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Jim Boeheim certain to get grilled after Syracuse’s game


Mike Miller

Jim Boeheim kept a low profile Monday. He won’t have that option today.

Barely 48 hours after Syracuse fired longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine after another allegation of sexual-abuse surfaced, Boeheim will be on the sideline as the No. 4 Orange play Eastern Michigan. He’ll then hold a press conference afterward.

Guessing most questions won’t be about the game.

Boeheim was emphatic in his defense of Fine when allegations first surfaced two weeks ago, essentially calling the two alleged victims liars and extortionists. Yet when a third man, Zach Tomaselli, says Fine abused him in 2002 and then the school fired Fine, Boeheim offered a short, terse apology on Sunday night.

Expect more apologies, too -- people are starting to call for Boeheim to be fired. (School officials and trustees are staying mum.)

“I think Jim Boeheim should be fired or resign as well,” Rev. Robert Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery, a victims support group, told the AP. “These boys were members of the basketball program. Jim Boeheim’s responsibility is to oversee that program, and the children were not safe on his watch.”

Boeheim reportedly has no plans to resign.

Unlike Joe Paterno at Penn State, Boeheim didn’t appear to know about the abuse. Tomaselli says the coach didn’t even know him.

Still, that lack of knowledge might not matter. Experts who handle public relations issues say Boeheim erred by defending Fine and do so in such a brusque way.

“Anytime you get a crisis that involves things society would find morally inappropriate, you need to show empathy and compassion. Even if you don’t agree with the allegations, you have to show some compassion to the human element that’s involved there. I think coach Boeheim probably did himself a disservice by reacting so strongly initially. He should have taken a very neutral approach,” Arkansas professor Stephen Dittmore told Jeff Eisenberg.

The school’s also at risk for being at fault. From the New York Times:

“One of the usual things about the Penn State case was you actually had someone walking through the locker room who saw this. Usually, how would you get corroboration? I would think they would need to determine it just hadn’t happened for some reason — like, they were in different places when the alleged crime took place — and not just a lack of corroboration.”

“They could be in a bad place because they did have notice,” said Cornell law professor Cynthia Bowman, referring to Syracuse.

Unlike Penn State, Syracuse is a private university and is not shielded by the sovereign immunity that could possibly keep Penn State from being liable as a state entity.

“I think the university could have enormous liability, including Boeheim, who was in a supervisory capacity,” New York lawyer Michael Dowd said. “It comes down to who knew what, or who should have known. And you have to ask, because Boeheim’s defense of Fine was so complete after the initial allegations, would he have been at all open to look into anything suspicious?”

None of this will be resolved at Boeheim’s presser. But as long as reporters are on hand to ask questions, we’ll learn more about this whole mess.

And that’s enough. For now.

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