In the wake of allegations that Syracuse University associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine molested two former ball boys in the 1980s and 1990s, the university is trying adopt a communication strategy to differentiate it from Penn State. Rather than become mired by stories of delay and inaction, the school has been quick to release information, and suspend the accused the coach amid investigations.
Kevin Quinn, senior VP for public affairs at Syracuse, released a statement on the evening of Nov. 17 saying, “In light of the new allegations and the Syracuse City Police investigation, this evening Chancellor Cantor asked Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross, to place Associate Head Coach Bernie Fine on administrative leave,” said Quinn.
This wasn’t the first time these allegations have surfaced, however. “In 2005, Syracuse University was contacted by an adult male who told us that he had reported to the Syracuse City Police that he had been subjected to inappropriate contact by an associate men’s basketball coach,” said Quinn.
On hearing of the allegations in 2005, Quinn said the university immediately launched its own comprehensive investigation which included a number of interviews with people the complainant said would support his claims, However, all of those identified by the complainant denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach.
“Syracuse University takes any allegation of this sort extremely seriously and has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind,” Quinn said. “If any evidence or corroboration of the allegations had surfaced, we would have terminated the associate coach and reported it to the police immediately. We understand that the Syracuse City Police has now reopened the case, and Syracuse University will cooperate fully. We are steadfastly committed to ensuring that SU remains a a safe place for every member of our campus community.”
With all forms of the media likely seeking to break the newest wrinkle in possibly the second sexual harassment scandal in collegiate athletics in less than a month, it’s a smart move for Syracuse to distance itself from Quinn for the time being.