Nancy Cantor, the Syracuse University chancellor, must have been thrilled last night to discover that ESPN had learned that her school's assistant basketball coach, Bernie Fine, was under investigation for molesting his team's ball boy for six years. The alleged victim, Bobby Davis, told ESPN that the abuse started in 1984, shortly before Davis entered the seventh grade. One alleged incident may have taken place at the 1987 Final Four.
ESPN didn't publish the story in 2003 because it couldn't back up Davis's claims. But the Sandusky coverage prompted another alleged victim to come forward—Davis's stepbrother, Mike Lang, who also served as a Syracuse ball boy for several years.
In 2005, the university conducted a four-month-long investigation into Fine and interviewed numerous people who Davis said would substantiate his story. None of them did, according to Syracuse. Last night, in light of the new allegations against Fine and the fact that Syracuse City Police have reopened their case, the school decided to place Fine on administrative leave. This morning at 8:49 a.m., Cantor sent out the following email:
Dear Syracuse University Alumni,
Last night, we were contacted by an ESPN television reporter regarding allegations dating back to the 1980's and 1990's that Associate Head Men's Basketball Coach Bernie Fine had engaged in inappropriate behavior with a minor, now 39. Following the terrible news that came out of Penn State in the last several weeks, this is clearly distressing to all of us in the Syracuse University community. The news is already being covered widely by the media.
I want to tell you what we know and what we are doing about it.
First, as has been announced, Bernie Fine has been placed on administrative leave pending a new investigation by the Syracuse Police Department. He has vehemently denied the allegations and should be accorded a fair opportunity to defend himself against these accusations.
As we have communicated publicly in response to media inquiries, in 2005, Syracuse University was contacted by an adult male who asserted that he had reported allegations in 2005 of abuse in the 1980's and 1990's to the police. That same individual told us that the Syracuse City Police had declined to pursue the matter because the statute of limitations had expired.
On hearing of the allegations, the University immediately launched its own comprehensive investigation through its legal counsel. The nearly four-month long investigation included a number of interviews with people the individual said would support his claims. All of those identified by him denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach. At the end of the investigation, as we were unable to find any corroboration of the allegations, the case was closed. Had any evidence or corroboration of earlier allegations surfaced -even if the Police had declined to pursue the matter -we would have acted.
As of last night, we became aware that the Syracuse Police have determined to open an investigation, and we will cooperate to the fullest extent with their review of the matter.
Let me be clear. We know that many question whether or not a university in today's world can shine a harsh light on its athletics programs. We are aware that many wonder if university administrations are willing to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing that may disrupt a successful sports program. I can assure you I am not, and my fellow administrators are not. We hold everyone in our community to high standards and we don't tolerate illegal, abusive or unethical behavior -no matter who you are.
As you know, this week, I affirmed Syracuse University's steadfast belief that all of us have the responsibility, individually and collectively, to ensure that Syracuse University remains a safe place for every campus community member and everyone with whom we interact on a daily basis on campus or in the community as part of our learning, scholarship, or work. We do not tolerate abuse.
The dilemma in any situation like this, of course, is that-without corroborating facts, witnesses or confessions -one must avoid an unfair rush to judgment. We have all seen terrible injustices done to the innocent accused of heinous crimes. And we've all seen situations where the guilty avoid justice.
At this time, all we really know is that a terrible tragedy is unfolding for both the accuser and the accused. I want you to know that we will do everything in our power to find the truth, and -if and when we do find it-to let you know what we have found.