Navigating Bernie Fine's Sex Abuse Scandal
When recent allegations of sexual abuse against assistant coach of the Syracuse Orange Bernie Fine surfaced some; namely head coach Jim Boeheim, reacted similarly to Jerry Sandusky and Bishop Eddie Long supporters and blindly discounted them. But this time around, and surely in light of the Penn State scandal, Syracuse University higher-ups acted swiftly.
Almost two weeks ago former ball boys Bobby Davis, 39 and his step-brother Mike Lang, 45 recounted Fine reaching into their shorts at his home, on the road, and at the school’s basketball facilities on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines. ”
“I didn’t feel right about it,” Lang told ESPN. “And I told him Bernie, ‘Please don’t do that to me.’ ”
It wasn’t the first time Davis had come forward; he’s been trying to tell his story for years. Back in 2003 he reported the abuse to the Syracuse police, who told him that his statute of limitations; five years in New York State, had expired. His last sexual contact with Fine had been four years prior when he was 27 years old.
Sadly the case itself isn’t so shocking anymore, but what is shocking are taped phone conversations between himself and Fine’s wife Laurie discussing the abuse in question. To make matters worse, Davis claims to have had a sexual relationship with Laurie Fine as well when he was a high school senior.
“This is as I got older not like when I was a kid. I thought he was going to kill me, but I just had to tell him. I told him what was going on between me and Laurie. It didn’t faze him one bit, honestly,” Davis said.
Boeheim quickly jumped to Fine’s defense, which was largely aimed at discrediting Davis.
“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.” He said according to ESPN.
He went even further, speculating on Davis’ motives.
“Why wouldn’t he come to the police (first this time)? Why would he go to ESPN? What are people looking for here? 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.”
Still Boeheim’s callous remarks weren’t enough to save Fine from his fate. On Sunday Syracuse University fired the associate head coach after the third allegation of sexual abuse surfaced. Senior vice president for public affairs Kevin Quinn announced the decision in a statement.
“At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine’s employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately.”
Fine; a Syracuse alum, was in the midst of coaching his 36th season, holding the Division 1 assistant coach record for longest active streak of consecutive seasons. Head coach Boeheim has since changed his tune.
“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,” he said on Facebook. “I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse.”
The latest accuser; 23 year old Zach Tomaselli, is himself awaiting trial on charges of sexual abuse involving a 14- year old boy. While for some this detail brings his claims into disrepute, it could also shed light on the cyclical nature of abuse. He has also accused his father of molestation, citing it as a reason that Fine’s behavior wasn’t alarming.
Tomaselli appears today in a segment of Anderson Cooper’s new “Anderson” daytime show, where according to The Daily News Cooper will pose the possibility of his own pending trial marring his credibility. Tomaselli’s response is telling.
“It is not an excuse for touching children, and I’m not saying I touched anybody, Anderson, but I am saying the situation I put myself in to be accused was because there was a great disconnect in my mind between what is an appropriate relationship between an adult and a child.”
If true, Zach Tomaselli’s case is the most unfortunate; where a child can’t go to his parents about abuse because abuse is taking place in the home. If we learn anything from the Long, Sandusky and Fine scandals hopefully it is to have an open dialogue with our children at an early age about inappropriate behavior from adults, and to form a bond impenetrable by these predators.