Police investigate sexual abuse claims against SU assistant men's basketball coach

Long-time assistant coach for the Syracuse men’s basketball program Bernie Fine is under a police investigation for claims of molesting a former ball boy for the team.

Syracuse University men’s basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine is the subject of a police investigation relating to allegations that he molested Bobby Davis, former ball boy for SU, ESPN reports. 

Davis, 39, told Mark Schwarz of ESPN’s Outside The Lines the first incident occurred in 1983 in the summer before he started seventh grade. Davis told ESPN Fine molested him at Fine’s home, at Manley Field House, the team’s former home arena, and on recruiting trips. 

Photo: Nate Shron
Chancellor Nancy Cantor requested to put Fine on administrative leave Thursday night.

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Davis said the abuse continued until he was 27. 

Mike Lang, Davis’ 45-year-old stepbrother, also came forward to Outside The Lines, claiming Fine molested him. Lang was also a ball boy for SU. He said Fine abused him when he was in fifth or sixth grade. The recent scandal at Penn State University involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky prompted the second man to come forward.

Chancellor Nancy Cantor requested SU Athletic Director Daryl Gross to put Fine on administrative leave Thursday night amid the police investigation. Gross honored the request.

Davis met Fine in 1983 as he sold candy bars in the neighborhood. The former ball boy said many children in the neighborhood hung around the assistant coach, who is now in his 35th season with the team. 

Fine started to spend considerable time with Davis, taking him to Hawaii twice, the Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Final Four in New Orleans, La. in 1987. Fine became a father figure of sorts for Davis, who lived with his mother. 

On recruiting trips, Davis would share a room with Fine, according to the Outside the Lines report. Davis told Schwarz men's basketball head coach Jim Boeheim knew the two shared a room, but never questioned it. Davis added he never told Boeheim of the abuse.

The head coach released this statement late Thursday:

"This matter was fully investigated by the University in 2005 and it was determined that the allegations were unfounded. 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."

Boeheim denied ever seeing Davis in Fine’s hotel room to Pete Thamel of The New York Times. The head coach reiterated this sentiment to ESPN and expressed his further skepticism of the claims.

“I know this kid, but I never saw him in any rooms or anything,” he told ESPN Thursday. “It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he has told. You don’t think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward?

“He supplied four names to the university that would corroborate his story and none of them did … there is only one side to this story. He is lying.”

Davis first came forward to Syracuse police in 2003, but a detective told him the statute of limitation ran out. In New York state, the statute of limitations extends to three years after a victim's 18th birthday. Davis was 29 years old at the time. He also went to Outside The Lines, but the show decided to not run with the story because a lack of corroboration and additional sources, according to Thursday's report.  

Kevin Quinn, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for SU, said in an official statement released early Thursday evening the university conducted an investigation in 2005 when a man contacted the university. The allegations made were not supported in the investigation. 

The allegations come one day after Nancy Cantor sent an email to SU students, staff and faculty. She asked, in the email, if anyone who has seen acts of molestation or suspects it occurring to alert authorities. "While we all must be vigilant to prevent instances of violence of any kind, today we want to provide clear direction regarding actual or suspected abuse or violence against our most vulnerable members of society—children," she said in the email. 

Fine graduated from Syracuse University in 1967 with a degree in personnel and industrial relations. Boeheim tapped Fine to be an assistant coach in 1976 after he coached basketball at Lincoln Junior High and then Henninger High School. 

The Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame inducted Fine Oct. 17 at the Drumlins Country Club. The assistant coach holds the active Division-I basketball record for most consecutive seasons spent with one program.

Fine and Boeheim first met in 1966. Boeheim continued to support his longtime assistant coach as the story continued to develop Thursday evening. He further questioned the timing of this news as well as the means with which Davis chose to come forward.

“Why wouldn’t he come to the police (first this time)? Why would he go to ESPN? What are people looking for here?" Boeheim asked in the statement. "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.”

Abuse by Coach story by Jeff Laboon

Excellent content in story. Objective and informative.

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