The Gauchos And Syracuse University Basketball Connection

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[Black Star News Editorial]

When sexual molestation accusations against Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine first emerged head coach Jim Boeheim defended Fine vigorously.

He's now backed off since a tape-recorded conversation with Fine's wife emerged, which is extremely damaging to the coach.

The molestation accusations were made by two former ball-boys on the Syracuse basketball team. They alleged that they had been sexually molested, while they were young teens, by Fine. A third accuser against Fine has now emerged.

Fine's denial of the sexual molestation allegations was buttressed by Coach Boeheim, a nationally respected leader of a perennially winning team. Boeheim denigrated and castigated Fine's accusers. He claimed they were engaged in a "thousand" pack of lies; he claimed that they were extortionists after money, and; he claimed that the accusations were old news that had been looked into in the past.

That was beforee ESPN played the taped conversation --which it had obtained years ago-- between one of the accusers, Bobby Davis and Fine's wife Laurie Fine. It was a game-changer and Fine who had been suspended was immediately fired by Syracuse. The accuser had secretly tape-recorded the conversation in 2002. Fine's wife indicated she was aware of his proclivities and she even stated that Fine was in "denial." She said "of course" Fine would have also engaged in oral sex with the accuser had he been willing.

Boeheim's future may now be up in the air. His defense of Fine went beyond what may have been expected even if Fine had worked with him for 36 years. What did Boeheim hear about Fine through the years? In light of his animated defense of Fine how  vigorously did he seek an investigation?

These questions bring us right back here to New York City and the famed Gauchos basketball program.

It's the worst kept secret. The program's founder Lou d'Almeida, who is in his 70s, was investigated by Bronx County District Attorney Robert T. Johnson in 1996 after former academic tutors at the program claimed that they had witnessed d'Almeida performing oral sex on a young boy inside his car.

At the time, Lankler, Siffert & Wohl, a law firm representing the Teamwork Foundation, the Gauchos parent company, reportedly also investigated the allegations.

A former coach at the program has also said d'Almeida's preferred victims were young Black boys between the ages of 11 and 15. Other alleged victims of sexual molestation by d'Almeida have also been interviewed by New York media.

The fact that d'Almeida is still at the Gauchos suggests that District Attorney Johnson, who at some point dropped his investigation, may still have work to do. The Gauchos, through the years, have been supported by many big names in New York business. These backers have included the Bronfman family, including Edgar Bronfman and the Tisch family, including Jonathan Tisch.  Board members also included former basketball legend Willis Reed.

Several Gauchos players have gone on to colleges, including to Syracuse University, whose program has been shaken by the Bernie Fine scandal. This year during its annual fund-raising dinner the Gauchos honored former Syracuse basketball legend Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, who was also a former Gauchos. A video tribute to Washington, by d'Almeida is posted on the Gauchos' website. The video discussed Washington's involvement at the Gauchos and contains highlights of his career at Syracuse.

Obviously, in light of the recent revelation about assistant Syracuse coach Fine, everything needs to be examined.

On the same video tribute, d'Almeida describes Boeheim as a "friend" whom he's known for "many, many years." Questions: does Boeheim know about the sexual molestation accusations against d'Almeida? Does Coach Boeheim also regard d'Almeida as a friend? Did Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine have any improper contacts with Gauchos players? 

A phone message left by The Black Star News for Syracuse university's vice president for public relations Kevin Quinn to get answers has not yet been returned.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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