Syracuse Fires Coach for Alleged Molestation
Syracuse University fired assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine on Sunday as a third person came forward and accused Fine of child sex-abuse.
Zach Tomaselli, 23, told ESPN that Fine molested him when he was 14 while in a hotel room in Pittsburgh in 2002. However, Tomaselli is under fire himself as he faces sexual assault charges for molesting a 14-year-old boy in Maine. Tomaselli's father claims his son is lying, raising even more doubts about Tomaselli's accusations.
However, because Tomaselli was the third male to come forward, the university took serious action.
“At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine’s employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately,” said Kevin Quinn, senior vice president for public affairsat Syracuse.
This is not the first time Syracuse has gotten wind of molestation allegations involving 65-year-old Bernie Fine. In 2005, an individual told Syracuse Police Department and the university that Fine had molested him. The police did not pursue the case further because the "statute limitations had expired," according to Nancy Cantor, chancellor at Syracuse.
Cantor advocated how the university thoroughly looked into the matter and was ready to act had more information been revealed.
"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," said Cantor in a statement.
The Syracuse Police has since then decided to reopen the investigation after being given a tape with a legally recorded phone conversation between alleged child abuse victim Bobby Davis and Fine's wife from 2002. The conversation heavily suggests Laurie Fine knew about her husband's pedifile-like behavior with Davis and potentially others boys.
The following are excerpts from the transcript of the conversation between Laurie and Bobby Davis, who at the time was in seventh grade.
"And Bernie is also in denial. I think he did the things he did, but he’s - somehow through his own mental telepathy - erased them out of his mind...I think he thinks he’s above the law...I just think, I think there might have been others... He’d always say, ‘Bobby and I are going in the Jacuzzi.’ And I’d go to the bathroom and I’d try to come in. The door’d be locked. I’d check: ‘What's going on?’ ‘Nothing.’ I said, ‘Unlock the door.’ ‘No, we’re in our underwear.’ "
Meanwhile, Mike Lang, Davis' 45-year-old stepbrother, also claimed that Fine had molested him, beginning at age 10 or 11. Both Davis and Lang were basketball players.
These insidents have horrified Fine's colleaugues.
“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," said Jim Boeheim, Syracuse basketball coach.
With Fine's supposed child-sex abuse and the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, doubts continue to rise about a university's power to regulate its internal affairs. However, the Syracuse chancellor pledged to do nothing short of administering justice.
"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," said Nancy Canton in a statement on Nov. 18.
Syracuse has fully committed to cooperating with Syracuse Police. In response to Fine's dismissal, Cantor discussed the actions the police and university have taken to further the investigation as well as describing Syracuse's stance on abuse.
"We do not tolerate abuse. If anything good comes out of this tragedy, it will be that this basic principle is reinforced," said Cantor in a statement on Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.