Syracuse puts coach on leave over abuse probe
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A longtime assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University was put on administrative leave on Thursday after police reopened an investigation of alleged inappropriate behavior with a ball boy.
Associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine, in his 35th season with Syracuse, was placed on leave “in light of the new allegations and the Syracuse City Police investigation,” said Peter Englot, associate vice president of public affairs at Syracuse. The allegations were first reported in 2005.
“The associate coach vehemently denied the allegations,” Kevin Quinn, senior vice president for public affairs at Syracuse, said in a statement.
Syracuse is the third major U.S. university to disclose an incident involving alleged abuse since the announcement on November 5 that a longtime assistant football coach at Penn State was charged with sexually abusing eight boys over nearly 15 years.
The Penn State scandal shocked the university and led to the dismissal of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno.
A week after the Penn State disclosure, South Carolina military college The Citadel admitted that it had failed to take any action against a student accused of inappropriate behavior with children at a summer camp. The man has since been arrested and charged with sexually abusing boys.
Fine’s longtime boss, Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, has coached Syracuse for 34 years, including a national championship in 2003.
“I have known Bernie Fine for more than 40 years. I have never seen or witnessed anything to suggest that he would (have) 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 said in a statement on Thursday night on the university’s website.
The alleged behavior by Fine took place in the 1980s and 1990s when the victim was a juvenile. Syracuse police said the victim was Bobby Davis, now 39, a former ball boy with the team, Englot said.
The new investigation comes six years after the university conducted its own probe after hearing of the allegations in 2005. After a four-month investigation, launched after local police declined to open their own probe, the university was unable to corroborate the claims.
Quinn said the university decided to investigate in 2005 after the victim told police that “he had been subjected to inappropriate contact” by Fine, but city police declined to investigate because the statute of limitations had expired.
“If any evidence or corroboration of the allegations had surfaced, we would have terminated the associate coach and reported it to the police immediately,” Quinn said.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Peter Bohan and Greg McCune)
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