Black Eye for the Orange: Coach Boeheim’s Self Inflicted Wound

Misguided loyalty has placed Syracuse University hoop coach Jim Boeheim’s job in jeopardy and given a black eye to the university.

Boeheim’s self inflicted wound occurred last week when he said alleged sex abuse victims were liars involving the case of his assistant, Bernie Fine. However, Fine was fired just a few days later and Boeheim said he supported the dismissal.

In most cases, standing by an old friend would be admired. But Boeheim had a higher duty, to leave no stone unturned to ensure no abuse of children ever took place under his watch. He now insists it is inappropriate to comment on the case “until the investigation is complete.” If only he had followed his own advice last week.

We don’t know all the facts yet. But we do know Syracuse officials feel they knew enough to fire Fine. In any case, the Penn State and Syracuse cases are stunning examples of poor crisis communication. Both failed to uncover the full stories on their crisis years before and both failed to brush aside personal loyalties and devotion to sports programs to reveal the full extent of the damage done. I wonder if more revelations from other universities lie ahead. Do you?

Note: The writer received his master’s degree in public communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University in 1979.

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