SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The sign outside Bernie Fine's home in nearby Fayetteville, N.Y., symbolizes the difference between the two recent college sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the country -- and which many say have no basis for comparison.
We believe in your innocence Bernie, we love you! the sign reads. Inscribed around that message are other messages from what look to be friends, family and other supporters.
They represent the community that has mostly stood behind its accused while allegations of molestation against Fine have surfaced over the past few days.
The State College, Pa., community supported embattled Penn State head coach Joe Paterno before he was fired last week by the university's Board of Trustees, which determined he had not done enough to stop former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual abuse of eight boys in 15 years.
Here in Syracuse, they support the accused Fine -- students, locals, business owners, and, perhaps most importantly, Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim.
Syracuse placed Fine, an assistant coach, on administrative leave Thursday night after police said they were opening an investigation into allegations that he molested two former team ball boys.
Mike Lang, 45, and Bobby Davis, 39, both told ESPN Fine molested them as early as the late 1970s.
Davis brought his allegations to ESPN and The Post-Standard of Syracuse in 2003, and to police in 2005. They were never substantiated, but ESPN released its story this week after Lang, Davis' stepbrother, came forward.
Both Fine and Boeheim have denied the allegations, with Boeheim taking his defiant message more public than Fine.
Fine released a statement Friday from his lawyer. Saturday, a middle-aged man came to the door of Fine's house and said Fine would not be answering questions except through his lawyers. He did not provide his name or relation to Fine. He did say the allegations were false.
Fine's statement read, in part: Simply put, these allegations are patently false in every aspect. The fact is these allegations have been thoroughly investigated multiple times. When evaluating the veracity of these accusations, please keep in mind that credible media outlets were approached in the past to publicize these false allegations and declined to do so. I fully cooperated with all past inquires.
Sadly, we live in an allegation-based society and an Internet age where in a matter of minutes one's life-long reputation can be severely damaged. I am confident that, as in the past, a review of these allegations will be discredited and restore my reputation. I hope the latest review of these allegations will be conducted expeditiously.
Boeheim, on the other hand, has voiced a strong opinion in support of Fine, who he has known for 50 years. When Boeheim became SU's head coach in 1976, he hired Fine as an assistant.
It was the same message Saturday -- though slightly toned down -- as Boeheim spoke to reporters following Syracuse's 92-47 win over Colgate, the team's first game since the allegations surfaced Thursday. There was an empty seat on the bench during Syracuse's win, which some took to be a symbolic gesture to Fine.
After the game, in his first en-masse session with the media, Boeheim said he wasn't worried about the future of his program.
Our program will be fine, Boeheim said at his news conference. It's been pretty good for 36 years, and we've been through a lot of things. We'll get through whatever happens in our program.
And that was the sentiment across campus, too. Interviewees trusted Boeheim and his support, saying he put himself and his reputation on the line.
They also questioned many of the same things as Boeheim: the family connection between the two accusers; the timing of the new allegations in relation to the Penn State scandal; and the demeanor of the accusers on ESPN's Outside the Lines.
The allegations shocked Dylan Haines, a senior at nearby Christian Brothers Academy that has twice participated in summer Syracuse basketball camps run by Fine.
He said Fine would stay after camp to work on extra drills with forwards and centers, positions he focuses on coaching at Syracuse.
I can't believe I'm seeing his name on TV now in a bad atmosphere, Haines, 17, said at the local pizza establishment Varsity, located near the Syracuse campus. The people who were interviewed sounded like they were kind of making it up. They wouldn't even look at the camera the entire interview.
Down Marshall Street from the Varsity restaurant, Mike Theiss has been the general manager of merchandise store Manny's for more than 25 years. He sees Syracuse fans filter in and out of the store, but he hasn't seen the allegations become a major topic of conversation.
People want to let the facts come out, he said.
Most students are away from campus for Thanksgiving, which has tempered the campus' mood. Of course, Penn State students rioted after Paterno was fired.
But the students who did remain also defended Fine. Brothers Kyle and Jimmy Kimball, a sophomore and freshman, respectively, said it was unfair to judge Fine before the police complete the full investigation. And among everyone talking -- fans, students, administrators, media members or even Fine himself -- all stressed that Boeheim's words meant the most.
The fact that Jim Boeheim is supporting Fine, it's more comforting, Jimmy Kimball said. But of course, you're still kind of worried about it.