, Boeheim stuck his finger into the air and gauged public opinion and realized, oops, he'd messed up back on Nov. 18. So he released a statement where he admitted as much:

"What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found," Boeheim said. "I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."

Better late than never -- but it's too late.

Fire him, Syracuse. Fire him now, and don't try to act like Jim Boeheim is too big to be fired. Penn State fired Joe Paterno, and he's a hell of a lot bigger in his community, and in his sport, than Boeheim is in his. It's not close, but Paterno was fired with a phone call, dismissed in a disrespectful way commensurate of the way Paterno carelessly handled the Jerry Sandusky allegations back in 2002.

Now it's Boeheim's turn to go, and it's probably not clear to some of you, even now -- even after reading Boeheim's apology -- why I'm so steadfast on this point. So let me explain it once and for all, but beware: After I explain something to you that you clearly have not considered for yourself, you're going to feel about Boeheim similarly to how I feel about him. And I feel he should be fired. If that's not what you want to feel, go read something else. Find a comic book. Maybe some old Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. The world's a happy place, right?

Well, it's not happy for the alleged victims of Bernie Fine -- and what Boeheim did on Nov. 18 was make it even harder for them to come forward.

"I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."

Too late. He should have thought about it on Nov. 18. Boeheim is the most powerful, most popular man in Syracuse. And for that guy, in that town, to ridicule Fine's accusers as liars and opportunists -- as deceitful frauds looking to make a quick buck -- Boeheim laid down a very public gauntlet to anyone else who might have been interested in telling the police they were molested by Fine:

Come after Fine, and you're crossing me.

That's what Boeheim was saying on Nov. 18. Whether it was intentional, whether he even knew what he was doing, isn't the point. The point is, that's what he did on Nov. 18. And that's not the kind of mistake that Syracuse University can look back on and say, "Oh well. Nobody's perfect."

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."

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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