Another big time college sports program under fire for abuse accusations
This time, it's the Syracuse basketball program. Assistant coach Bernie Fine is accused of molesting two ball boys - stepbrothers - 20 years ago.
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 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 they are in the early stages of the investigation. Thursday evening, police told ESPN they were going to interview both men who made the allegations.
Both men spoke in on-camera interviews with ESPN on 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.' "
Authorities - police and school administrators - appear to be acting appropriately. The charges are detailed and serious and should be looked into.
There was apparently a report back in 2005 that gives credence to the charges:
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.
Head basketball coach Jim Boeheim - as beloved at Syracuse in many ways as Paterno was at Penn State - vehemently defends Fine:
"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."
It's a question that must be asked. In fact, it would be irresponsible not to ask if this isn't a hoax given the potential to make big money by selling your story to the tabloids. But a closer look at that internal investigation should be made and some kind of assessment should be given as to how thorough it was and was it a whitewash.