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NY Times Op-Ed: 'Why Syracuse Isn't Penn State'

Joe Nocera of the New York Times revisits the Bernie Fine saga and discovers that all is not what it seemed last December.

Andrew Burton

Bernie Fine. I dread writing that name. Deserved or not, he has become He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

Too many bad memories, and all I did was write about the ordeal surrounding him. None of the things that he supposedly purported were done to me (or, as far as has been proven, anyone).

I try to avoid most mention of Bernie these days just because little good comes from it. Every time something happens to Jerry Sandusky, there's a smattering of "What about Bernie Fine?" tweets and it reminds me that there's an entire village out there just waiting to grab their pitchforks and kill the well as Syracuse University.

Of course, as you and I know, much of what was said to have been done by Bernie has either been proven false or remains in doubt. All that remains are the unsubstantiated claims of two step-brothers, one of whom denied any and all of them until he got into financial trouble. ESPN has decided to forget the entire story, which they trumpeted with as much fanfare as humanly possible, ever existed. So did almost all of the national media, TV personalities and columnists who vilified Fine and Syracuse.

In December of 2011, just a week into the firestorm, Joe Nocera of the New York Times eviscerated Syracuse and the Post-Standard over what seemed to be stark and troubling similarities between this situation and the way Penn State handled Jerry Sandusky. Nocera's column and its fire-branding tone was typical and representative of what we heard from folks like Gregg Doyel, Pat Forde, et. al.

If ESPN reported it, it must be true. Ah...simpler times.

Unlike so many of his colleagues, Nocera was brave enough to take a look back at that column and what has transpired since, and in a column entitled "Why Syracuse Isn't Penn State," he reminded everyone about truth of the Bernie Fine saga.

In the heat of the moment, it was easy enough to assume that what had happened at Penn State had also happened at Syracuse: that the university — and the larger community, which lived and breathed Syracuse basketball — had entered into a conspiracy of silence...

...The refusal of The Post-Standard to publish an article about Davis’s allegations — charges it could never corroborate — now looks like responsible journalism rather than a dereliction of duty.

...With the passage of time, ESPN is the one that appears to have acted irresponsibly (although the network disagrees with this assessment) — along with the rest of us who piled on.

The truth is, as we've always said here, unknown. Bernie Fine may have indeed done what he's been accused of. But as Nocera points out, it almost doesn't matter. The damage is already done. He'll never coach again (at least in America). He'll never be trusted by a parent again. He'll never be able to tell someone his name without that person associating him with child molestation.

You can be falsely accused of drug abuse and come back from it. You can be falsely accused of murder and come back from it. You can't be falsely accused of child molestation and come back from it.

We may still yet find out things we don't know about Fine, Davis, Lang or some new witness who steps forward. Until then, we haven't found anything to justify all of those holier-than-thou columns from last December. At least one person had the guts to look back and recognize that.