As I sit in my living room, it’s kind of hard to look straight.
Directly in front of me--on the main wall of my apartment--is a shrine to Syracuse’s 2003 National Championship run in basketball.
Little did I know.
I was a sophomore at Syracuse that year---and as my bio on the WNDU website reads, I’m just so darn proud and lucky to have been one of only 25 students who followed the Orange through all six games of the NCAA tournament run. It resulted in the only national championship in Syracuse basketball history.
The memories from that month are some of the most vivid and rewarding of my life. The bond I shared with my closest friends, my fellow alums and all those who bleed orange---I will never forget those days.
I remember my sister helping me make my main collage. All my tickets are there as are pictures with those I traveled with to New Orleans for the Final Four. And at the center of that collage, a photo of Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim and myself at 4am on Bourbon Street following the national championship win.
And then, just to the left after that beautiful collage is a team photo of the 2003 national champs. Within that photo, now former assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine. On a smaller plaque to the right of the main collage, is a cutout from the 2003 Syracuse media guide. Directly next to a picture of Syracuse captain Kueth Duany and President George W. Bush at the White House, is a picture of Bernie Fine.
Little did I know.
Sunday night, Syracuse fired Fine amid allegations of sexual abuse against children.
I can’t say I know Bernie Fine really well. But I’ve spoken to him on quite a few occasions while a student reporter at Syracuse. Just two years ago, I sat down and had a 10-minute conversation with him before the Orange took on Notre Dame here in South Bend. He was very nice to me and genuinely seemed to care how a Syracuse alum was doing.
Little did I know.
In 2001, I was just a freshman at Syracuse. In fact, it was on my 19th birthday that I got the opportunity to anchor for the very time for the oldest and largest student run television station in the country—then known as UUTV, now known as CitrusTV. My first story---doing highlights of the Syracuse men’s basketball team with Bernie Fine serving as SU’s interim head coach. Coach Boeheim was out a few games recovering from prostate surgery. I watch that tape every once in a while. I was so horrible then and that show was really bad. That’s not what will make it hard or awkward to watch that tape in the future.
Little did I know.
At the same time that I was enjoying the time of my life, Bobby Davis was taking his story to Syracuse Police, the Post-Standard and ESPN. The greatest moments of my college life happened right in the middle of a former Syracuse ball boy trying to inform someone, anyone that he was allegedly abused by Jim Boeheim’s longtime assistant.
The allegations make me sick. Bernie did this?
After seeing the timeline of when Davis went to whom with what info, I for now, feel safe that the memories I made those months of 2003 are not tarnished. The trips to Boston, Albany and New Orleans are still OK to remember fondly. The pit stops at the Casino where I avoided like all cost to go in, are still ok. “Manhattan, Manhattan, Manhattan” was still the right frame of mind before each and every game.
Those memories---I hope---will stay intact forever.
But those memories—are selfish ones.
In the grand scheme of things, they matter little to the memories anyone who may have been sexually abused by Bernie Fine will live through for the rest of their lives. That’s what is important here. At this point—all signs point to something definitely happening. I’d love to be wrong on that. But that just seems so unlikely at this point.
But all signs—at this point—say “We are NOT Penn State.” That this wasn’t a major cover-up and that Syracuse University appears to be handling this the right way. Right? This wasn’t a cover-up? Right?
God I hope it wasn’t.
I care for Penn State. I’m from Pennsylvania. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law went there. Half my high school went there. My nephew and niece may very well go there.
But it’s not my alma mater. Syracuse is. And now this is personal for me.
So what’s next? Who knows. Maybe we should ask ESPN what other damning evidence they have under lock and key. The Worldwide Leader has some major explaining to do. Yes, they broke this story—they may help other victims to have the courage to come forward. But why did they wait this long?
They had the phone conversation between Bobby Davis and Bernie Fine’s wife since June 2003 (two months after the national title win) and didn’t think they could go with that story? Really?
What about when they broke this story less than two weeks ago? They obviously knew they had this but decided to hold it longer? They let many, many, many people think that the accuser was not very credible for way too long. They let Jim Boeheim come to the defense of his longtime friend of 40 years because he felt—he had no reason not to.
What I didn't realize when I first wrote this blog, is that the Syracuse Post-Standard Newspaper also had a tape of this since 2002. Apparently, they weren't sure if the tape had been doctored based on a follow interview they did with Fine's wife.
So both ESPN and The Post Standard had this evidence but Bobby Davis never gave it up to police or Syracuse University? What a mess. And can that possibly be the truth?
And that brings us to what’s next for Jim Boeheim. So far, there is no evidence that points to the fact that Boeheim knew ANYTHING about this stuff. So this is very different than Penn State in that regard. As far as we know, Boeheim was not a part of any moral wrongdoing or cover-up. He didn’t hide behind anything.
But Boeheim put himself in front of the public eye way too much last week. He came out and defended his friend as strongly as one could ever ask a friend to do. Why? Because as Boeheim said then—he had no reason not to. Boeheim said—give him a reason not to—and he would not defend Bernie Fine.
Boeheim got his reason Sunday. Now, he says, the university is making the right decision in firing Fine. But Boeheim’s words are behind the pen of a lawyer. Boeheim will have to face the cameras soon enough. When he does, he needs to bring something powerful and honest—and must truly show the world that he knew nothing and that he is sorry for--not defending Fine, but for calling the man that was accusing Fine---a liar. Calling Bobby Davis a liar is what could ultimately end Jim Boeheim’s coaching legacy.
If Boeheim handles this right, and if no evidence ever suggests that he knew about any of this---then he should stay on as the Syracuse coach. If either of those two conditions are failed to be met---then Syracuse must separate itself from the man who cemented his name on the court of the Carrier Dome.
I hope it doesn’t come to that.
Tuesday night will be a strange night. Syracuse will be back on Jim Boeheim court facing Eastern Michigan—who oh by the way—is coached by Rob Murphy, a former Syracuse assistant coach who sat next to Bernie Fine on the SU bench for many years.
I love Syracuse. I will wear Orange forever. That color is who I am. That University is who I am. The friends I made there are the friends I will have for life. The memories I had there are the memories I cannot ever forget.
Ugh…. Just never thought it would be my Syracuse.
Little did I know. Little did any of us know.