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Fine: abuse accusations 'patently false'

BERNIE FINE 35 years at SU BERNIE FINE 35 years at SU
By John Kekis
Associated Press / November 19, 2011

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine dismissed as “patently false’’ allegations that he molested two former ball boys for years, and the university chancellor vowed yesterday to “do everything in our power to find the truth.’’

The school immediately placed Fine on administrative leave “in light of the new allegations’’ that surfaced Thursday from two stepbrothers, just two weeks after the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal, and pending an investigation by the Syracuse City Police.

Fine, in his 35th season as an assistant on the Syracuse bench, asked for a quick review and expressed confidence he would be vindicated.

“Sadly, we live in an allegation-based society and an internet age where in a matter of minutes one’s lifelong reputation can be severely damaged,’’ Fine said in a statement released by one of his attorneys. “I am confident that, as in the past, a review of these allegations will be discredited and restore my reputation.’’

Fine thanked chancellor Nancy Cantor for her statement that “I should be accorded a fair opportunity to defend myself’’ and added: “I fully intend to do so. There should never be a rush to judgment when someone’s personal integrity and career are on the line.’’

Both of Fine’s accusers are now adults. Bobby Davis, 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 said the abuse occurred at Fine’s home, at Syracuse basketball facilities, and on team trips, including the 1987 Final Four.

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

The chancellor said a man contacted the school in 2005 about allegations he had previously reported to police of abuse in the 1980s and 1990s, but that police had declined to pursue it because the statute of limitations had expired.

Both ESPN and the Post-Standard said they investigated Davis’s accusations in 2003, but decided not to do a story because there was no independent evidence to corroborate the allegations.

Davis told ESPN that coach Jim Boeheim knew he was traveling with the team and sleeping in Fine’s room.

“Boeheim saw me with Bernie all the time in the hotel rooms, on road trips,’’ Davis said. “He’d come in, and see me laying in the bed, kind of glance at me like, ‘What are you doing here?’ But he wouldn’t say that. He’d just scowl. And I would look at him like, I’d be nervous. I felt embarrassed ’cause I felt stupid that I’m there. I’m not supposed to be here. I know it, and Boeheim’s not stupid.’’

In an interview Thursday, Boeheim defended Fine and denied ever going to the assistant’s room, much less seeing Davis there. “This kid came forward and there was no one to corroborate his story. Not one. Not one,’’ Boeheim said. “They said I walked into Bernie’s room on the road and saw this. I have never walked into Bernie’s room on the road. This isn’t true. This just isn’t true.’’

In an on-camera interview with ESPN, Davis said he was sexually abused “hundreds of times.’’ Asked why he didn’t come forward during the 16 years he accuses Fine of molesting him, Davis said: “I honestly didn’t think anybody would believe me.’’