A Fine Mess

This morning as I checked the news, I found out that Syracuse University fired Fine over the weekend in light of a third accuser coming forward. Wow.

When the story of the child molestation and abuse at Penn State came out the nation was horrified but even more so that the students were more concerned that Paterno was fired. Within weeks of the story breaking, an accusation resurfaced at Syracuse University. I took an interest in it not only for the timing, but because SU is my Alma Mater.  I admit some bias here as I am a long-time SU basketball fan. Bearing that in mind, this is my overall take: The media has turned this story into a giant pile of dog mess and it’s clear Fine has been tried and convicted in the court of opinion already.

ESPN made a giant mess out of this story from the start. Their coverage was soap opera style and it’s obvious to anyone following their story telling of it that ESPN is out of their element. The Syracuse main newspaper, The Post Standard, has done a rather thorough job. One wonders if that is because they sat on the story since 2002 and are now looking for some moral redemption.

Boeheim came out defending him and displayed a ‘wait and see’ attitude. I have a hard time believing Boeheim would have tolerated anything like this going on, but I’m on the fence here. People are of course going to crucify Boeheim for defending someone he’s known and worked with for over three decades.  I’ve watched him as a coach and community figure for easily the same amount of time. My gut tells me he knew nothing about this until the University did its investigation – which came up empty just like the Post Standard and ESPN in 2003.

Something still feels ‘off’ to me but it’s fighting with my maternal instinct to believe the accusations of these (then) children. Maybe it’s the timing with the Penn State revelations and that is why it feels like a money hunt somewhat. Having said that, this latest accuser feels like piling on, but who can say for sure? Once the accusation is out there it’s hard to tell fact from fiction. In no way am I defending Fine, but it would seem he has been tried in the court of opinion already and swiftly shoved out the SU door. If Fine did these things, he deserves to hang for them. Period. The sentiment on Sandusky by Palin is apt here: “He should hang from the highest tree. I’ll bring the rope.”

While I applaud Chancellor Cantor for decisive action, I can’t help but feel the University was cutting and running. The Syracuse Police Department has already said their investigation is far from over and it could be weeks before it is wrapped up. The police have not pressed any charges either, but did execute a search warrant on Fine’s home. What the Secret Service was doing as part of that search is curious to me.

The third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, is less than reliable and a predator with a rap sheet himself from what I read and he admitted he has no witnesses nor evidence to corroborate his story. His own father is claiming the kid is lying:

“Fred Tomaselli, who lives in Rutland, in Jefferson County, denied ever meeting Fine or letting his son go to Pittsburgh with the SU team in 2002. He said his son did not go to a party at Fine’s house in 2003.”

“Fred Tomaselli said his son is lying about Fine.”

Well, there you go Syracuse Police. It should be pretty easy to figure out if the kid was even at this event.  Check the footage of the game. Interview the hotel where they reportedly stayed. To me, confirming this story would lend credibility to the other two accusations.

The first accuser, Bobby Davis, seems to have a conflicting account of things. He said he was too embarrassed and couldn’t get away from Fine well into his late 20’s – somewhere around 27 years old.  I find that a bit hard to believe that a grown man would have a hard time ‘getting away’ from someone who was sexually abusing them. Davis had no problem going to the SPD, the Post Standard and ESPN to talk about it in detail though.  Then there is this little thing that bugs me, that in 2002, Davis was solo in reporting these claims. Now his step-brother has come forward and said Fine also touched him. I watched their original interviews on ESPN. Everyone should check them out and decide for themselves.

Now we have this 2002 audio tape of Fine’s wife, Laurie, talking to Davis about the abuse. Where was this tape when he reported it in the first place? Did the University know about it when they investigated? How come it’s coming out weeks after the initial ESPN interview? Maybe that’s because it reveals the affair Davis had with Laurie Fine when he was 18. That just smacks to me as sketchy. Davis, for someone who was so ashamed, seemed to be very persistent in trying to prove Fine abused him by recording those conversations. Fine’s wife seems really nonchalant, almost enthusiastic, in the conversation about the alleged abuse. Frankly, her reactions made me sick. I got the distinct impression Laurie Fine doesn’t like her husband, but not enough to turn him in. She deserves a mother of the year award.

One other nugget from the Davis’ statements bothered me. At one point, he claims Boeheim walked in on he and Fine in a hotel room on the road:

“I know he’s lying about me seeing him in his hotel room. That’s a lie. If he’s going to tell one lie, I’m sure there’s a few more of them.”

“I never have been in Bernie Fine’s hotel room in my life,” Boeheim said. “This is what, 16 to 18 years ago, or whatever it is? But I don’t recall ever walking into any of my assistant coaches’ rooms. Now, could I have once … one time? I have a pretty good recollection of things, but I don’t ever recollect ever walking into Bernie Fine’s hotel room. Ever.”

In another ESPN interview, Davis contradicts himself and claims Boeheim couldn’t know because he never saw any of it. So which is it? Boeheim witnessed something or he didn’t? Inconsistencies matter. I look forward to seeing the report from the Syracuse Police department when they wrap this investigation. Whatever the outcome, the media malpractice is what should also be on trial.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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