“I didn’t believe it.”
When allegations of sexual abuse against Bernie Fine first surfaced Rod Baker stood behind his longtime friend. Now, as more alleged victims come forward Baker is trying to weigh their allegations against the man he has known as a fellow coach and sometimes mentor.
“It’s a very serious allegation,” says Baker. “No one should take any part of it lightly.”
Before moving to Rochester to coach the RazorSharks, Baker assisted at several Division I colleges. He’s known Fine for 30 years. “He was a good person, a caring person.” Says Baker adding “all this doesn’t change what I thought I knew.”
Yet a third accuser has come forward. And there’s that recorded phone conversation between the first accuser Bobby Davis and Coach Fine’s wife. As a result Fine was fired.
“Was the firing justified? I can’t call that,” says Baker. “But they’d better be right.”
Yet Coach Baker draws a clear line between the Penn State firing of head coach Joe Paterno after a sex scandal involving one of his coaches- and the treatment of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.
“It was very clear at Penn State that Joe Paterno knew something and never dealt with the information that he had. No one has said that Jimmy knew something.”
Coach Baker says he tried to call Bernie Fine last week but the two did not connect. He says some of the allegations appear to be less credible than others, calling them a “house of cards.”
He also fears the immediacy of the internet and twitter – especially on top of the Penn State scandal have fueled a swift rush to judgment.
“If this crime is his mistake, then he should be punished for it,” says Baker. “But man, if it’s not, then we’ve ruined the reputation of a guy who up until this point was beyond reproach.”