Syracuse puts Fine on leave after police inquiry

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 17, 2011
Just two weeks after Penn State was rocked by a child sex-abuse scandal, ESPN reported Thursday 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 (http://bit.ly/saDgk9). Connellan told the newspaper that police received information on the case Thursday but would not say who provided the information. Phone calls by The Associated Press to the police were not immediately returned. Fine is in his 35th season as an assistant to Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim. After a reporter knocked on the doors of the homes of Fine and Boeheim, he was told neither was home. 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 did not publish the story because it did not have a second person to confirm the accuser's account. The resurfacing of 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 in a statement that 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. ''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. ''Syracuse University takes any allegation of this sort extremely seriously and has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. If any evidence or corroboration of the allegations had surfaced, we would have terminated the associated coach and reported it to the police immediately. We understand that the Syracuse City Police has now reopened the case, and Syracuse University will cooperate fully. We are steadfastly committed ensuring that SU remains a safe place for every member of our campus community.''
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