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Syracuse's Fine fired after more allegations

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Syracuse's Fine fired after more allegations

From Comcast SportsNet

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)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 Fines employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately, Kevin Quinn, the schools 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 universitys 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.

Tomasellis 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 Fines 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. Hes tried before. And now hes trying again. If he gets this, hes 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? Id say about 50 million. Thats what this is about. Money.

No one answered the door at the Fine home Sunday. Before Fines 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.

Tomaselli said the scandal at Penn State involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky prompted him to come forward. Sandusky is accused in a grand jury indictment of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.

Amid the child sex-abuse scandal, Penn States trustees ousted longtime football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier. The trustees said Spanier and Paterno, who is not the target of any criminal investigation, failed to act after a graduate assistant claimed he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in a campus shower in 2002. Former school administrators Tim Curleywho is on administrative leaveand Gary Schultz are charged with not properly alerting authorities to suspected abuse and with perjury. They maintain their innocence.

It was the Sandusky stuff that came out that really made me think about it, Tomaselli said in the phone interview. A lot of people were slamming ESPN and Bobby for saying anything. I wanted to come out. It made me sick to see all that support for Fine at that point. I was positive he was guilty.

Tomaselli told the Post-Standard that he didnt ask Syracuse police or federal authorities for help in getting the criminal charges dismissed against him in Maine.

Tomaselli was arrested in April on 11 warrants charging gross sexual assault, tampering with a victim, two counts of unlawful sexual contact, five counts of visual sexual aggression against a child and unlawful sexual touching and unlawful sexual contact, Lewiston police said Sunday. They did not say what led to the charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

Tomaselli told the Post-Standard he met Fine after he and his father, Fred, attended a Syracuse autograph session on campus in late 2001.

The newspaper reported that Fine later called Tomasellis parents to arrange for Tomaselli to go to Pittsburgh with the athletic department staff on a chartered bus, spend the night in Fines hotel room and attend the teams game on Jan. 22, 2002.

Tomaselli told the Post-Standard that he had dinner with the team, then returned to the hotel room where he accused Fine of putting porn on the TV and fondling him in bed.

Tomaselli attended the basketball game the next day, sitting several rows behind the bench, and rode the chartered bus back to Syracuse, the newspaper reported.

The one time there was multiple incidents in that one night, but there was only one night that he ever sexually abused me, Tomaselli told the AP.

However, during a phone interview with the AP, Fred Tomaselli said: Im 100 percent sure that Bernie Fine was never in contact with Zach. He never went to Pittsburgh to a game, never been to that arena.

I brought him to a couple of games in Syracuse. We always sat in the nosebleed section and left after the game. He never stayed for any overnighters and never even got within shouting distance of Bernie.

During his long career with Syracuse, Fine tutored the likes of Derrick Coleman, LeRon Ellis and John Wallace in his role of working with post players. Coleman was the top pick in the 1990 NBA draft, Ellis was the Clippers 22nd overall choice in 1991, and Wallace was picked 18th in 1996 by the New York Knicks.

Boeheim and Fine met at Syracuse University in 1963, when Fine was student manager of the basketball team. Fine graduated in 1967 with a degree in personal and industrial relations and went into business for himself.

In 1970, Fine was named basketball and football coach at Lincoln Junior High in Syracuse and went to Henninger High School the next year as the junior varsity basketball coach. He became varsity basketball coach in 1975. When Boeheim was chosen to succeed Roy Danforth at Syracuse in 1976 Boeheim offered Fine a job as an assistant.

Fine was an integral part of the staff that guided Syracuse to the national championship in 2003. During his tenure the Orange also made two other appearances in the NCAA title game, losing in 1987 to Indiana and in 1996 to Kentucky. He also guided the U.S. Maccabiah team to a silver medal at the 1993 World Maccabiah Games in Israel and has served as director of a successful basketball camp in the Northeast.

