The president of a Roman Catholic college denied allegations he sexually abused six men when they were minors, including four when he was their church basketball coach.

The Erie Times-News on Sunday reported allegations that Mercyhurst College (search) president William Garvey sexually abused four men when they played basketball at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church (search) in Erie in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Two other men said Garvey paid them for sexual acts when they were underage street hustlers in the mid-1980s, after Garvey became president at Mercyhurst in 1980.

All the men told the newspaper the abuse involved inappropriate touching or sexual acts but not intercourse.

"I can only hope and trust that my 52-year record of working with youth without any similar allegations and the positive testimony from players I have coached and the more than 2,000 students I have taught will be instructive in resolving this distressing situation," said Garvey, 68.

In a statement, members of the college's board of trustees said they support Garvey but would not comment further until their own review was complete.

One of the accusers is Chuck Rosenthal (search), a California novelist. He raised abuse allegations, mentioning St. John the Baptist Catholic Church but not naming Garvey, in a 2002 column in the Los Angeles Times. In his new book, "Never Let Me Go," a memoir, he does not name Garvey or the church. But he told the Times-News that the book is about his time playing basketball at St. John the Baptist and his relationship with Garvey.

Mercyhurst College is a Roman Catholic liberal arts college founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1926. It has an enrollment of about 3,100.