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Matt Dery: A Fine Mess…Or is It?

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NEW YORK - MARCH 12: Assistant coach Bernie Fine of the Syracuse Orange looks on from the sidelines during their game against the Connecticut Huskies during the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – MARCH 12: Assistant coach Bernie Fine of the Syracuse Orange looks on from the sidelines during their game against the Connecticut Huskies during the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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As a Syracuse University graduate, my stomach ached last night when I heard the news that Bernie Fine was being investigated for alleged sexual abuse. The longtime assistant basketball coach has been a fixture at the school for over 35 years and is well known throughout that community. Two former ball-boys claim that they were molested by Fine and the school immediately placed the coach on administrative leave as the police begin its investigation. This news arrives just weeks after Penn State was rocked over its own sexual abuse scandal involving football assistant coach and longtime Nittany Lion Jerry Sandusky. The stories are eerily similar.

I liked Bernie Fine. As a student broadcaster at WAER Radio from 1992-1995, I dealt with him on occasion and he always seemed pretty cool and accommodating. Jim Boeheim, the legendary head coach, was not. He did not care for the student station and rarely gave us a break. Bernie and some of the other assistant coaches did. It was just the way it was and we dealt with it. The players all loved Fine, because he was the “good cop” coach to Boeheim’s “bad cop”. Jim has come out in strong support of Bernie and says these allegations are “a bunch of a thousand lies.”

My take? I think ESPN is jumping on this story a tad bit too early. No charges have been filed. Bobby Davis, the lead accuser in this case, attempted to get charges filed years ago and was denied by the police because the statute of limitations had expired. He claims he was molested for a period of nearly 20 years. His step-brother, who
is older than Davis, is the only other alleged victim and he just recently came forward to ESPN. Syracuse police and the university investigated this back in 2005 and found nothing. No other victims, no other witnesses, and now all of the sudden the Sandusky case is all over the news and this Fine story breaks now? Seems a little fishy to me.

I don’t know Bernie Fine well enough to 100 percent say that he is innocent. I have two children of my own and a stepson and I really am sick to my stomach over these child molestation stories. I thought Penn State did a lousy job of acting and reacting to the Sandusky situation, and I believe Jerry is guilty. Syracuse University and the police have seemed to do the right things so far, so I will wait to see if Davis’ claims are accurate.

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