Syracuse Sexual Abuse Scandal: Another Head Coach’s Demise?

November 29, 2011

Political Theory

            Among the recent Penn State sexual allegations, another accusation has risen within another prominent athletic program. Former assistant coach Bernie Fine of Syracuse’s men’s basketball team was recently accused of molesting three men, two of which were ball boys for the basketball team. To some coincidence, these allegations arose just a week after PSU’s former head coach Joe “Joe Pa” Paterno was fired amid the PSU scandal, in which ex-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period. Although Bernie Fine was undoubtedly the main offender in this scandal, Syracuse’s head coach Jim Boeheim has become the topic of conversation.


              Bernie Fine          

            Just days after the Jerry Sandusky scandal began to surface on national news, head football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier were fired by the school’s board of trustees for the manner in which the university handled the situation. Although many people seemed distraught by the loss of such a prominent figure in college football, the fact that Joe Paterno is known to have witnessed Jerry Sandusky participating in these illegal sexual activities with one of the young boys and did not approach legal officials about it brings some people to believe that it was a just decision to fire the coach. Personally, I agree that his actions were unjust and his firing was necessary. Regarding the problem of dirty hands, one can look at Joe Pa and question his success and dignity as a coach after condoning such demoralizing and disgusting acts within such a large university and athletic program. The question for this case truly is: can Penn State and Joe Paterno ever sincerely rid themselves of such a heinous act?

            Bobby Davis, a former ball boy for the Syracuse basketball team, was the first to come out about former assistant coach Bernie Fine’s supposed illegal actions. When these accusations first arose, head coach Jim Boeheim felt they were nothing but faulty lies. When ESPN asked the coach what his opinion was on what was said by Davis, Boeheim was quoted saying, “It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he has told.” Boeheim went on to say, “What are people looking for here? I believe they are looking for money. I believe they saw what happened at Penn State and they are using ESPN to get money. That is what I believe.” Boeheim was extremely protective of Fine and thought these accusations were nothing but defamations to the program and to Fine as an individual. Sexual abuse victims’ advocates took much offense to these remarks and felt deeply insulted by what Boeheim said. Just a few days later, more information arose about Fine’s illegal activities, Fine was fired, and Boeheim released a statement expressing deep regret for what he had said just days earlier. Boeheim was quoted, “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. I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse.”  


                 Jim Boeheim and Bernie Fine 

            The PSU scandal seems to coincide directly with the recent Syracuse sexual abuse allegations. Although Jim Boeheim has not come out yet about knowing about such events, or possibly even witnessing them, one can only imagine what would happen to his career as a head basketball coach and his relations to the university if he did. After watching the first few days of this scandal evolve on SportsCenter, I felt that Boeheim’s comments were very extreme and completely unnecessary. I confused as to why Boeheim released such demeaning statements so quickly, and then was so swift to withdraw them after he found out more information. Some people may believe that Boeheim should be, and will be, fired very soon for the initial comments he made, while others think that the case should evolve more until more information surfaces. I am sure that some people will be outraged if Boeheim is not fired because Joe Paterno was fired in a situation very similar to this one, although Paterno had a stronger involvement in the case. So far in the case Boeheim is not known to have observed the alleged sexual abuse that Bernie Fine participated in, but one may argue that the only way Boeheim can be cleansed from condoning such terrible acts is through being fired by the university or resigning as head coach. What are your thoughts on this issue? If nothing arises about Boeheim actually witnessing Fine partake in such activities, should he still be fired because of the initial comments he said? Answer these questions from your own personal stance, and then relate this issue to the Dirty Hands problem.  







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9 Comments on “Syracuse Sexual Abuse Scandal: Another Head Coach’s Demise?”

  1. elyssashea Says:

    Well, if we are to frame both the Penn and the Syracuse situations with the Dirty Hands problem, then it appears that there was a Dirty Hands case scenario for Joe Pa but not for Boeheim. If we were to truly follow a Dirty Hands case scenario, and assume that those with Dirty Hands should be accepted as politicians often are, then Joe Pa shouldn’t have been fired. Aside from my own moral convictions, the Dirty Hands problem can be applied to Joe Pa because he was aware that something was morally wrong when he witnessed sexual assault, and yet made a decision which did not reflect his civilian impulses towards morality. On the contrary, Joe Pa acted as a “leader” in that he felt it would be in the common good, for the team, if he were to not disrupt the peace by turning in Sandusky. Therefore, Joe Pa, acting as a leader, is as guilty of the Dirty Hands problem as any other politician, and yet we do not fire them. However, in comparison, it does not seem that you can really apply the Dirty Hands problem to Boeheim at this stage. Without knowledge of whether or not Boeheim consciously was aware of sexual assault and decided to ignore it for the “common good,” it is impossible to call this a situation of Dirty Hands.

