Syracuse fires Fine amid new revelations

Bernie Fine had been an assistant to head basketball coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse since 1976.
Bernie Fine had been an assistant to head basketball coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse since 1976. (Associated Press)

A third accuser said the coach molested him. Jim Boeheim said he supported the termination.

Posted: November 28, 2011

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Syracuse University fired associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine on Sunday in the wake of an investigation of child molestation allegations against him.

"At the direction of Chancellor [Nancy] Cantor, Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately," Kevin Quinn, the school's senior vice president for public affairs, said in a statement.

Fine, 65, was in his 36th season at his alma mater.

Fine's firing comes after new revelations Sunday, including a third accuser. Syracuse had placed Fine on paid administrative leave when accusations first surfaced.

Two former Syracuse ball boys were the first to accuse Fine.

On Sunday, Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, said that he told police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. He said Fine touched him "multiple" times in that one incident.

Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said during a telephone interview with the Associated Press that he signed an affidavit accusing Fine after a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany.

Tomaselli's father, meanwhile, said his son was lying.

After the former ball boys accused Fine, the coach called the allegations "patently false."

Former ball boy Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis told ESPN that the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at Syracuse basketball facilities, and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four.

Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in fifth or sixth grade.

No one answered the door at the Fine home Sunday. Earlier in the day, his attorneys released a statement saying Fine would not comment beyond his initial statement.

In a statement, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said he supported the university's decision to fire Fine and that he "deeply regrets any statements I made that might have . . . been insensitive to victims of abuse."

He called the new allegations "disturbing."

Boeheim and Fine met at Syracuse University in 1963, when Fine was student manager of the basketball team.

When Boeheim was chosen to succeed Roy Danforth at Syracuse in 1976, Boeheim offered Fine, then a high school coach, a job as an assistant.

Tomaselli said the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky prompted him to come forward.

Tomaselli told the Syracuse Post-Standard that he hadn't asked Syracuse police or federal authorities for help in getting the criminal charges dismissed against him in Maine.

Tomaselli was arrested in April on 11 warrants charging gross sexual assault, tampering with a victim, unlawful sexual contact, visual sexual aggression against a child, unlawful sexual touching and unlawful sexual contact, Lewiston police said. He has pleaded not guilty.

Tomaselli told the Post-Standard he met Fine after he and his father, Fred, attended a Syracuse autograph session on campus in late 2001.

The newspaper reported that Fine later called Tomaselli's parents to arrange for Tomaselli to go to Pittsburgh with the athletic department staff on a chartered bus, spend the night in Fine's hotel room, and attend the team's game on Jan. 22, 2002.

Tomaselli told the Post-Standard that he had dinner with the team, then returned to the hotel room, where he accused Fine of putting porn on the TV and fondling him in bed.

Tomaselli attended the basketball game the next day, sitting several rows behind the bench, and rode the chartered bus back to Syracuse, the newspaper reported.

"The one time, there was multiple incidents in that one night, but there was only one night that he ever sexually abused me," Tomaselli told the AP.

However, during a phone interview with the AP, Fred Tomaselli said: "I'm 100 percent sure that Bernie Fine was never in contact with Zach. He never went to Pittsburgh to a game, never been to that arena.

"I brought him to a couple of games in Syracuse. We always sat in the nosebleed section and left after the game. He never stayed for any overnighters and never even got within shouting distance of Bernie."

The Post-Standard also reported that Zach Tomaselli was invited by Fine to a party at his home after the Syracuse-Pittsburgh game on Feb. 1, 2003 - a game where Zach Tomaselli said Fine arranged seats for him and his father several rows behind the bench.

Tomaselli told the newspaper his father, who was unable to attend the party, allowed him to go to Fine's house and stay the night.

While there, Tomaselli told the AP, Fine asked him to get into bed, and Fine's wife, Laurie, was there.

"I told [the police] that Laurie was standing right there when Bernie asked me to sleep in a bed. Laurie knew all about it," he said during the phone interview.

On Sunday, ESPN played an audiotape, obtained and recorded by Davis, of an October 2002 telephone conversation between him and Laurie Fine.

Davis told ESPN he made the recording, which also has been given to Syracuse police, without her knowledge because he knew he needed proof for the police to believe his accusations. ESPN said it hired a voice recognition expert to verify the voice on the tape and the network said it was determined to be that of Laurie Fine.

Davis also acknowledged in an interview with ESPN that he and Laurie Fine had a sexual relationship when he was 18. He said he eventually told Bernie Fine about it and "it didn't faze [Fine] one bit."

During the call to the woman, Davis repeatedly asks her what she knew about the alleged molestation.

"Do you think I'm the only one that he's ever done that to?" Davis asked.

"No . . . I think there might have been others, but it was geared to . . . there was something about you," the woman on the tape says.

On the tape, she also says she knew "everything that went on. . . . Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues. . . . And you trusted somebody you shouldn't have trusted."

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