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Another Coach

November 28, 2011

Syracuse University announced Sunday night that it had fired Bernie Fine, a longtime assistant basketball coach, following new accusations that he molested ball boys in the program.

When the first accusation against Fine became public, in the wake of the Pennsylvania State University sex-abuse scandal, Syracuse placed Fine on leave, and pledged to cooperate with a police investigation.

Since then, additional accusers have come forward and this weekend ESPN released audio of one of Fine's accusers talking with Fine's wife, who appears to acknowledge knowing that her husband had been abusing the accuser.

Nancy Cantor, chancellor of the university, released a statement in which she said that the university was unaware of the existence of the audio recording (which was made in 2002) when it investigated the allegations in 2005, without finding sufficient evidence. She reiterated that, at the time of the 2005 investigation, no witnesses came forward to back the abuse claims, which Fine has denied. But she noted that the circumstances of the case have changed.

"Tonight, in the wake of troubling new allegations that emerged in the media today, I am writing to let you know that Bernie Fine’s employment at the university has been terminated effective immediately," she wrote. "Frankly, the events of the past week have shaken us all."

The most abrupt shift at Syracuse Sunday may have come from the head basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, who if not quite in the league of Joe Paterno (pre-scandal), has a long, successful record at Syracuse that gives him considerable clout on the campus and in college basketball.

After the university suspended Fine November 17, Boeheim issued a statement that could not have been more supportive of his assistant: "This matter was fully investigated by the University in 2005 and it was determined that the allegations were unfounded. I have known Bernie Fine for more than 40 years. I have never seen or witnessed anything to suggest that he would be involved in any of the activities alleged. Had I seen or suspected anything, I would have taken action. Bernie has my full support."

On Sunday night, Boeheim posted a statement on Facebook in which he not only endorsed the university's decision to fire Fine, but apologized for the possibility that his earlier statement may have discouraged people from coming forward.

His new statement: "The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling. I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged. I believe the university took the appropriate step tonight. What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found. I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."

 

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