By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) Until the facts show differently, we have to go with what we have in front of us: ESPN had actionable evidence that Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was a child molester, and chose not to call the police.

For eight years they knew, but it didn’t matter to them.

All that mattered was the story, and they didn’t feel they had enough to go with. Therefore, it simply didn’t exist, nor did any larger responsibility to protect people from a predator.

With every day that goes by since it became clear that ESPN preferred to protect Jim Boeheim, Syracuse hoops and their valuable programming property, the purported Worldwide Leader looks worse.

Their own reporter, Mark Schwarz, should be smart enough to know better than to say things like “We don’t see it as our job to go to authorities with evidence we collect,” and “We didn’t know what to do with it.”

More galling are the comments from Vince Doria, ESPN’s VP of Criminal Arrogance.

“It’s not necessarily the journalist’s role to go to the police with potential evidence that, at the time, we didn’t believe was strong enough to report ourselves.”

You catch that? He’s saying that the reporting standards of a massive sports-marketing corporation supersede the investigative standards of actual law enforcement. His company decides what’s real, even if they may choose to let it all slide because they didn’t want to inconvenience a powerful coach of a contending team, or cause Dick Vitale any cognitive dissonance. Can’t threaten “Big Monday.”

“All journalists could be asking themselves this very same question,” Doria told the house organ in a tightly-controlled, antiseptic explanation. “What role should journalists play in providing information that may or may not have been reported? It’s complex, and something we must continue to evaluate.”

He’s trying – unsuccessfully – to globalize a specific issue and shift the question to one of journalism, when this has nothing to do with how a news outlet covers a story. It has to do with trusted people wanting to make sure everything is done to keep children safe. Call the cops, and then figure it out.

This is not some sketchy witch hunt, not when hard evidence like this exists.

So evaluate away, Vince. This is not about “all journalists,” it’s about you.

Eight years. Eight. Years.

Who knows if Bernie Fine struck again, or tried to, during that time from 2003 to now? Not ESPN’s problem, I guess, since they never aired anything about it. No worries.

Every single statement from Bristol, every over-lawyered, mealy-mouthed attempt to weasel out of larger responsibility is digging them in deeper to their myopic position. Is there a single human being there?

Perhaps they worry about the repercussions of admitting that, if it were to happen again, they’d act differently. I’m sure that somewhere in that monolith, in one quiet conversation in a corner office, some white man in a dark suit has said “We probably should have gone to the police.”

Or maybe not.

ESPN is pushing back hard, making a case to prove they didn’t have to do anything more than they did.

OK. They didn’t have to.

Why didn’t they want to?

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: ESPN Must Explain Itself, Soon
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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