SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim ran a closed practice Monday as sex abuse victims’ advocates questioned whether he should still coach following the firing of longtime assistant Bernie Fine, who has been accused of molestation by three men.
As criticism swirled about Boeheim’s initial support of Fine and his verbal attacks on the accusers, the coach kept a low profile, seeking refuge in his office on the second floor of the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center.
Boeheim, who had been sharply critical of the accusers, has softened his stance 10 days after an impassioned defense of Fine, who spent 35 seasons on the bench next to Boeheim and was fired Sunday.
The Rev. Robert Hoatson, the president of Road to Recovery, a group that supports victims of sexual abuse, said the dismissal of Bernie Fine was appropriate but didn’t go far enough.
“I think Jim Boeheim should be fired or resign as well,” Hoatson said Monday. “These boys were members of the basketball program. Jim Boeheim’s responsibility is to oversee that program, and the children were not safe on his watch.”
Two former Syracuse ball boys were the first to accuse Fine, who has called the allegations “patently false.” And a third man came forward last week, accusing Fine of molesting him nine years ago.
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. His 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.
Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, said Sunday he told police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said Fine touched him “multiple” times in that one incident. During a telephone interview with The Associated Press, he said he signed an affidavit accusing Fine after a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany.
As supporters of victims of sex abuse called for Boeheim to be fired, university trustees were largely silent.
“I don’t have anything to say about this,” said trustee H. Douglas Barclay, who earned his law degree from Syracuse in 1961 and was a New York state senator for 20 years.
Reached in Naples, Fla., trustee Marvin Lender, class of 1963, referred all calls to Chancellor Nancy Cantor.
“It’s a policy, and I want to adhere to it,” he said.
The allegations against Fine surfaced a week after Penn State school trustees fired Joe Paterno in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who is accused in a grand jury indictment of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.