Penn State athletics isn’t the only college sports organization reeling from child sex abuse allegations. Last night, Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was fired in his 36th season with the university after it was revealed that his wife acknowledged during a taped phone call that Fine had sexually abused now 39-year-old Bobby Davis for a period of 15 years, from childhood until he was 27 years old. Fine has been accused of molesting two other men, as well.
According to ESPN, “Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, said Sunday that he told police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. He said Fine touched him ‘multiple’ times in that one incident.” Fine’s second accuser is Davis’ stepbrother, Mike Lang. As Jezebel noted, Davis and Lang were inspired by the scandal at Penn State to re-tell their story. Davis had reported Fine’s sexual abuse to authorities in both 2003 and 2005. In 2003, police said the statute of limitations prevented an investigation and in 2005 the university dismissed the men, telling them they had no corroborating witnesses.
When Davis and Lang came forward after the news of Sandusky’s alleged abuse broke at Penn State, SU head coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN, “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.”
In light of Fine’s dismissal, Boeheim has recanted, saying in a statement released last night:
The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling. 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. What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information 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.
Yeah. Nice rebound, Jim.
I’m originally from Central New York and am typing this post at my mother’s house near Syracuse, where I spent Thanksgiving. Jim Boeheim is a local hero and I think it’s so sad that he – and anyone, for that matter – can get away with saying disgusting things by simply releasing a milquetoasty apology after the fact. Show some real remorse, Jim. Take sexual abuse allegations seriously, people. Think about the courage it takes to accuse someone publicly of molestation, sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape. I think it’s safe to assume that these types of allegations at the very least should be looked into before they are dismissed as lies.
It should be noted, in a bizarre twist to the story, that Fine’s third accuser, Tomaselli, “faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy,” ESPN reports. Tomaselli’s father “maintains his son is lying” about having been touched by Fine, but it’s well known that many victims of child sexual abuse go on to become abusers themselves.
Fine has not commented on the allegations since his dismissal, but called them “patently false.”