  2. goldman13 Says:

    The Penn State and Syracuse sex abuse scandals are extremely important issues, both for each individual university and for society as a whole. Therefore, i think its equally as important to report the facts correctly and keep this complicated situation as clear as possible. “the fact that Joe Paterno is known to have witnessed Jerry Sandusky participating in these illegal sexual activities with one of the young boys” is not a fact; he was told a firsthand account by a (then) assistant, but (as far as we know) Paterno himself hasn’t witnessed the sexual abuse accusations.

    You say that you are confused as to why Boeheim released a statement when the accusations first surfaced that were defensive and rash. Put yourself in his situation; your university is about to be thrown into a brutal situation that will tarnish the reputations of not only yourself, but every professor, student and alum. Likewise, the two people who are bringing the charges to light (at the time it was nay two people) are step brothers, and claimed sexual abuse for more than 15 years. They claimed that they were raped and sexually abused from childhood to their mid twenties. I find it hard to believe that two twenty-five year olds allowed themselves to be subjected to such abuse; at 25, i think (or i hope) that they know better, and know how to get themselves out of such a situation.

    From Boeheim’s view, these accusations were blatantly false because compared to the Penn State scandal, they were menial and weak. These brothers made their accusations at a ripe time for a scandal, and as negative as it might sound, a ripe time for squeezing money out of an institution for crimes that they might possibly not have committed.

    Just a side note, i don’t think you can draw a parallel between Boeheim and Spanier (the two university presidents). Jut because one was fired does not mean the other should. These are two separate situations, and should be evaluated as such.

  3. euriosti Says:

    I actually think the coaches will be treated differently. As a matter of fact, it’s interesting how some think Joe Paterno was directly involved with the incident. He never witnessed anything, and he did report the allegations to campus police and the AD. Yet, the media changed the perception of the actual situation. The Penn State scandal wore Paterno’s face, and not Sandusky. This would of course bring more attention to the issue and this is what the media likes. Boeheim hasn’t been targeted in the same manner by the media. In a way, the media pressured Penn State to fire Joe Paterno. I don’t think Boeheim will receive the same amount of attention. His initial comments defended his program, which is the honorable thing for any coach to do. Coaches are supposed to stand up for their players and staff. However, when Boeheim was informed of the validity of the allegations, he could no longer defend his staff. This would prompt a statement that would express his condolences and apologize for his previous comments. Boeheim’s initial statement is only being scrutinized because the allegations were discovered to be true.

  4. Jack Says:

    It is interesting that I never considered the Joe Paterno case to be an issue of Dirty Hands. While I feel that what he did was wrong and could be considered illegal, I believe that it could actually be considered and issue of Dirty Hands. If he had come out and told the police earlier, the national attention would have surrounded Penn State University and Joe Paterno may have been fired anyway although I slightly doubt it. Instead, he allowed the information to be withheld and it allowed him to stay much longer even though it got him fired. Also, it is unlikely that Penn State would have won as many football games as they did and the school would not have rallied behind them for all those years. Now, Paterno is fired and looks worse than he ever could have. But maybe it was for the best of PSU or even that he thought that that was the best action to take. I believe that this is an issue of Dirty Hands interestingly enough.
    As for Coach Boeheim, it is not known whether he actually knew about the Fine sexual abuse case. In this way, it cannot be considered an issue of Dirty Hands. When he responded that the allegations were just lies, he was doing this to protect the basketball program but it did not necessarily dirty his hands because he actually believed that there was nothing going on with Coach Fine. If news were to come out saying that Boeheim knew exactly what was going on then it would reveal that he was stupid for denying the activity but he would probably being doing it to protect the school and the basketball program. If this were the case then it could be considered an issue of Dirty Hands but at this point in time it cannot be.

  5. elotis Says:

    I believe that the situation at Penn State and Syracuse are not as identical as you think. Given the enormity and shock with which the Penn State scandal came upon the country, I don’t blame Jim Boeheim for his quick and non-thought out comments. He was probably so shocked and in disbelief that those emotions prompted the reaction. I am not saying that what he said was right, but sometimes, we react without thinking and later regret those statements. Also, Jim Boeheim probably had no prior knowledge of these actions/accusations, which is why we did not see a statement like Boeheim’s come from Paterno after the PSU scandal broke.

    With that said, I do not believe Boeheim should be fired. If he did not witness or know of these instances, there is no reason he should be fired. He apologized for his quickly-made comments and yes, that may have caused outrage amongst many, but I do not think he deserves to be fired for this. Additionally, I agree with the comment above that this is no way is a case of dirty hands. Boeheim initially defended Fine, until he realized the allegations were actually true. The problem of dirty hands is when someone does an action that may be deemed bad or undesirable, but is done for the greater good and best outcome possible. I do not see how anything in the Boeheim case relates to this. I guess one could consider the initial reaction from Boeheim as dirty hands in the sense that he was defending a man he believed was innocent, despite those calling on him to resign. However, once the allegations further surfaced and became more legitimate, he did not continue to defend him, therefore eliminating the dirty hands problem.

