SYRACUSE, NY: Syracuse University is working with Paul Verbinnen, president and cofounder of Sard Verbinnen & Co., as a PR consultant to handle recent allegations of sexual misconduct against assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine.
Kevin Quinn, SVP of public affairs at the university, said Verbinnen is counseling the school on “general public relations issues” for the accusations against Fine. He added that the school has reached out to Verbinnen, who graduated from Syracuse in 1979, for “PR advice” on multiple occasions.
Verbinnen said Syracuse is “intently focused on doing the right thing by the accuser and the accused, and encouraging everyone to avoid a rush to judgment.”
Fine was accused of sexually molesting two former Syracuse ball boys when they were minors. One accuser reported his claims to Syracuse municipal police in 2002 and university police three years later, but the case was reportedly not investigated because the statute of limitations had expired.
The university has put Fine on paid administrative leave while the police investigate matters further.
Earlier this month, Penn State University former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly sexually molesting multiple young boys for more than a decade. Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were fired by the university's board of trustees following the accusations and criticism that they did not do enough to stop the alleged abuse.
Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor said in an emailed letter to university staff, alumni, students, and faculty that the school launched a four-month-long investigation on the claims against Fine in 2005.
“All of those identified by [the accuser] denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach,” said Cantor, in the letter.
Jim Boeheim, head coach of the Syracuse men's basketball team, has defended Fine, who has denied the allegations.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the relationship between Syracuse University and Verbinnen. The university is consulting him on the matter.