What a shocker. Another scandal has just rocked the world of major college athletics. This time though, it does not involve a pay-to-play scheme, impermissible benefits, or athletes cheating on their SATs. This one is far more graphic, and continues a recent disturbing pattern that parents of perspective student-athletes should strongly consider before sending their children away to college. It involves yet another coach being linked to and accused of sexually abusing underage boys.
Bernie Fine, the Syracuse men’s basketball assistant coach of 36 years was fired November 27th because of escalating allegations that he sexually abused several young boys during his coaching tenure. The story first went public when former Syracuse ball boy, 39 year old Bobby Davis recently accused Fine of molesting him starting when he was 12 or 13 and continuing until he was 27. Davis claimed the abuse started one summer night before seventh grade, when he was spending the night at the Fine residence. He alleges that Fine came into the basement that night and inappropriately fondled his genitals.
Shortly thereafter, 45 year old Mike Lang, Davis’ step-brother and fellow former ball boy, also accused Fine of molesting him as a youth. Despite these serious allegations, the accusations against Fine seemed fraudulent in the eyes of the public. This seemed to be a hopeless ploy by two desperate men to acquire quick cash for their suffering, and fifteen minutes of fame. At least that’s the way Hall of Fame Coach Jim Boeheim viewed it, claiming “It is a bunch of a thousand lies he has told. You don’t think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward? He supplied four names to the university that would corroborate his story. None of them did… there is only one side to this story. He is lying.”
The attention the two men hoped to bring to the situation began to fade as the Syracuse Orangemen took to the court this November with high expectations for this season. And though Bernie Fine was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, not much was believed to come out of the probing. A repeat of a Penn State scandal seemed far from likely. But for Fine, things quickly took a turn for the worst.
After news broke of Davis and Lang’s allegations, another young man, 23 year-old Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston, Maine, reported that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. A new man, a new allegation; suddenly this tale of Fine’s molestations didn’t seem so frivolous. Maybe there was some truth to the stories these men were telling. Just as charges against Fine began to gain momentum, the most revealing evidence of all was revealed: a taped conversation with Fine’s wife, Laurie.
In a telephone conversation taped by Bobby Davis in 2002, Laurie Fine admitted her fears about her husband’s encounters with young boys, especially Davis himself. She observed her husband’s behavior, but felt “powerless to stop the alleged abuse”. She told Davis, “I know everything that went on with him… Bernie has issues, maybe that he’s not aware of, but he has issues… And you trust somebody you shouldn’t have trusted.”
Just like that, with that one taped recording, this story became very real and chilling for a nation already reeling from the shocking news that continuously pours out of Penn State about its own child sex abuse scandal. The revelation of Fine’s actions proved to many that maybe the Penn State scandal was not an isolated incident, and maybe Jerry Sandusky was not just a rouge coach who preyed on young children. Maybe these predatory coaches lurking around programs are an underlying culture of college athletics. If this is truly the case, then parents should give very cautious thought to where their children attend college, whether they are an athlete or not.
But how does a parent truly gauge the character of a school and its athletic program? How does parent know the signs of predatory individual like a Sandusky or a Fine? They don’t, and that’s the scary part. You can’t anticipate how genuinely someone will care for your child when you’re not present. This breach of trust has never been more evident than these latest stories of sexual misconduct towards minors. Parents in the Sandusky and Fine cases obviously trusted both men with the care of their children, but that definitely is not what happened. Both men sexually abused young boys, and in Fine’s case he did so to two brothers over an extended period of time. Incidents like these should make all parents pause and think; what types of people do they want surrounding their children.