Syracuse Coach Is Put on Leave Amid Molestation Probe, Alumni Letter Says

Syracuse University Associate Head Basketball Coach Bernie Fine was put on administrative leave after an official told alumni that local police have reopened a probe into 2005 allegations of sexual assaults.

Chancellor Nancy Cantor said in a letter to alumni, including Bloomberg News reporter Scott Soshnick, that the university conducted a four-month investigation at the time, found no corroboration, and closed the case. Fine, 65, didn’t return calls seeking comment. An assistant to coach Jim Boeheim for 35 seasons, he has denied any wrongdoing in media reports.

“At this time, all we really know is a terrible tragedy is unfolding,” Cantor said in the letter.

The Syracuse case comes two weeks after former Penn State University defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting eight young boys during a 15-year period. Football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham B. Spanier were fired amid criticism they didn’t do enough to prevent the alleged abuse. Neither was charged with a crime. Sandusky has denied any criminal conduct.

ESPN reported last night that one of the alleged victims in the Syracuse matter, now 39, said he had been molested starting in 1984, when he was in seventh grade, at Syracuse basketball facilities, and on road trips. Another former ball boy, the victim’s step-brother, now 45, said he also was sexually assaulted beginning when he was a fifth or sixth grader, the sports network said.

2005 Report

Kevin Quinn, Syracuse senior vice president for public affairs, said on the school’s website that it was contacted in 2005 by a man who said he had reported the inappropriate contact to the police. The matter wasn’t pursued because the statute of limitations had expired, the victim told the school.

After four months of talking to people the victim said would substantiate his claims, “all of those identified by the complainant denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct,” Quinn said.

At the time, “if any evidence or corroboration of the allegations had surfaced,” Quinn said the school would have terminated those involved and report it to the police.

“We understand that the Syracuse City Police has now reopened the case, and Syracuse University will cooperate fully,” Quinn said.

Syracuse police didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment. Barry Weiss, a spokesman for Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, said in a telephone interview that the office wouldn’t comment until the matter is turned over from the Syracuse Police Department.

Boeheim noted that the allegations were determined to be “unfounded” by the university in 2005.

Fifth-ranked Syracuse (3-0) hosts Colgate (1-1) tomorrow at the Carrier Dome.

At Penn State, Athletic Director Timothy Curley, 57, and Gary Schultz, 62, a senior vice president who oversaw university police, were charged with perjury and failing to report the allegations. Curley was put on leave and Schultz retired. Sandusky, 67, Curley and Schultz all say they are innocent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at nkercheval@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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