The Measure of a Man Should Include How He Protects Children

If you’re a college basketball fan, then you have undoubtedly heard about the recent meltdown by Jim Boeheim, the legendary coach of the Syracuse men’s basketball program.  Because my beloved Virginia Cavaliers are in the midst of a promising season, I have been heavily following college basketball and I will recap the event in question for the benefit of those who are not as involved as me.  With his team trailing by two in the closing minute of a marquee matchup with Duke, Boeheim reacted to a call by demonstratively flying onto the middle of the court and getting in the face of an official.  His antics earned him an ejection from the game and removed whatever chance Syracuse had of winning the game.

Some viewed Boeheim’s behavior as an intentional and strategic move to serve notice that his team is not to be disrespected by its new conference.  Others saw the behavior as a short-sighted loss of control for which players would be roundly criticized if they were to throw similar tantrums.  This naturally led to much discussion of Boeheim’s character and decision-making within sports circles.

I think this to be a fair discussion to have about men who are paid to serve as leaders of young men but I have been surprised that this discussion hasn’t included the event that I most associate with Boeheim’s character.  Around the same time that the Penn State football program was enduring well-publicized scrutiny for its sheltering of now-convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky, the Syracuse basketball program also faced accusations of child molestation brought against a longtime assistant by former ball boys.  Boeheim’s initial reaction was to thoroughly dismiss the ball boys who went so far as to allege that assaults had taken place within team facilities.  I understand that Boeheim was defending a friend and a member of his staff but I was still blown away by the callousness he displayed in not even entertaining the possibility that there was some truth to the allegations.  I was not alone as some called for Boeheim’s resignation and, a few weeks later, he would perform a complete about-face by profusely apologizing for his earlier response and speaking out as an advocate of awareness for child sexual abuse.

The charges against the Syracuse assistant would eventually be dropped but Boeheim’s reaction to the possibility of harm against children is what first comes to mind for me whenever anybody mentions his character.  I have heard nobody in the media mention this reaction during the incessant reviews of Boeheim’s actions.  I imagine that the media is hesitant to invoke memories of allegations that were found be untrue.  However, it’s still disappointing that how one reacts to knowledge of possible violence against the most vulnerable among us is considered to be entirely separate from consideration of one’s fitness to lead young men.

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