As an institution, as America’s pre-eminent home of sports journalism, ESPN seems to have failed in its most basic duty to turn over evidence of Bernie Fine’s alleged history as a molester. ESPN had been provided with a tape in 2002 implicating the coach as a sexual molester, and did not act.

This is the same institution that last month savaged Joe Paterno for failing in his “moral obligation” to investigate Jerry Sandusky despite that Paterno (a) reported the incident to the head of campus police, which held legal jurisdiction, and (b) did so without having personally witnessed anything, based on secondhand evidence.

It’s not even about ESPN’s moral obligation, I’d suggest, so much as it is about a basic ethical duty as citizens, as human beings, or at absolute minimum, as journalists, to have passed along such an apparently damning piece of evidence about an active coach (as opposed to the retired Jerry Sandusky) to authorities.

ESPN’s bizarre journalistic/moral certitude has been on bold display.

Even after releasing the tape they had possessed for nearly a decade, then, ESPN has reported on Syracuse’s response: first placing Bernie Fine on leave, and now firing him. In their reporting, though, they’ve withheld an aspect of Syracuse’s embarrassing, damning response. To review, specifically:

1. Syracuse chancellor releases a statement on the firing of Bernie Fine
2. ESPN does a story on the statement
3. ESPN omits any reference to this paragraph:

“Had that tape surfaced in 2003, Fine would have been fired. Had we been given the tape in 2005, we would have gone straight to the authorities. Had we been given the tape on Nov. 17, there would have been no “administrative leave.” Fine would have been fired on the spot. When the tape emerged for the first time on Nov. 27, we fired Fine. Those who held onto the tape for nearly 10 years owe everyone an explanation.” [emphasis added]

It’s 2011, and this is journalism.