The Post-Standard also reported that Zach Tomaselli was invited by Fine to a party at his home after the Syracuse-Pitt game on Feb. 1, 2003a game where Zach Tomaselli said Fine arranged seats for him and his father several rows behind the bench.

Tomaselli told the newspaper his father, who was unable to attend the party, allowed him to go to Fines house and stay the night.

While there, Tomaselli told the AP, Fine asked him to get into bed and that Fines wife, Laurie, was there when it happened.

I told them (police) that Laurie was standing right there when Bernie asked me to sleep in a bed. Laurie knew all about it, he said during the phone interview.

On Sunday, ESPN played an audiotape, obtained and recorded by Davis, of an October 2002 telephone conversation between him and Laurie Fine.

Davis told ESPN he made the recording, which also has been given to Syracuse police, without her knowledge because he knew he needed proof for the police to believe his accusations. 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.

Davis also acknowledged in an interview with ESPN that he and Laurie Fine had a sexual relationship when he was 18, and that he eventually told Bernie Fine about it.

I thought he was going to kill me, but I had to tell him, Davis said. It didnt faze him one bit.

During the call to the woman, Davis repeatedly asks her what she knew about the alleged molestation.

Do you think Im the only one that hes ever done that to? Davis asked.

No I think there might have been others but it was geared to there was something about you, the woman on the tape said.

On the tape, she also says she knew everything that went on.

Bernie has issues, maybe that hes not aware of, but he has issues. And you trusted somebody you shouldnt have trusted

During the call, Davis tells her he asked her husband in the late 1990s for 5,000 to help pay off his student loans.

When he gave you the money, what does he want for that? she asked.

He tells her that Fine wanted to engage in sexual activity in several ways.

And Id try to go away, and hed put his arm on top of my chest. He goes, If you want this money, youll stay right here, Davis said.

Right. Right, she said. He just has a nasty attitude, because he didnt get his money, nor did he get what he wanted.

In an email to the Syracuse University community, Cantor said that taped phone call was not given to the school by Davis during its 2005 investigation.

On Friday, federal authorities carried out a search at his Fines suburban Syracuse home but declined to comment on what they were looking for.

New York State Police spokesman Jack Keller said troopers were called to assist the U.S. attorneys office at the search. At least six police vehicles were parked on the street during the search, which lasted around nine hours. Officers carted away three file cabinets and a computer for further examination.

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

Consider this a connect-the-dots exercise, with the end game being to figure out what the overall picture is. Because the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions was many things, a couple actually very good, but too many of them kinda-to-very bad...

The overarching point of the 2017 season, per senior Bears management, is progress. Not just on the part of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had a fourth solid performance in six NFL starts; but on the Bears as a whole. A week after showing anything but, the Bears showed something that could masquerade as progress.

How real is it? The Bears in the past eight days have given few reasons to trust it.

Because while coming close against a respectable Lions (6-4) team counts for something, the Bears are still 3-7 at the end of the day and 3-13 under John Fox against the NFC North – a division winning percentage of .188, which would be lower than that of the Marc Trestman Bears (.250), who managed to win their three NFC North games in two seasons vs. Fox’s three.

As concerning perhaps, the loss left the Bears 3-9 under Fox in games decided by three or fewer points, the hallmark of what simplistically can be ID’d as “losing” teams.

“We’ve had a lot of close games, and it’s just finding a way to close those out,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to work towards that, and figure it out for sure.”

What makes “progress” difficult to see, though, is that the Bears do not play like a team either coached to be or with the proven ability to play at a professional level all the time. Teams with that problem typically make coaching changes at the ends of seasons, since the conclusion usually is that the talent can be there, just that the coach in hand, fair or not, can’t get it out of the roster.

“We’ve shown spurts and moments, like we have for some time now,” Fox summarized. “But we have lulls. We have siestas. We just don’t do it for 60 minutes. ... People have ups and downs. Well, we’re in a stage as a football team where we have those moments in games. We have to do a better job of coaching it and we have to do a better job of executing it in games.”

