Monday, November 28, 2011

This stuff must be exposed and stopped

Syracuse University announced it fired assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine after ESPN aired comments between Fine's wife and one of the young men who accuse Fine of molesting him.  The remarks were damning, not only to Fine, but to legendary Syracuse head coach Jim Boehiem, who with all his wins and championships, looks really bad.  Boehiem not only defended his friend and assistant coach Fine, but he attacked the accusers.  

The courts will have to deal with all the allegations and who knows how that will work out.  But, things are bad in the coaching profession.  Joe Paterno already has been fired over the allegations against his assistant, Jerry Sandusky at Penn State.  Now a legendary basketball coach seems in trouble.  Add to that the situation right here in South Carolina, where the Citadel, with its sterling reputation, faces its own molestation scandal.  Indeed, former State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, a Citadel man with his own problems, wrote publicly that the Citadel President should resign.  

The situation is disgusting for someone like me.  I have coached youth basketball and football.  I currently coach interscholastic football.  I have coached championship teams.  I have coached a losing team.  I have coached with great men and lesser men. I coach for the love the game, and to see young people learn and have fun.  Never, for one moment, have I thought I coached with a pervert.  

And, lets get it straight, perverts are what these men are if they take advantage of their relationship with kids as a coach.  Such men are sick and just evil in the damage that they do to kids.  And, frankly, it is just as evil for head coaches and administrators to gloss over such behavior to protect their winning programs or institutions.  

One coach I spoke with recently presented an example that made me cringe.  He suggested that if a college recruit in a place like Bamberg or Allendale had a major college assistant coach visit him, and take his younger brother out for ice cream, and acted perverted, the little kid would not be believed.  After all he is just some poor little kid from a rural town.  His big brother not only would not get the chance to get a scholarship but would be labeled a trouble maker.  So, the abuse has a chance to flourish. 

As a coach and as a human being, I say such must be exposed and stopped.  The NCAA is all about its rules.  But those rules often lack common sense.  Maybe a coach should not be alone with kid.  That actually protects the coach from unfair allegations and the kid from a chance to be abused.  Frankly, what is worse, some assistant coach paying for a kid to attend his grandma's funeral, or going years abusing children?  The NCAA will put a program on probation for buying a kid the plane or bus ticket, but seems silent on coaches abusing kids. 

Further, what is really outrageous is the Penn State situation.  Supposedly a coach saw another coach abuse a kid.  That coach sat on that information for week or so and told the head coach, Joe Paterno.  Paterno followed university procedure and left it at that.  The assistant coach hired the abusive coach later to help him recruit, with Paterno watching over it all.  Paterno and Penn State were more worried about winning and the reputation at Penn State then sending someone with abuse allegations against him out into the community representing them.  Penn State was right to fire Paterno, but it was too late.  It is insulting that the scandal did not break until after Paterno passed Eddie Robinson for career Divison I wins.  

Now, we have the legendary Syracuse basketball program.  Boehiem acted aggressively against the young men who said they were abused. Fire him.  Send a message.  

The situation at the Citadel is something we will get into later this week.  If true, it too is disgusting.  

One thing comes from all of this.  Sexual abuse of kids must not be tolerated.  Perverts must be brought to justice.  The NCAA should step in, and if the allegations prove true, give the death penalty to any program in any sport that has a head coach and administrators who ignore such abuse. 

Frankly, if I were a head coach with Penn State on my football schedule or Syracuse on my men's basketball schedule, I would not lead my kids to compete with them.  Programs like that do not deserve the honor of competing in honored games.  Coaching, from the recreational leagues to the college ranks is about teaching kids how to compete and grow with honor and be good people.  Winning comes through that.  

If a coach, a program, or institution sacrifices the well being of just one kid to protect itself, it tarnishes the game and coaching.  There is no place for that. Time will tell what the law and the NCAA does with the scandals going on.  But, again, this abuse stuff must be exposed and stopped.  There is a sacred trust between coach and kid, and when that trust violated, all of us, not only as coaches, but as human beings, must demand that the perverts be brought to justice. 

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