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Jim Boeheim is taking a bold risk by defending Bernie Fine

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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The most fascinating aspect of Syracuse's response to the child molestation allegations against Bernie Fine has been the way Jim Boeheim has vehemently come to the defense of his longtime friend and assistant coach.

Boeheim could have distanced himself from the scandal by refusing comment or releasing a vanilla statement the way most of his peers do when their legacies are threatened. Instead the Syracuse coach chose the boldest possible course of action, accusing alleged victim Bobby Davis of lying about being molested by Fine and virtually guaranteeing that his fate and Fine's will be intertwined.

"It is a bunch of a thousand lies that (Davis) has told," Boeheim told ESPN on Thursday night. "He supplied four names to the university that would corroborate his story. None of them did ... there is only one side to this story. He is lying."

Davis, 39, told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that the pattern of molestation began when he became a Syracuse ball boy in seventh grade in 1983 and continued for a dozen years until he was in his mid-20s. The abuse allegedly occurred everywhere from Fine's home to the basketball facilities at Syracuse to hotel rooms before road games or during recruiting trips.

It's unfathomable to Boeheim that a man whom he first met as fellow students at Syracuse almost 50 years ago could be guilty of such stomach-turning crimes.

Boeheim told the Syracuse Post-Standard he doesn't believe ESPN should have published the story on Thursday since both ESPN and the Post-Standard initially opted not to run it in 2003 because they couldn't find anyone to corroborate Davis' claims. ESPN opted to run Davis' allegations Thursday because a second victim — albeit Davis' step-brother — came forward and said he too had been abused by Fine.

Although Boeheim acknowledges Davis lived in Fine's basement for a while as a teen and traveled with the Orange to serve as a babysitter for Fine's kids, he denied ever seeing Davis in Fine's hotel room as the ex-ball boy claimed. {YSP:MORE}

"I never have been in Bernie Fine's hotel room in my life," Boeheim told the Post-Standard. "This is what, 16 to 18 years ago, or whatever it is? But I don't recall ever walking into any of my assistant coaches' rooms. Now, could I have once ... one time? I have a pretty good recollection of things, but I don't ever recollect ever walking into Bernie Fine's hotel room. Ever."

Why would Davis come forward with this horrifying story if it was all a lie? Boeheim cited a potential for him to make money off it.

"The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money," Boeheim told the Post-Standard. "He's tried before. And now he's trying again. If he gets this, he's going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I'd say about $50 million. That's what this is about. Money."

Only Davis and Fine know for sure what did or didn't happen, but it's fairly obvious that Boeheim is sincere in his belief that his friend is innocent. Why else would he go so far as to accuse an alleged child molestation victim of extortion instead of simply keeping his distance?

Unlike the Penn State scandal where Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration was under fire for not going to the police with what they knew about Jerry Sandusky, Boeheim has not been accused of doing anything wrong yet.

He could have stayed silent. Instead out of loyalty he took a riskier course of action.

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