The Green Bay Packers were one kind of measuring standard last week, and the 3-7 Bears were embarrassed against a foundering team that had been soundly beaten by the Lions the week before the Bears faced them, and buried 23-0 at home Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Lions were a different kind of quiz, a real offense putting up more than 27 points per game. The Bears allowed the Lions their requisite 27 points (seven of those coming on a touchdown return of a Trubisky fumble), but put up nearly 400 yards and 24 points of their own in a game that ended on a Connor Barth missed field goal from 46 yards, Barth’s fifth miss in 11 attempts from beyond 40 yards.

(Barth’s miss may have been particularly bitter for Fox, after watching Detroit’s Matt Prater win the game from 52 yards – the same Matt Prater who kicked for Fox in Denver in 2011 when Fox’s Broncos beat the Bears in the Marion Barber Game with Prater field goals from 59 yards to tie with 3 seconds left, and from 51 yards to win in OT.)

“All these games in the NFL – they’re hard games – but when you have a game like this that you should win, you just have to win those games,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright. “I think with us, when we win one of those close games, it will help us get over the edge and we’ll start stacking them up on top of each other.”

Then again...

The Bears seemed to lose their compass in the third quarter, with one rushing yard on four attempts. But they finished with 222 yards and the way they amassed them mattered: 125 and a touchdown for Jordan Howard; 53 for Trubisky, a number of them on designed runs; and 44 plus a TD for Tarik Cohen – all combining to average 7.4 yards per carry.

Bigger picture, the Bears were in the position of having at least a chance to tie because Trubisky managed to drive the Bears 55 yards in the final 1:32 from the Chicago 17 to the Detroit 28. This would constitute something shiny lying there in the mud, and make no mistake: This is a big deal.

To put Trubisky in some kind of context: Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, the fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, replaced Tyrod Taylor in the Bills starting lineup Sunday, against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing opponents to complete more than 64 percent of their passes. Peterman completed 11 of 14 in the first half, about 79 percent. But – five of the Peterman “completions” were to Chargers.

DeShone Kizer has been in and out and back in the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns, suffering through a rookie season with one of the worst teams arguably in NFL history. But – Kizer, with 12 interceptions vs. four TD passes, is one of the reasons the Browns are in various “worst ever” discussions.

Trubisky threw 30 passes without an interception on Sunday, and 65 without a pick over his past two games. He’s thrown 145 NFL passes with just two interceptions, an INT rate of 1.4 percent that ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and a list of others. Critics of his development can have their points, but the kid has learned ball security at an early NFL age even while averaging 32.4 pass plays per game.

The next step is getting his team over the top, because he is still completing just 53.1 percent of his passes and was missed badly on a number of throws on Sunday. His deft TD pass to tight end Adam Shaheen in the first half was NFL-perfect (where his guy or nobody catches it), but his throw low and behind running back Benny Cunningham at the goal line in the first quarter forced the Bears to settle for a field goal in a game decided ultimately by three points.

Trubisky clearly gets the big picture, too, pointing the thumb and not any fingers. He paused before answering a question about his rookie learning curve:

“I think adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “Overcoming the struggle is a great teacher. There’s no rookie excuse. You don’t get a freebie because you’re a rookie.

“My teammates trust me and they have confidence in me, so I’m preparing as I should. Coaches have me prepared and my teammates have my back. New situations are going to arise every time, but there are no excuses. I’m just looking at these opportunities as chances to overcome, and not dwell on it.”

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears loss to the Lions on Sunday following Conner Barth’s missed field goal in the last seconds of the game and debate whether or not Tarik Cohen should be a part of the Bears two-minute offensive packages.

Plus, if the Bears hope to keep Vic Fangio past 2017, does he need to finish out the season as the Bears interim head coach?

Listen to the full Under Center Podcast right here: