Syracuse University’s chancellor said Thursday that former assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine would have been fired in 2003 if a controversial audiotape had been released at that time.
In a letter published by USA Today, chancellor Nancy Cantor defended the university’s handling of the child molestation allegations against Fine.
But she said the tape of a purported phone conversation between the accuser, Bobby Davis, and Fine’s wife — in which Laurie Fine appears to acknowledge that she knew of the alleged abuse — was never made available to the university.
"We were never told about the shocking audiotape that emerged this past Sunday," Cantor wrote.
"Mr. Davis didn’t give it to us in 2005, nor did the media, which have acknowledged having it since 2003. Had that tape surfaced in 2003, Fine would have been fired. Had we been given the tape in 2005, we would have gone straight to the authorities."
ESPN aired the tape Sunday and the university immediately fired the 65-year-old Fine, who had been an assistant to Jim Boeheim for 35 years. Fine had already been placed on administrative leave after ESPN aired the sexual abuse allegations by Davis and his stepbrother, Mike Lang, on Nov. 17.
Davis gave the audiotape to ESPN and The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., in 2002 and 2003, respectively, but each outlet declined to publicize it because they could not find any witnesses or information to corroborate Davis’ decades-old allegations against Fine.
Fine has denied the allegations, which, according to reports, now come from up to four accusers. His wife has claimed that portions of the tape were edited to support Davis’ claims.
Cantor wrote that ESPN and The Post-Standard "owe everyone an explanation" for why the tape was kept secret.
The Post-Standard defended its decision in a front-page article Thursday, saying it felt the tape did not represent "sufficient proof" to back up Davis’ story. Executive editor Michael O’Connor also wrote that the paper did not feel it was their responsibility to provide the tape to police.
"Our role has always been clear: to investigate with a goal to publish. To us, handing over to police materials we didn’t feel confident enough to publish was unimaginable," O’Connor said.