Bernie Fine Scandal: Syracuse Coach Placed on Leave Amid Child Molestation Accusations

Longtime SU coach accused of molesting two boys beginning in 1883.

November 18, 2011, 3:08 AM

Nov. 18, 2011— -- Syracuse University has put associate basketball coach Bernie Fine on administrative leave as police reopen an investigation into whether the longtime coach molested former ball boys with the team.

On Thursday night ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reported that two former SU ball boys, Bobby Davis, 39, and his step-brother, Mike Lang, 45, said Fine repeatedly molested them beginning in 1983. Davis told ESPN that the abuse lasted over the course of 15 years and that it took place at Fine's home, at SU's sports facilities and on basketball road trips. On Thursday night, Davis told ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz that Fine tried to "yank" and "pull" at his pants.

"We are in the early stages of an investigation," Sgt. Tom Connellan of the Syracuse Police Department told ABC News Thursday night. "We have no further details."

According to Kevin Quinn, vice president of SU's public affairs department, in 2005 a "young adult male" informed the university and Syracuse City Police that he had been "subjected to inappropriate contact" by a men's basketball coach.

Quinn noted the school had investigated allegations, apparently by Davis, on an earlier occasion, and found little to corroborate the claims of abuse.

"On hearing of the allegations in 2005, the university immediately launched its own comprehensive investigation through its legal counsel," Quinn said in a statement.

"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," the statement read.

ABC News contacted Bernie Fine's home, but his daughter, who requested to remain nameless, said, "He [Coach Fine] is not saying anything right now -- and he is not home."

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told ABC News that his office just received word about these allegations on Thursday.

"We were not made aware of any allegations in '03 nor '05, but we're looking into it now," Fitzpatrick said. "Not to bring about criminal charges, but to find out if there is any credibility to these assertions."

Fine has been working alongside Hall of Fame Coach Jim Boeheim for 35 years, and Boeheim continues to stand by his side.

"I have never seen or witnessed anything to suggest that he would been involved in any of the activities alleged," Boeheim said in a statement to the press. "Had I seen or suspected anything, I would have taken action. Bernie has my full support."

Eric Devendorf is a former guard for SU's basketball team and is a close friend to Fine and his family. On Friday morning, Devendorf told ABC News that he believes these allegations to be false.

"I don't believe it at all. Bernie is a great person," Devendorf said. "He's helped me out, not just with basketball, but with classes too. He was always there for me. It's not even an issue."

Devendorf said he's known Fine since 2005 and has often visited the family for dinner and throughout the summer.

"It's just not even in his character to be accused of something like this," Devendorf said.

On Friday morning, Chancellor Nancy Cantor sent an email to all SU students, faculty and staff in response to this scandal.

"As of last night, we became aware that the Syracuse Police have determined to open an investigation, and we will cooperate to the fullest extent with their review of the matter. ...

"At this time, all we really know is that a terrible tragedy is unfolding for both the accuser and the accused. 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."

The reopening of the investigation comes less than two weeks after former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was slammed with a child sex-abuse case. The close timing of Davis and Lang's allegations with the focus on the Penn State scandal has many people wondering about the legitimacy of the claims.

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