Just two weeks after Penn State was rocked by a child sex-abuse scandal, ESPN reported today that police were investigating an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University on allegations of child molestation.
Shortly afterward, Syracuse placed longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine on administrative leave “in light of the new allegations and the Syracuse City Police investigation,” the school said.
“We are in the very early stages of an investigation,” Sgt. Tom Connellan told The Post-Standard in Syracuse.
Connellan told the newspaper that police received information on the case today but would not say who provided the information.
ESPN reported that Fine is accused of molesting a former Syracuse ball boy, who is now 39. The alleged victim told ESPN the abuse occurred at Fine’s home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four.
ESPN said it first investigated the accusations in 2003 but decided not to run the story because there was no independent evidence to corroborate the allegations. Recently, a second man contacted ESPN, alleging that Fine also molested him. That person said he decided to come forward after seeing the Penn State coverage.
The Post-Standard reported it also investigated the accuser’s allegations in 2003, but decided against publishing the story because no one else came forward to confirm the accuser’s account. Fine is in his 35th season as an assistant to coach Jim Boeheim.
Phone calls by The Associated Press to the police were not immediately returned.
After a reporter knocked on the doors of the homes of Fine and Boeheim, he was told neither was home. Boeheim released a statement later in which he offered his support to his longtime assistant.
“This matter was fully investigated by the University in 2005 and it was determined that the allegations were unfounded,” Boeheim said. “I have known Bernie Fine for more than 40 years. I have never seen or witnessed anything to suggest that he would been involved in any of the activities alleged. Had I seen or suspected anything, I would have taken action. Bernie has my full support.”
The accusations arrived on the heels of the Penn State case in which longtime former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is accused of sexually abused eight boys over 15 years. The case cost Joe Paterno his job, and former school administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are charged with not properly alerting authorities to suspected abuse and perjury.
Syracuse senior vice president for public affairs Kevin Quinn said the school would cooperate with the police investigation.
In a statement Quinn said Syracuse was contacted in 2005 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.”
Quinn said in the statement that the school conducted its own four-month long investigation that included interviews with people the accuser said would support his allegations but that all those people “denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct” and that the coach also denied the allegations.
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