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Another Troubling Case
L. Jon Wertheim
December 05, 2011
Hit by an abuse scandal of its own, Syracuse seeks to avoid the missteps made by Penn State
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December 05, 2011

Another Troubling Case

Hit by an abuse scandal of its own, Syracuse seeks to avoid the missteps made by Penn State

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Aftershocks from the Penn State sex-abuse scandal are being felt 240 miles north of State College in Syracuse. On Nov. 17, ESPN released a report that former Syracuse basketball ball boy Bobby Davis, now 39, was accusing longtime Orange assistant Bernie Fine of sexually molesting him when Davis was between 12 and 27. The story was corroborated by Davis's stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who told ESPN that Fine had molested him as well. (Fine has denied any wrongdoing.) Syracuse officials initially said that the matter had been satisfactorily investigated years ago, while head coach Jim Boeheim called the story "a bunch of a thousand lies," before pointedly adding, "I am not Joe Paterno."

Boeheim is right that comparisons to Penn State only go so far. Accusations are one thing. A grand jury report resulting in 40 criminal charges, and alleging a university cover-up, is something else entirely. Yet the Syracuse situation has quickly gotten ugly. Last weekend ESPN released an audiotape in which Fine's wife, Laurie, also appears to corroborate Davis's claims against her husband and to admit to her own sexual relationship with Davis. Also last weekend, Zach Tomaselli, 23, emerged to accuse Fine of molesting him in 2002. By Sunday night, as federal law enforcement ramped up an investigation of Fine, he was fired by Syracuse.

As for Boeheim, while there is no indication that he had knowledge of the alleged activities, he issued a statement striking a more measured tone, saying, "I deeply regret any statements I made that might have ... been insensitive to victims of abuse."

Whatever happens next, if the disturbing reports of the last month embolden such victims to come forth, and also encourage institutions to conduct more robust—and proactive—investigations, at least some good will have occurred.

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