Why Bernie had to go and Jimmy doesn't

Author's Note: I've said from the beginning, we need to wait and see; this investigation is still underway and there is much we don't know. I'm writing based on what we do know at this point. Obviously, the arguments here, particularly those in support of Boeheim, are subject to change as this story continues to unfold.

Bernie's Best Case Scenario:

For now, let's set aside some of the more wild conspiracy theories that might explain Bernie's absolute innocence and imagine the likely best case scenario for Fine (and SU fans and everyone that isn't in NAMBLA): Bernie had a consensual sexual relationship with Davis after Davis turned 18. Davis, perhaps feeling taken advantage of by his "surrogate father," decides to go public with the affair and changes the timeline, makes the start of it when he was 12 or 13, then convinces his step-brother to corroborate his story because no one else will believe it until he does. Tomaselli is lying as his father suggests. And the Laurie Fine audio tape is speculative at best. That's the best case scenario. Could this be the case? Sure. Do I think it is? Absolutely not. That being said, even if you imagine the likely best case scenario, Bernie still had to be fired, and here's why...

Why Bernie had to go:

Take that best case scenario and you still have a man whose personal actions, while not necessarily unlawful, still carry the appearance of impropriety. Is there actual impropriety? I don't know. It certainly seems that way to me, but even if there's not, a man in Fine's position, a public figure tasked with coaching and caring for young men, simply can't keep his job when the best case scenario seems to be that both he and his wife had an affair with an 18 year old former SU ball boy. I don't know if Fine is guilty of any actual crimes and he certainly deserves his day in court to defend himself (if this actually goes to court), but if I'm in Nancy Cantor's shoes, I do exactly what she did. I fire Fine because his actions (and the actions of those he has chosen to associate himself), even if lawful, have the appearance of impropriety and have created a national news story that is smearing the University's image (discussion of ESPN's handling of all this another time). For a public figure to lose his job, that's enough. And this is the best case scenario. Worst case, hell, anything worse than the best case scenario, obviously Fine has to go. Again, I'm not saying he's guilty - I have my thoughts, but simply don't know - but guilt is a matter for the courts and Cantor's standard for taking action wasn't nor should it have been "beyond a reasonable doubt." Is that fair? Maybe not, but that's the way it works for public figures in (fairly) high profile positions. 

Why Boeheim shouldn't be fired:

The worst case scenario for Boeheim is that he knew about what Fine was doing and either did nothing or worse, covered it up. Obviously in that situation Boeheim needs to be fired. But since there are currently no allegations of an institutional cover-up, no third party eye witness accounts, let's set aside the worst case scenario and deal with the facts that we have and deal with all the different reasons people have posited for Boeheim to be fired.

1. Even if Boeheim didn't know what Fine was up to, he should've.

When the Sandusky story broke, almost no one came forward to defend Sandusky. Why? According to numerous stories, a variety of people had suspicions about Sandusky for years. But when this story broke, a plethora of former players, assistant coaches, ball boys, team managers, etc. defended Bernie's character. None of them could believe he could've possibly done what Davis had alleged. It's easy to say, "Boeheim should've known," but seemingly no one did (except perhaps Laurie Fine). Fine's actions were private, allegedly occurring in his house and in hotel rooms. To my knowledge, there have been no allegations of "horse play" in SU locker rooms. And even if you grant that Boeheim saw Davis on Fine's hotel room bed, why would that be so odd? A nice man takes his "surrogate son" on road trips with him and they sit on a hotel room bed together watching TV. Where else do you sit in a hotel room? No, as far as we know, there were no tell-tale signs, not even clues as to Fine's alleged actions, so it's ridiculous to assume Boeheim should've known.

2. Boeheim is the head coach, he's responsible for his employee's actions.

This argument holds no water for me. If argument number 1 (above) were true, then maybe, but people do all kinds of things in their private lives and they have no bearing or effect on their bosses. I know Sean has mentioned this and to paraphrase has said that fair or unfair, this is the way the world works. Except it's not. It's only the case if he had some idea that this was even possible. As ezcuse has pointed out on the message boards, if there are victims after Boeheim first became aware of these allegations (roughly 2005) than yes, he is in trouble. But holding him responsible for the alleged private actions of an employee that were unbelievable to just about everyone who knew him seems ridiculous. 

3. Boeheim has to go based on what he said when this story broke.

I've said all along, I don't have a problem with Boeheim defending Fine (so long as he actually believed what he was saying). There's nothing wrong with defending a friend of 50 years and speaking on behalf of his character. But I've also said that he never should've called Davis a liar and accused him of a money grab. Is that enough to cause him to get fired? Possibly, but in my opinion, no. Let's put ourselves in Boeheim's shoes for a second, think like he thinks. Should I give Southerland a slightly longer leash? Wait, that's a different column. Here's what I imagine his actual thought process was:

My friend of 50 years, a person I absolutely believe to be innocent, a person who was accused in 2003 by this guy and subsequently investigated by ESPN and the Post Standard and they didn't find any corroboration, who was then accused in 2005 and the University did an investigation and they didn't find any corroboration (note: the University claims it didn't know about the Laurie Fine audio tape and so I'm assuming Boeheim had no knowledge of it either), a person I know received and never paid my friend a $5,000 loan, is reporting this again, in the immediate wake of this Penn State Scandal, a scandal that will likely result in multi-million dollar civil lawsuits, and the only reason this story is being reported now is because his step-brother is corroborating his story after denying it in 2003 and 2005, and he says I saw them together in Bernie's hotel room, and I know that's a lie because I've never been in his hotel room... yeah, I think he's lying and I think they're after money. 

Do I understand why he said it? Absolutely. He felt like it was a lie and that his close friend's reputation was forever going to be tarnished based on hear-say. If he didn't come out strong on Bernie's behalf, there was almost no way Bernie could ever recover from this. Should he have said what he said? Absolutely not. As Sean pointed out, it sends a horrible message to any would-be accusers, "cross Fine and you're crossing me." But the question is, is that enough to be fired? I don't think so. If I were Cantor, I would suspend Boeheim for a couple games, making it clear that his comments were unacceptable.

But there is a HUGE difference between Boeheim and Paterno. At best Paterno didn't do enough. At worst, he was involved in an institutional cover up of a child rapist. To the best of our knowledge, Boeheim had no idea what was going on prior to 2005, knew that Fine had been investigated three times and each time no one could come up with any corroboration, and seems to truly have believed his friend was innocent. 

I'm not saying Boeheim won't be fired. I don't know. I suppose that has a lot to do with how this investigation unfolds. I'm just saying that in my personal opinion, he shouldn't be. He couldn't reasonably have been expected to know what Fine was allegedly up to, he shouldn't be responsible for the private actions no one believed possible, and while he never should've called the accusers liars, it's understandable why he did and not quite worthy of being fired in my opinion.

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