SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor gave men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim a vote of confidence Tuesday amid an investigation of child molestation allegations against his former longtime assistant coach.
Cantor emerged from an economic development conference with state officials and said: “Coach Boeheim is our coach.”
Some commentators and sex abuse victims’ advocates had said Boeheim should resign or be fired after three men, including two former Syracuse ballboys, accused former assistant coach Bernie Fine of molesting them and Boeheim verbally attacked the accusers.
“Coach Boeheim is our coach; he’s getting the team ready tonight,” Cantor said. “We’re very pleased with what he said Sunday night, and we stand by him.”
In his 36th season at his alma mater, Hall of Famer Boeheim ranks fifth all-time in wins in Division I and has a record 33 20-win seasons. In 2004, the university named the Carrier Dome court “Jim Boeheim Court.”
After initially saying Fine’s first two accusers were lying to make money in the wake of the Penn State University sexual abuse scandal, Boeheim backed off those comments in a statement Sunday.
“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,” Boeheim said after the firing of Fine, who has denied the allegations. “I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse.”
Bobby Davis first contacted Syracuse police in 2002 about Fine, but there was no investigation because the statute of limitations had passed. Kevin Quinn, a spokesman for the university, said police did not inform the university of Davis’ allegations then.
On Tuesday, the Syracuse police chief said Dennis DuVal, a former SU basketball player who was police chief in 2002, knew of the allegations against Fine.
Police Chief Frank Fowler said DuVal, who played for the Orange from 1972-74, was aware of Davis’ accusations in 2002 that Fine sexually abused him. Fine, who has been fired, denies the allegations.
Because Davis said the abuse stopped 12 years earlier, Syracuse Det. Doug Fox told him the statute of limitations had passed, meaning an arrest was not possible. Fox advised his supervisor in the abused persons unit but didn’t file a formal report. The detective is still with the department but not in the same unit.
A phone message left with DuVal was not immediately returned.
On Nov. 17, Davis’ allegations resurfaced.
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 said 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, also told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in fifth or sixth grade.
A third man, Zach Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, said Sunday he told police last week that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. Also on Sunday, ESPN played an audiotape, obtained and recorded by Davis, of an October 2002 telephone conversation between him and Fine’s wife, Laurie. ESPN said it hired a voice recognition expert to verify the voice on the tape and the network said it was determined to be that of Laurie Fine.
During the call to the woman, Davis repeatedly asks her what she knew about the alleged molestation and she says she knew “everything that went on.”
“My heart goes out to the families. I have no comment about the Fine situation or the Boeheim situation,” former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony said. “That’s a sensitive situation, a sensitive topic right now that I don’t even want to go into.”
Cantor stressed the university is working with authorities.
“We’ve been very straightforward and candid about this whole process,” she said. “We’ve gone through our due diligence when things came up, and we felt it was important both for Bernie Fine and for the university to move forward.”
The chancellor has previously acknowledged that a man, now known to be Davis, contacted the school in 2005 with allegations against Fine. The school, which did not contact police, conducted its own investigation at that time but was unable to find any corroboration of the allegations. The university has turned over the results of the inquiry to the DA’s office and has retained an independent law firm to review their procedures and response to those 2005 allegations.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Secret Service have taken the lead in the current investigation.
And Fowler said Syracuse police will change their procedures moving forward.
“I was not the chief in 2002 and I cannot change the procedures in place at that time or the way this matter was then handled,” Fowler said in the statement. “But what I can and will do as chief today is ensure that moving forward all reports of sexual abuse are formally documented.”
In an interview with the AP, Fowler said he wouldn’t be notified about all sex abuse allegations. But in a high-profile case like the Fine investigation: “I’m very confident I would know about it. I’m sure it would be brought to my immediate attention.”
The chief also said the department only notifies the district attorney when an arrest is made, not during the investigation phase. Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick has been sharply critical of the police for not sharing the information from the 2002 allegations or from the current investigation.
Fowler has ordered a review of all department policies regarding sexual abuse allegations made over the phone and will make changes if needed. A phone database now logs every call the department receives.