By TJ WINICK (@tjwinick) and DEAN SCHABNER
Nov. 27,. 2011
Syracuse University announced this evening it has fired assistant mens basketball coach Bernie Fine, who has been accused by three men of sexually molesting them when they were boys.
"At the direction of Chancellor [Nancy] Cantor, Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately," university spokesman Kevin Quinn announced.
Fine, 65, had been an assistant coach at Syracuse for 36 years, the longest active streak at one school among Division I assistant coaches. He has called the allegations "patently false."
Before Fine's firing his attorneys released a statement saying Fine would not comment beyond his initial statement.
"Any comment from him would only invite and perpetuate ancient and suspect claims," attorneys Donald Martin and Karl Sleight said. "Mr. Fine remains hopeful of a credible and expeditious review of the relevant issues by law enforcement authorities."
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said tonight he supported the university's decision to fire the man who has been his assistant for 35 years.
"The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling," the Hall of Fame coach said in a statement released this evening. "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."
He said the allegations should "be fully investigated."
Boeheim, who had called one of the accusers "a liar" for suggesting he knew that his long-time assistant was allegedly abusing young boys, apologized for that "insensitive" remark and said that anyone with information should "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," he said.
The firing comes the same day that ESPN released tapes of one of Fine's accusers discussing what happened with the assistant coach's wife.
Bobby Davis was a seventh grader helping out around the Syracuse basketball court when he claims the abuse began.
Now 39, he says he made a recording in October 2002 of a phone call with the Fine's wife, Laurie.
He says he did so so his allegations of molestation against Bernie Fine would be taken seriously.
"I know everything that went on, you know. I know everything that went on with him," the woman identified as Laurie Fine tells Davis, "Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues ... And you trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted."
Davis gave a copy of the tape to ESPN and recently to police. ESPN says a voice expert confirms the woman's voice on the audiotape matches Laurie Fine's.
On the tape, Davis says he frequently slept over in the basement of the Fines' home.
Davis and the woman he identifies as Laurie Fine even discussed the type of abuse he was subjected to at the hands of the coach.
"What did he want you to do? You can be honest with me," she asks.
"I mean, he's like -- but at first he would grab me and start, you know touching me," Davis replies.
This month, the accuser's own stepbrother leveled similar accusations. And today, a 23 year old from Maine swore in a deposition to police that Fine sexually assaulted him when he was just 13.
It hearkened back to that recorded phone call.
"Do you think I'm the only one that he's ever done that to?" Davis asked Laurie Fine.
"No," she replied. "I think there might have been others..."
Like Penn State Football, Syracuse basketball is a powerhouse program, and a cash cow for the university.
And like Nittany Lions coaching legend Joe Paterno, Boeheim, the Orangemen's coach for 35 years, is facing questions about whether he knew anything of the allegations.
On the phone call, the woman identified as the coach's wife predicts one day it will all come out.
"I said to him, 'Bobby and I talked, and I know some things about you that if you keep pushing are going to be let out,'" she says.
"He doesn't think he can be touched," replies Davis.
"No ... he thinks he's above the law," the woman says.