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Syracuse fires Fine as allegations mount

Under investigation for sexual assault, Bernie Fine was fired by Syracuse. Under investigation for sexual assault, Bernie Fine was fired by Syracuse. (Kevin rivoli/Associated Press)
By John Kekis
Associated Press / November 28, 2011
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Bernie Fine was fired yesterday by Syracuse University after a third man accused the assistant basketball coach of molesting him nine years ago.

“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.

Fine, 65, 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 1.

Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, said yesterday 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.

He was the third accuser to come forward in the investigation of child molestation allegations against Fine.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said he supported the university’s decision to fire his longtime assistant and expressed regret for his initial statements that might have been “insensitive to victims of abuse.

“The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling,’’ Boeheim said in a statement released by the school. “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.’’

Two former Syracuse ballboys were the first to accuse Fine, who has called the allegations “patently false.’’

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.

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

When the accusations became public Nov. 17, Boeheim adamantly defended his lifelong friend.

In an interview that day with the Post-Standard, Boeheim attacked Davis’s reasons for going public with his accusations.

Yesterday, ESPN played an audiotape, obtained and recorded by Davis, of an October 2002 telephone conversation between him and 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 said it was determined to be that of Laurie Fine. Davis also acknowledged in an interview with ESPN that he and Laurie Fine had a sexual relationship when he was 18, and that he eventually told Bernie Fine about it.

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