Longtime Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine has been fired. The university fired fine Sunday night after new allegations of sexual abuse surfaced.
Two former team ballboys have accused fine of molesting them for years dating back to the late 1970's. Now a third accuser has come forward. 23 year old Zach Tomaselli says he was molested by fine in a Pittsburgh hotel in 2002. That accusation led Syracuse police and the U.S. Secret Service to search Fine's home last week. Tomaselli, meanwhile, is facing charges in Maine that he sexually abused a 14 year old boy. His father, who lives in Jefferson County, says his son is lying and that Zack never met Bernie Fine and never went to Pittsburgh with Fine.
Also on Sunday, ESPN released an audio tape of one of the accusers, Bobby Davis, having a phone conversation with Fine’s wife, Laurie. Davis recorded the phone call without Fine’s knowledge. In that conversation, taped in 2002, Laurie Fine seems to acknowledge that her husband has a problem. In the tape, Fine said “Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues. ... And you trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted.”
Sunday night, Syracuse University spokesman Kevin Quinn released a one sentence statement:
“At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine’s employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately.”
A full statement from Chancellor Nancy Cantor can be seen below.
Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim, who last week said the accusers were lying and were “only in it for the money”, also released a statement Sunday night.
"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. 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."
Syracuse police and the U.S Secret Service continue their investigation in to the allegations.
Letter from Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor to the SU community:
"Dear Students, Faculty, & Staff:
Tonight, in the wake of troubling new allegations that emerged in the media today, I am writing to let you know that Bernie Fine’s employment at the University has been terminated effective immediately.
"Frankly, the events of the past week have shaken us all. The taped phone call that ESPN revealed today was not provided to the University by Mr. Davis during the 2005 investigation by our legal counsel. Like the media review of the case a few years earlier, no other witnesses came forward during the university investigation, and those who felt they knew Bernie best could not imagine what has unfolded.
"Since I last wrote to you, we have been cooperating fully with the authorities. On Friday, November 18, as the District Attorney has noted, we turned over to his office the results of our 2005 months-long investigation. Also on November 18, our Board of Trustees retained an independent law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to review our procedures in responding to the initial allegations when they first came to the University’s attention. I fully supported that decision and it is vital that we examine our protocols and actions in dealing with such serious allegations. We need to learn all we can from this terrible lesson.
"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. If anything good comes out of this tragedy, it will be that this basic principle is reinforced.