In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that has roiled Penn State, two Syracuse University ball boys say they were molested by the school’s associate head basketball coach, Bernie Fine, in the late 1970s and continuing into the 1990s.
Police in Syracuse said they have opened an investigation. In a statement Thursday night, Syracuse said it has placed Fine on administrative leave.
One of the alleged victims, Bobby Davis, told ESPN that Bernine Fine molested him starting in 1984, shortly before Davis entered the seventh grade.
Davis, the team’s ball boy for six years beginning in 1984, said the abuse occurred at Fine’s home, at Syracuse basketball facilities, and on road trips.
The second alleged victim, Mike Lang, now 45, is Davis’ stepbrother and was also a ball boy for several years. He said Fine molested him at a similar age.
Davis said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim saw him in Fine’s hotel room on several of those road trips, but never told Boeheim about the alleged abuse.
Police stressed that they are in the early stages of the investigation. Thursday evening, police planned to interview both men who made the allegations.
Both men spoke in video interviews with ESPN Thursday night, describing the alleged acts by Fine – reaching into their shorts and rubbed their genitals.
“It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he has told,” the head coach said. “You don’t think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward?”
“He supplied four names to the university that would corroborate his story. None of them did … there is only one side to this story. He is lying.”
The university has just responded publicly as well. Kevin Quinn, Syracuse’s Senior V.P. for public affairs, issued a statement on behalf of the school:
“In 2005, Syracuse University was contacted by an adult male who told us that he had reported to the Syracuse City Police that he had been subjected to inappropriate contact by an associate men’s basketball coach. The alleged activity took place in the 1980’s and 1990’s. We were informed by the complainant that the Syracuse City Police had declined to pursue the matter because the statute of limitations had expired.
“On hearing of the allegations in 2005, the University immediately launched its own comprehensive investigation through its legal counsel. That nearly four-month long investigation included a number of interviews with people the complainant said would support his claims.
All of those identified by the complainant denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach. The associate coach also vehemently denied the allegations.
“Syracuse University takes any allegation of this sort extremely seriously and has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. If any evidence or corroboration of the allegations had surfaced, we would have terminated the associated coach and reported it to the police immediately. We understand that the Syracuse City Police has now reopened the case, and Syracuse University will cooperate fully. We are steadfastly committed ensuring that SU remains a safe place for every member of our campus community.”
The Penn State scandal, exposed after former defensive coordinator Sandusky was charged with 40 criminal counts of molesting at least eight boys over a 15-year span, got Joe Paterno fired and became the talk of the nation.
Is Syracuse basketball, another storied collegiate sports institution, now headed down a similar path, or will this set of accusations prove false?
More details to follow as the story develops …