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Syracuse Fires Bernie Fine After New Revelations In Molestation Allegations

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Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Sport

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Sport

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse University associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine was fired Sunday in the wake of an investigation of child molestation allegations against him.

“At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine’s employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately,” Kevin Quinn, the school’s senior vice president for public affairs, said in a statement.

The 65-year-old Fine was in his 36th season at his alma mater. He had the longest active streak of consecutive seasons at one school among assistant coaches in Division I.

Fine’s firing comes in the wake of new revelations Sunday, including a third accuser. Fine had been placed on paid administrative leave when the accusations were first made public.

Two former Syracuse ball boys were the first to accuse Fine, who has called the allegations “patently false.”

Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, said Sunday that he told police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. He said Fine touched him “multiple” times in that one incident.

Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he signed an affidavit accusing Fine following a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany.

Tomaselli’s father, meanwhile, maintains his son is lying.

Two former Syracuse ball boys were the first to accuse Fine, who has called the allegations “patently false.”

Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis told ESPN that the abuse occurred at Fine’s home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four.

Davis’ stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in fifth or sixth grade.

On Sunday, ESPN also played an audiotape, obtained and recorded by Davis, of an October 2002 telephone conversation between him and Bernie Fine’s wife, Laurie.

Davis told ESPN he made the recording, which also has been given to Syracuse police, without her knowledge because he knew he needed proof for the police to believe his accusations. ESPN said it hired a voice recognition expert to verify the voice on the tape and the network said it was determined to be that of Laurie Fine.

During the call to the woman, Davis repeatedly asks her what she knew about the alleged molestation.

“Do you think I’m the only one that he’s ever done that to?” Davis asked.

“No … I think there might have been others but it was geared to … there was something about you,” the woman on the tape said.

On the tape, she also says she knew “everything that went on.”

“Bernie has issues, maybe that he’s not aware of, but he has issues. … And you trusted somebody you shouldn’t have trusted … “

During his long career with Syracuse, Fine tutored the likes of Derrick Coleman, LeRon Ellis and John Wallace in his role of working with post players. Coleman was the top pick in the 1990 NBA draft, Ellis was the Clippers’ 22nd overall choice in 1991, and Wallace was picked 18th in 1996 by the New York Knicks.

Boeheim and Fine met at Syracuse University in 1963, when Fine was student manager of the basketball team. Fine graduated in 1967 with a degree in personal and industrial relations and went into business for himself.

In 1970, Fine was named basketball and football coach at Lincoln Junior High in Syracuse and went to Henninger High School the next year as the junior varsity basketball coach. He became varsity basketball coach in 1975. When Boeheim was chosen to succeed Roy Danforth at Syracuse in 1976 Boeheim offered Fine a job as an assistant.

Fine was an integral part of the staff that guided Syracuse to the national championship in 2003. During his tenure the Orange also made two other appearances in the NCAA title game, losing in 1987 to Indiana and in 1996 to Kentucky.

Fine also guided the U.S. Maccabiah team to a silver medal at the 1993 World Maccabiah Games in Israel and has served as director of a successful basketball camp in the Northeast.

Fine, who always aspired to be a college head coach, got his chance when he substituted for Boeheim in 2001 when Boeheim missed the only two games of his coaching career following treatment for an enlarged prostate.

Syracuse has 40 straight winning seasons, the longest active streak in Division I, and Boeheim has 33 20-win seasons, also tops in Division I.

On Friday, federal authorities carried out a search at his Fine’s suburban Syracuse home but declined to comment on what they were looking for.

New York State Police spokesman Jack Keller said troopers were called to assist the U.S. attorney’s office at the search. At least six police vehicles were parked on the street during the search, which lasted around nine hours. Officers carted away three file cabinets and a computer for further examination.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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