7:27am

Fri November 18, 2011
Regional Coverage

Syracuse Police investigating sexual abuse claims against SU assistant basketball coach

The long time assistant men’s basketball coach at Syracuse University has been placed on administrative leave, after two former team ball boys have accused him of sexual abuse.

Bernie Fine has been S.U.’s assistant basketball coach for 35 years. Former ball boy Bobby Davis, who’s now 39, told ESPN that he was molested by Fine beginning in 1984 and lasting more than 10 years.

Davis says the abuse started in 1984 and took place at Fine's home, at Syracuse's basketball facilities and on team trips, including during the team's 1987 trip to the Final Four in New Orleans. 

Davis allegedly went to Syracuse Police in 2003 with the allegations. Police reportedly told Davis that the statute of limitations had run out. Davis also brought the allegations to Syracuse University in 2005. University officials investigated Fine for 4 months. That investigation turned up no evidence against Fine. Additionally, both ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard investigated the allegations in 2003, but did not run stories on the 

But now that the allegations of sexual abuse at Penn State have come to light, another former team ball boy has come forward, saying he was abused by fine. Mike Lang, now 45, he was abused by fine when he was a boy. Lang is Bobby Davis' step brother. He told ESPN he was abused by Fine when he was in 5th or 6th grade.

In a statement released Thursday night, head basketball coach Jim Boeheim said "This matter was fully investigated by the university in 2005 and it was determined that the allegations were unfounded. I have known Bernie Fine for more than 40 years. I have never seen or witnessed anything to suggest that he would been involved in any of the activities alleged. Had I seen or suspected anything, I would have taken action. Bernie has my full support."

In a letter to the campus community released this morning, Chancellor Nancy Cantor said the following:

"As we have communicated publicly in response to media inquiries, in 2005, Syracuse University was contacted by an adult male who asserted that he had reported allegations in 2005 of abuse in the 1980’s and 1990’s to the police.  That same individual told us that the Syracuse City Police had declined to pursue the matter because the statute of limitations had expired.  

On hearing of the allegations, the University immediately launched its own comprehensive investigation through its legal counsel. The nearly four-month-long investigation included a number of interviews with people the individual said would support his claims. All of those identified by him denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach.  At the end of the investigation, as we were unable to find any corroboration of the allegations, the case was closed. Had any evidence or corroboration of earlier allegations surfaced—even if the Police had declined to pursue the matter —we would have acted. 

As of last night, we became aware that the Syracuse Police have determined to open an investigation, and we will cooperate to the fullest extent with their review of the matter. 

Let me be clear.  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.  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 behavior—no matter who you are. 

As you know, this week, I affirmed Syracuse University’s steadfast belief that all of us have the responsibility, individually and collectively, to ensure that Syracuse University remains a safe place for every campus community member and everyone with whom we interact on a daily basis on campus or in the community as part of our learning, scholarship, or work. We do not tolerate abuse.  

The dilemma in any situation like this, of course, is that—without corroborating facts, witnesses or confessions —one must avoid an unfair rush to judgment.  We have all seen terrible injustices done to the innocent accused of heinous crimes.  And we’ve all seen situations where the guilty avoid justice.   

At this time, all we really know is that a terrible tragedy is unfolding for both the accuser and the accused.  I want you to know that we will do everything in our power to find the truth, and —if and when we do find it—to let you know what we have found.  "