  6. rmwells3 Says:

    Boeheim on the surface, appears to know nothing about the incidents. In which case, I think his initial reactions are, understandably so, angry and overly aggressive. Imagine one of your closest friends were accused of something of a similar degree, you would definitely react the same way. You would defend what you believe–defend the integrity and personal character of your friend. For this reasoning, Boeheim should not be fired because he was neither “sweeping it under the carpet” nor involved in the incidents. There is no reason to punish him. Thus, there is no scenario of dirty hands here.

    The sudden change in attitude from Boeheim came with the validity of the allegations against Bernie Fine. Boeheim, by apologizing for his prior statements, is his way of agreeing that this type of behavior is immoral and in no way appropriate. He, in essence, would reprimand Bernie Fine himself, is disappointed in him and wish he knew so that he could’ve prevented the incidents from happening to his program.

  7. carweiss Says:

    I don’t think that we can state whether the scandal with Boeheim is a case of dirty hands until we uncover more of what really happened. If, in fact, Boeheim was completely blind to what was occurring, then we really can’t compare the two cases. However, information in regards to how much either of the coaches really knew about illegal actions have yet to be fully disclosed and I don’t believe they ever will be. I do believe that his original comments were completely uncalled for and they make me think that he knew what was going on and was just trying to protect his position and reputation. Will the truth ever be fully discovered?
    Until this information is somehow uncovered, he is not guilt of dirty hands. Moreover, these coaches are being seen as completely different individuals in relation to the allegations, however, I believe they are the same. They both most likely knew of the scandals and kept quiet and both are guilty of not fulfilling the moral expectations of a University. However, because Joe was the face of Penn State and people “knew” him better, he is going to continue to receive more criticism than Boeheim.

  8. jrphilli Says:

    There are a lot pf people with dirty hands in these cases. But the two scandals are not as similar as one would think. In the Penn State scandal a lot of people knew what was going on. That situation could not have went on for 15 years and everybody be blinded to it. The simple fact that the head coach was fired because of his dirty hands (who is not the accused), and other members in the athletic department stepped down from their position shows that there is some truth to this story. If I was innocent, then I would not leave, stepping down is a red target that they knew what was going on. So, in Penn State a lot of people had dirty hands because they knew what illegal things this man was doing and just turn a blinded eye to it. So, in Syracuse situation we do not know if the allegation is real, or how many people knew about it and did not say anything. So, of course the same punishment can be taken for the Syracuse scandal if other people have the same dirty hands. But, the head coach should not be fired because of his comment. If a big scandal just came out somewhere else, and then weeks later someone comes out with a similar story somewhere else, one would believe that they are only doing this because of the attention the other story received. So, it is nature to be on the defense about the truth of the story, so the coach just acted normally to something he believed to be false. Also, if this is a close colleague of his, he is not going to automatically assume he is doing this. So, his apology showed that he thought it to be false, but now knows it could be true. Now, yes this will look bad on him, but if he had nothing to do with it, then he should keep his job. We can not fault him because of something his staff did. He can not watch everyone like a day care, everybody are adults. The only reason the Penn State people are in so much trouble is because they know what was going on, so yes we can fault them for letting that go on for so long or even at all. But we can not fault Syracuse’s head coach for something he knew nothing about, we suppose. Until more information is out he should fill no shame to leave his job, but he may feel some for the fact that this could have been occurring right under his nose.

  9. bbarocas Says:

    I believe that the situations at Syracuse and Penn State are very different. While the actual incidents are eerily similar, the situations surrounding them thus far are not. Until something comes out that shows that Jim Boeheim or anyone else at Syracuse knew or witnessed what Bernie Fine did, then I do not believe that they have “dirty hands”. On the other hand (pun intended), I do think that Paterno fits under the theory of dirty hands. Him and the entire Penn State Athletic Department witnessed or knew what was going on, and ultimately did not do nearly enough. If nothing further arises about Jim Boeheim’s involvement in this case then I do not believe he deserves to be fired. While I strongly disagree with his initial comments and the way he handled the situation, this is no reason for the man to lose his job. I do think that after what just went on at Penn State he should have held back on making comments and realized how sensitive and serious these allegations were. I understand he was trying to defend his assistant coach and friend, but it was not right for him to act like that. However, if more information comes out and Boeheim or anyone else at Syracuse is shown to have known about Fine, then that will not only give them dirty hands, but also cost them their job (as it should). For now, it does appear that Boeheim is truly regretful of his words, and innocently was unaware of what went on. It is a shame that the NCAA has been hit with both of these scandals, but I do hope that the Syracuse one ends with Bernie Fine and does not end up to show that the entire athletic department acted with dirty hands, as they did in State College.

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