While the Syracuse Orange celebrates its big win over Indiana on Thursday night, a high-profile former coach is opening a legal battle in attempt to clear his name.
In November 2011, ESPN published a damning story focusing on then-Syracuse head coach Bernie Fine, reporting the claims of two former ball boys — Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Mike Lang — saying that Fine sexually abused them over a period of more than a decade beginning in the late ’70s. Although a Syracuse internal investigation ended in Fine’s dismissal, police couldn’t prosecute due to lack of evidence and the expiration of the statue of limitations. Complicating the case were the apparently false claims of two others making similar accusations against Fine.
Now, Fine is firing back in court.
According to multiple reports, Fine is suing ESPN for defamation, saying that they published the story recklessly, and knowingly overlooked holes in their reporting. The original story was printed during the height of the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State scandal, although ESPN had been holding onto much of the information since 2003.
Laurie Fine, Bernie’s wife, filed a similar lawsuit about a year ago, the libel portion of which was thrown out of court last month. Laurie was recorded in a phone call in 2002 with Davis where she essentially admits knowledge of her husband’s abuse of Davis and Lang, going so far as to discuss specific sexual acts that were allegedly committed.
Syracuse fired Bernie Fine immediately after the tape of that phone call was released publicly. See a copy of the summons in Fine’s lawsuit below.
Bernie Fine Summons