Syracuse's Bernie Fine placed on leave
Two former Syracuse University ball boys say they were molested by associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine, starting in the late 1970s and continuing into the 1990s.
Police in Syracuse said they have opened an investigation into the allegations. And in a statement Thursday night, Syracuse said it has placed Fine on administrative leave.
One alleged victim, Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that Fine molested him beginning in 1984, shortly before Davis entered the seventh grade. Davis, the team's ball boy for six years beginning in 1984, said the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at the Syracuse basketball facilities, and on road trips, including the 1987 Final Four.
The second alleged victim, Mike Lang, now 45, is Davis' stepbrother and was also a ball boy for several years. He told "Outside the Lines" that Fine molested him starting when Lang was in fifth or sixth grade.
Davis said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim saw him in Fine's hotel room on several of those road trips, but Davis said he never told Boeheim about the alleged abuse.
Police stressed to "Outside The Lines" that they are in the early stages of the investigation. Police told ESPN Thursday evening they were going to interview Davis and Lang.
Both men spoke in on-camera interviews with ESPN Thursday night. Both described what they said were encounters with Fine, including reaching into their shorts and rubbing their genitals.
"I didn't feel right about it," Lang said. "And I told him Bernie, 'Please don't do that to me.' "
Fine is in his 35th season as an assistant to Boeheim, who came to his defense.
"I know this kid, but I never saw him in any rooms or anything," Boeheim told ESPN. "It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he has told. You don't think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward?
"He supplied four names to the university that would corroborate his story. None of them did ... there is only one side to this story. He is lying."
Kevin Quinn, Syracuse's senior vice president for public affairs, issued a statement on behalf of the school: "In 2005, Syracuse University was contacted by an adult male who told us that he had reported to the Syracuse City Police that he had been subjected to inappropriate contact by an associate men's basketball coach. The alleged activity took place in the 1980's and 1990's. We were informed by the complainant that the Syracuse City Police had declined to pursue the matter because the statute of limitations had expired.
"On hearing of the allegations in 2005, the University immediately launched its own comprehensive investigation through its legal counsel. That nearly four-month long investigation included a number of interviews with people the complainant said would support his claims. All of those identified by the complainant denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach. The associate coach also vehemently denied the allegations.
"Syracuse University takes any allegation of this sort extremely seriously and has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. If any evidence or corroboration of the allegations had surfaced, we would have terminated the associated coach and reported it to the police immediately. We understand that the Syracuse City Police has now reopened the case, and Syracuse University will cooperate fully. We are steadfastly committed ensuring that SU remains a safe place for every member of our campus community."
Later Thursday, Syracuse issued another statement: "In light of the new allegations and the Syracuse City Police investigation, this evening Chancellor (Nancy) Cantor asked Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross, to place Associate Head Coach Bernie Fine on administrative leave."
Messages were left for Fine, but were not returned.
"At this time, all we really know is that a terrible tragedy is unfolding for both the accuser and the accused," Cantor said in an email sent Friday morning to Syracuse alumni. "I want you to know that we will do everything in our power to find the truth, and -- if and when we do find it -- to let you know what we have found."
Boeheim supported his longtime assistant, whom he first met in 1966.
"We spoke to the people (Davis) asked the university to talk to," Boeheim said. "Not one person would corroborate his story."
Boeheim added: "Why wouldn't he come to the police (first this time)? Why would he go to ESPN? What are people looking for here? I believe they are looking for money. I believe they saw what happened at Penn State and they are using ESPN to get money. That is what I believe. You want to put that on the air? Put that on the air."
Davis said that Fine molested him at Fine's home, at the basketball facilities at Syracuse, on recruiting road trips and even at the 1987 Final Four. Davis said he was Fine's constant companion at all of those places. He said Boeheim would come into Fine's room and see Davis lying on Fine's bed, but never asked him any questions.
Davis said sexual contact with Fine continued until he was about 27 years old.
Davis said he felt bitter emotions over the molestation as child sexual abuse scandals have emerged in the Catholic Church and lately with former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Davis said he reported the abuse to Syracuse police in 2003, but that a detective told him the statute of limitations had run out. Davis said the detective told him that if he knew of boys being molested by Fine at the time, that Syracuse police would investigate those allegations. Davis said he told the detective that he thought other boys were being molested, but that he had only direct knowledge of Fine molesting him.
At the time, the Syracuse police chief was Dennis Duval, a former Syracuse basketball player. Duval, who retired in 2004, could not be reached for comment. He played at Syracuse from 1971 to 1974 and started with the Syracuse Police Department in 1978. Boeheim became the head coach at Syracuse in 1976, but began as a graduate assistant in 1969.
The statute of limitations in New York is five years from the last instance of sexual contact.
"Outside the Lines" investigated Davis' story in 2003, but decided not to run the story because there were no other victims who would talk, and no independent evidence to corroborate his story. In recent days, a second man, Lang, contacted "Outside the Lines" with information alleging that Fine had also molested him. Lang said he was inspired to talk after seeing news coverage of the Sandusky case.
Davis said he first met Fine in 1983 while selling candy in his neighborhood door to door. Davis said Fine lived about four blocks from his home. Davis lived with his mother and didn't have a father living with him. He said he soon began to regard the generous Fine as a father figure.
He said Fine was nice to him and invited him over to his house. Davis said Fine eventually made him a Syracuse ball boy. Davis said he would travel with Fine to events such as the Big Orange Basketball Camp. Once, during the summer before his seventh-grade year, he stayed over with Fine before the start of camp. That's when the abuse began, he said.
"I would go on recruiting trips with him, stay in hotels with him," Davis told ESPN in 2003. "I stayed in many hotels with him. At the (1987) Final Four. I would get there a day earlier than Laurie (Fine's wife) and the kids sometimes and we'd spend the night all alone in a hotel room many times."
He said that Boeheim knew he was traveling on the road 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."
Boeheim denied seeing Davis in Fine's room.
"He makes the point that he was around and traveling with the team," Boeheim said. "Not that I know of. I never saw him. He is quoted -- (that) I saw him in the room. I have never been in Bernie Fine's room in my life. That is an outright lie."
A source told ESPN that Davis babysat Fine's children at one time.
"He did travel a few times, and it was known that he babysat Fine's kids on trips," the source said.
Davis said the abuse occurred several times at Manley Fieldhouse, where Syracuse used to play basketball games and the team had offices.
Davis' mother, Cathy Pitts, said Thursday she didn't know about any of the allegations until he did an interview with ESPN in 2003.
"I was very upset," she said of learning of the allegations then. "I wished I knew when he was little. I would have done something then. There was nothing I could do after the fact. He was older. He said he got it together, and he talked to a priest and got all kinds of guidance and counseling. He said he's fine. I believe him. He seems to be fine."
She said when Davis was young, he "was with Bernie Fine quite a bit." She said he traveled with the team extensively, though she said he did not go on trips when an airplane flight was required because he didn't like to fly. The 1987 Final Four, where Davis said he went with Fine, was in New Orleans.
She said she was unaware he was talking about this in recent days. "I really think he wants to be left alone," she said.
Boeheim said his longtime assistant "tried to help this kid."
"Bernie helped a lot of kids," Boeheim said. "He works with the Kidney Foundation. He works with Make-A-Wish. He works with three or four different groups. He has helped kids as I have. This is a kid that came up with all this stuff and it was all looked into for four months. The only new thing is his (relative) has come forward."
Mark Schwarz is a reporter for ESPN's enterprise unit. Arty Berko is a producer. ESPN.com's Mike Fish and ESPN's Paula Lavigne also contributed to this report.