Each Monday during the summer, The Juice Online will be looking back to some of the biggest storylines in the 2011-12 Syracuse sports year. This week, we take a look back at the Bernie Fine scandal.
In November 2011, only a few weeks after the Penn State sex abuse scandal broke, Bobby Davis and Michael Lang, two former Syracuse University ball boys went on ESPN’s Outside the Lines and said Syracuse associate coach Bernie Fine had molested them in the 1970s and 80s. Two additional accusers, Zach Tomaselli and Floyd Vanhooser, also came forward with similar allegations in the following weeks.
On November 27, 2011, Fine was fired after ESPN released an audio tape of a 2002 phone conversation between Fine’s wife, Laurie, and Davis. It also set off a federal investigation where the United States Secret Service executed a search warrant on Fine’s house.
Shortly after the accusations, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim issued a passionate defense of Fine, calling the accusations “a thousand lies” and questioning the financial motives of Davis and Lang. That led to a defamation lawsuit filed by Gloria Allred, which has since been dismissed.
No criminal charges have been brought against Fine, and a statement issued by his attorney called the accusations of Davis and Lang “patently false.” Since the initial allegations, both Vanhooser and Tomaselli have issued retractions.
Fine has kept out of the public spotlight since then, and has been hired by an Israeli basketball club as a consultant. His home in Syracuse is up for sale.
Meanwhile, in May, Laurie Fine announced she was suing ESPN, meaning that there is no end to this story in sight.
WHAT WE SAID:
“The U.S. Attorney’s office has been handling the Fine matter since last fall and depending on whether or not federal charges are ever filed, who knows what will happen? It could produce results ranging anywhere from a criminal trial, a wrongful termination lawsuit against the university, or shed negativity towards other law enforcement or related entities over their previous handling of the case.” — Brad Bierman
“Did Schwarz make calls to Pittsburgh or Connecticut to corroborate some of Tomaselli’s claims? Did he speak with Tomaselli’s father, who said that his son had outright lied? In other words, did Schwarz attempt to vet Tomaselli’s story beforehand? Perhaps Schwarz really did do his homework. Maybe Tomaselli’s story checked out. If that’s true, Schwarz would be on more steady ground to put Davis and Tomaselli together. It could very well be that ESPN had exercised responsibile journalism, and if they did, I applaud that. But there is an alternate reality that is a distinct possibility – did Schwarz simply go ahead with the story once Tomaselli called him? It’s not particularly far-fetched.” — Wesley Cheng
WHAT THEY SAID:
“I’ll say this: Between the Fine accusations; the way Boeheim came off initially in defending a friend and then having to apologize; the Melo academic issue (he clearly wasn’t going to class and that’s probably why the school was forced to make him ineligible); and the report of possible unreported drug use among players (during an era that covers even the 2003 national championship team), it was not a good off-the-court year for Syracuse. And that doesn’t even get into Waiters leaving (a 6th man turning pro after his sophomore year!), the football team slipping and the lacrosse team having one of its worse years in recent memory.” — Bob Herzog, Newsday
I’m not trying to exonerate Bernie Fine. We still don’t know what really transpired between Fine and his primary accuser Bobby Davis, who claims Fine sexually molested him from age 12 to 27. What we do know now is that the corroborating victims used to legitimize Davis’ allegations told outright lies and/or highly suspect stories. And, in my opinion, Schwarz and his co-conspirators at the Syracuse Post-Standard should have turned the Bobby Davis-Laurie Fine audiotape over to the police and allowed trained professionals to get to the bottom of Fine’s complicated relationship with Davis. — Jason Whitlock, Fox SportsWesley Cheng