Syracuse fires Fine in wake of new claims

Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine (L) with head coach Jim Boeheim (C) watch an NCAA game in...

Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine (L) with head coach Jim Boeheim (C) watch an NCAA game in 2006. (REUTERS/Bradley C Bower)

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, Last Updated: 1:37 AM ET

Syracuse, NY - Syracuse fired Bernie Fine on Sunday in the wake of two more accusations of sexual abuse against the longtime assistant men's basketball coach.

The university posted a statement on its website from senior vice president of public affairs Kevin Quinn just before 7:45 p.m. (et):

"At the direction of chancellor (Nancy) Cantor, Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately," the statement said.

It ended Fine's 36-year tenure at Syracuse, the longest active streak of consecutive seasons at one basketball program in Division I men's basketball, and delivered another blow to a university now coping with a sex-abuse scandal like the one that rocked Penn State.

A third person has accused Fine of sexually abusing him as a child, while Fine's wife expressed concerns about her husband's actions in a 2002 phone call with an alleged victim who was previously known.

The Post-Standard reported Sunday that a 23-year-old Maine resident, Zach Tomaselli, told Syracuse police on Wednesday that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. Tomaselli was 13 at the time.

Also on Sunday, ESPN reported that Laurie Fine admitted she had concerns her husband molested a Syracuse ball boy in their home.

That October 8, 2002 phone call was legally recorded by Bobby Davis, according to ESPN.

Davis accused Fine of molestation earlier this month, telling ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that he was molested by the coach for more than 12 years beginning in 1983, before he was in the seventh grade.

Davis reported it to Syracuse police in 2003, but was told by a detective the statute of limitations had run out. Several news organizations investigated Davis' allegations at the time but could not find a second source or supporting evidence to verify the claims, and never ran the story.

A 2005 investigation by Syracuse fizzled out after the accuser's story could not be corroborated.

ESPN said it spoke to a second man who said he was also molested by Fine around the same time, but some -- including Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim -- criticized the alleged victim because he is a relative of Davis.

Boeheim retracted that statement after the unveiling of Sunday's allegations.

"The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling. I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged," Boeheim said. "I believe the university took the appropriate step tonight. What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found. I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."

Fine, who was previously placed on administrative leave, released a statement last week denying the allegations.

But ESPN's report Sunday quotes Laurie Fine telling Davis, "I know everything that went on with him ... Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues."

She also told Davis, "I think there might have been others but it was geared to ... there was something about you," according to the report.

ESPN obtained the phone call from Davis in 2003 and used a voice-recognition expert to verify the voice on the tape matches that of Laurie Fine. It did not report the phone call then because of a lack of corroboration.

But the tape includes several explosive comments from Laurie Fine, who said her husband was in denial and added, "he thinks he's above the law." She also said "he needs ... that male companionship that I can't give him," and admitted to having a relationship with Davis when he was in high school.

ESPN said that during the phone call, Davis described how he asked Bernie Fine for money to help pay off student loans. He said the coach used physical force in trying to make Davis perform sexual acts, and used the money as leverage.

That report wasn't the only one to surface Sunday.

According to the Post-Standard, Tomaselli signed a police affidavit Wednesday accusing Fine of molesting him in the hotel room the night before Syracuse played Pittsburgh.

Tomaselli also alleged Fine invited him to a party at his house after another Syracuse game, and described Fine's house in detail, according to the police statement.

The paper said Tomaselli was interviewed by Syracuse police for more than four hours on Wednesday. It added that his allegations prompted federal authorities to search Fine's house on Friday.

But the paper also quoted Tomaselli's estranged father, Fred, as saying his son is a liar. Fred Tomaselli denied his sons claims about traveling with the Syracuse team and going to a party at Fine's house.

Zach Tomaselli is facing sexual assault charges in Maine, involving a 14-year- old boy, the Post-Standard said.


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