A longtime assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University has been placed on administration leave after being accused of molesting two former ball boys. Bobby Davis, 39, said that coach Bernie Fine, who has coached at Syracuse for 35 years, molested him “hundreds of times” over a ten-year period, beginning in 1983, when he was entering seventh grade. The second alleged victim, Mike Lang, now 45, is Davis' stepbrother, and was also a ball boy for several years—he claims Fine started molesting him in fifth or sixth grade.
Davis, the team's ball boy for six years beginning in 1984, told ESPN that the abuse occurred at Fine's home (the two were next door neighbors), at the Syracuse basketball facilities, and on road trips, including the 1987 Final Four. Davis added that Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim saw him in Fine's hotel room on several of those road trips, but Davis said he never told Boeheim about the alleged abuse. Both alleged victims both talked to ESPN on camera last night; you can watch the segment below.
Both ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard reported they investigated the claims by Davis in 2003, but couldn’t corroborate them—both chose to hold back on reporting the rumors. Davis also told the university, who said they investigated his claims in 2005. Kevin Quinn, Syracuse's senior vice president for public affairs, issued a statement on behalf of the school:
In 2005, Syracuse University was contacted 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.
However, the school decided to place Fine on administrative leave last night "in light of the new allegations and the Syracuse City Police investigation." Syracuse police spokesman Tom Connellan stressed that the inquiry is in its early stages: "It's information that came to us today."
Syracuse head coach Bonheim vigorously defended Fine: "I know this kid, but I never saw him in any rooms or anything," Boeheim told ESPN. "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. None of them did...there is only one side to this story. He is lying."
These claims come just two weeks after former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing a string of young boys.