Syracuse's Fine denies sex allegations
By Sports Network
|Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine (L) with head coach Jim Boeheim (C) watch an NCAA game in 2006. (REUTERS/Bradley C Bower)
Longtime Syracuse assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine has released a statement denying allegations that he molested a former ball boy.
Fine, who is in his 35th season at the university, was placed on administrative leave Thursday night. Syracuse police told ESPN that day that they are in the early stages of an investigation of Fine.
The former ball boy, Bobby Davis, told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that he was molested by Fine for more than 12 years beginning in 1983, before he was in the seventh grade. But Fine denied those charges in his statement.
"Simply put, these allegations are patently false in every aspect," the statement said. "The fact is these allegations have been thoroughly investigated multiple times. When evaluating the veracity of these accusations, please keep in mind that credible media outlets were approached in the past to publicize these false allegations and declined to do so. I fully cooperated with all past inquires.
"Sadly, we live in an allegation-based society and an Internet age where in a matter of minutes one's life long reputation can be severely damaged. I am confident that, as in the past, a review of these allegations will be discredited and restore my reputation. I hope the latest review of these allegations will be conducted expeditiously.
"Finally, I appreciate the Chancellor's statement that I should be accorded a fair opportunity to defend myself against these accusations. I fully intend to do so. There should never be a rush to judgment when someone's personal integrity and career are on the line."
Davis, now 39, was a ball boy at Syracuse for six years starting in 1984. He told ESPN the abuse continued until he was 27 years old. He reported it to Syracuse police in 2003, but was told by a detective the statute of limitations had run out.
ESPN and The Post-Standard, a newspaper in Syracuse, both said Thursday they investigated Davis' allegations in 2003 but could not find a second source or other evidence to verify them and decided not to run the story.
In 2005, Syracuse opened a four-month investigation after being told by an adult male that he had reported abuse to police, but it fizzled when the accuser's story could not be corroborated by others.
On Thursday, ESPN said it spoke to a second man - a relative of Davis - who said he was also molested by Fine around the same time.
Syracuse chancellor Nancy Cantor posted a letter on the school's website Friday, confirming the earlier and current investigations. While she wrote that Fine should have a "fair opportunity to defend himself," she also said the school will take the allegations seriously.
"We know that many question whether or not a university in today's world can shine a harsh light on its athletics programs. We are aware that many wonder if university administrations are willing to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing that may disrupt a successful sports program," Cantor wrote. "I can assure you I am not, and my fellow administrators are not.
"We hold everyone in our community to high standards and we don't tolerate illegal, abusive or unethical behaviour - no matter who you are."
Davis told ESPN he was subjected to abuse in Fine's home, at the school's basketball facilities and on road trips, including, according to the report, at the 1987 Final Four.
According to a statement issued by the school, Syracuse said it was contacted in 2005 by an adult male who said he reported being abused by an associate men's basketball coach in the 1980s and '90s.
During its investigation, Syracuse interviewed people the accuser said would support his claims. When none of them did, and when the coach also denied the allegations, Syracuse apparently ended its probe.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim came to his long-time assistant's defense Thursday, telling the New York Times he thought it was "a little suspicious" that Davis' relative came forward. Boeheim later released a statement saying he has "never seen or witnessed anything to suggest that he would be involved in any of the activities alleged."
Fine has been a part of Syracuse basketball for Boeheim's entire tenure as head coach. Boeheim, whose 34-year run includes a national championship in 2003, was never told of the abuse, according to Davis.
The alleged victim said Boeheim never asked any questions when he would see Davis lying on Fine's bed during road trips.