Syracuse coach Bernie Fine fired at third college with a child abuse scandal

Bernie Fine, assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University, was fired Sunday. Bernie Fine denied the allegations. Syracuse is the third US college facing a child abuse scandal.

(AP Photo/Steve C. Wilson, File)
Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine at a game in 2010.

Syracuse University on Sunday fired assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, the target of an investigation into allegations he molested a former ball boy and at least one other boy.

"At the direction of Chancellor (Nancy) Cantor, Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately," the school said in a brief statement on its website, without elaborating on the reasons.

The firing was the latest jolt to major college athletics already reeling from the questions of oversight and possible cover-ups at Penn State, where a former assistant coach faces sexual abuse charges.

Fine was accused of inappropriate behavior with the former ball boy, identified as Bobby Davis, now 39, and his stepbrother Mike Lang, now 45, when they were juveniles.

Fine, who has called the accusations against him "patently false in every aspect", had been placed on administrative leave earlier this month after the allegations came to light.

His lawyer, speaking before his client was fired, said Fine would no longer speak publicly about the case.

"Mr. Fine will not comment on newspaper stories beyond his initial statement," attorney Karl Sleight said in a prepared statement in response to allegations by a third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, made on Facebook and carried in media reports.

"Any comment from him would only invite and perpetuate ancient and suspect claims. Mr. Fine remains hopeful of a credible and expeditious review of the relevant issues by law enforcement authorities," he added.

Syracuse is the third major U.S. university to disclose alleged abuse after 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.

Since then, South Carolina military college The Citadel admitted it had failed to take 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.

In the Syracuse case, police opened an investigation into Fine when Davis's stepbrother came forward with his own allegations. Attempts to reach police and city officials on Sunday for comment were unsuccessful.

The current probe comes six years after the university conducted its own investigation 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.

Syracuse's basketball team is currently undefeated and the university in upstate New York is widely heralded as having one of the top college basketball programs in the country.

Fine's longtime boss, Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, who has coached Syracuse for 34 years, previously issued a statement supporting Fine.

"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," the statement said.

(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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