Bernie Fine, a long-time assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University, has been accused by two former ball boys of sexual molestation, but Fine's boss says the accusers are lying.
The two men, now adults, say the abuse took place from the late 1970s into the early 1990s, but the accusations were not made public until 2003. Both men were interviewed by ESPN's Outside The Lines, on Thursday with one saying he was inspired to come forward after seeing news coverage of the Penn State scandal. Fine's boss, Hall-of-Fame head coach Jim Boeheim, says the two men are liars who saw the coverage Penn State scandal and are just looking for money.
The first alleged victim, Bobby Davis, contacted Syracuse about the abuse in 2005 and a university spokesperson says that they did a full investigation and found no evidence to corroborate his story. According to the school, Davis gave them the names of four people who could support his claim and they all denied having any knowledge of the abuse. ESPN says that they also interviewed Davis in 2003, but could also not confirm any of his story and decided not to run it. Davis says that he contacted police at that same time, but they told him that the statute of limitations had run out and they would need evidence of current abuse to launch an investigation. Davis was a ball boy for the basketball team for six years in the 1980s.
Then ESPN was contacted this week by Mike Lang, another former ball boy who happens to be Davis' stepbrother. Lang says he was molested by Fine when he was in fifth or sixth grade. As a result, Syracuse City Police have reopened the investigation and the university has placed Fine — who has been an assistant to Jim Boeheim for 35 years — on administrative leave.
Boeheim, who has been at Syracuse since he was a grad assistant in 1969, was adamant in his denial of the accusations, including Davis' claim that Boeheim saw him in Fine's hotel room when the team was on the road.
"I know this kid, but I never saw him in any rooms or anything. It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he has told. You don't think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward? ... there is only one side to this story. He is lying."
Obviously, this case has come to light because of the allegations against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. Unlike Penn State, however, it appears that the school and police did do a proper investigation before dismissing the claims. Even if the story turns out to be true, there's no appearance (at this point) of an orchestrated cover up.
However, if it eventually turns out that there was any wrongdoing, then Boeheim will surely face far greater criticism for his vigorous defense of his assistant. He's basically the Joe Paterno of upstate New York, but even Paterno never called any of the accusers a liar.
This latest story also has us wondering if this could be the first of many more abuse allegations — both true and untrue — to come out of a major college sports program as a direct result of the Penn State scandal. Much like the abuse claims within the Catholic Church, once one person comes forward, it can have a snowball effect that leads to people in similar situations all across the country to finally speak up. No matter what happens at Syracuse, the Sandusky scandal may go further than anyone even expected.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.