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Syracuse fires assistant basketball coach Fine

By John Kekis

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Nov. 28 2011 5:25 a.m. MST

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Thirty-six years after he was hired as an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University, Bernie Fine is out of a job amid an investigation into child molestation allegations against him.

Fine was fired Sunday night after a third man accused him of molesting him nine years ago.

"At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine's employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately," Kevin Quinn, the school's senior vice president for public affairs, said in a statement.

Fine, who turns 66 in December, held the longest active streak of consecutive seasons at one school among assistant coaches in Division I. He has denied the allegations.

Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, said Sunday that he told police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. The third accuser to come forward, Tomaselli said Fine touched him "multiple" times in that one incident.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said he supported the university's decision to fire his longtime assistant and expressed regret for his initial statements that might have been "insensitive to victims of abuse."

"The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling," Boeheim said in a statement released by the school. "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."

Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he signed an affidavit accusing Fine following a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany.

Tomaselli's father, meanwhile, maintains his son is lying.

Two former Syracuse ball boys were the first to accuse Fine, who has called the allegations "patently false."

Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis told ESPN that the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four.

Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in fifth or sixth grade.

When the accusations first became public Nov. 17, Boeheim adamantly defended his lifelong friend.

In an interview that day with the Post-Standard, Boeheim attacked Davis' reasons for going public with his accusations.

"The Penn State thing came out, and the kid behind this is trying to get money," Boeheim said. "He's tried before. And now he's trying again. If he gets this, he's going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I'd say about $50 million. That's what this is about. Money."

No one answered the door at the Fine home Sunday. Before Fine's firing, his attorneys released a statement saying Fine would not comment beyond his initial statement.

"Any comment from him would only invite and perpetuate ancient and suspect claims," attorneys Donald Martin and Karl Sleight said. "Mr. Fine remains hopeful of a credible and expeditious review of the relevant issues by law enforcement authorities."

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