Other programs feel Duke fallout

Recruits, ACC foes are in limbo, too

April 29, 2006|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN REPORTER

Maryland coach Dave Cottle looks at his 2007 men's lacrosse schedule and sees potentially glaring holes. Virginia coach Dom Starsia wonders what will become of the Atlantic Coast Conference and its annual tournament. And, as current players and incoming recruits decide whether to stick with Duke, one of the nation's top men's lacrosse programs could be on the verge of some convulsions.

While Duke figures out what to do with the men's team, as rape charges against two players stemming from an alleged incident involving a stripper at a team party on March 13 hang over the school and the city of Durham, N.C., a state of limbo hovers over the game.

As legal proceedings continue in the case, in which sophomore players Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann have been charged with rape and kidnapping, an internal review of the program requested by Richard Brodhead, the university president, is expected to be submitted by Monday.

Whether the Duke administration decides to leave the program intact - perhaps under restrictions or probationary measures - or discontinue the sport for a year or longer, remains to be seen. But the uncertainty enveloping the fate of Duke lacrosse is causing a ripple effect in the sport.

"It's a different spring," said Starsia, who coaches the top-ranked and lone undefeated team in Division I. "We're 12-0, we're getting ready for the playoffs, there's a lot of pressure. And I feel like no matter what [bad] happens to us, things could be worse, and they are worse someplace else.

"Any discussion of all of this stuff pales in comparison to the issues affecting a lot of people in Durham. But there are other issues that need to be resolved."

Those issues, ranging from looming Duke roster changes to scheduling snafus to next year's ACC men's tournament, which this year includes only Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina at M&T Bank Stadium, are plentiful.

As for the conference tournament, Davis Whitfield, the league's assistant commissioner for championships, said ACC bylaws stipulate it needs at least four teams to hold a tournament, which the ACC is hoping returns to Baltimore next year. With the timing of Duke's decision to drop the rest of the 2006 season, an exemption was allowed this year.

"If we were only to have three teams next year, we would not have a men's championship," said Whitfield, who added he expects Duke to field a team.

The Blue Devils, who won a record 17 games last year and lost to Johns Hopkins in the NCAA title game, then were ranked No. 1 early this year before canceling their season after eight games, do not have a head coach. School administrators accepted the resignation of 16-year coach Mike Pressler on April 5.

Player movement, eligibility questions, and timing issues have yet to be decided. Might players have this year of eligibility reinstated, especially if the rape case yields no convictions? Further, will the university make a ruling on the program's fate based on its own examinations, while the case is playing out?

As for the possibility of losing current players or incoming recruits to other schools, the Duke administration has set that play in motion by granting interested players and recruits a release from their commitment.

Chris Kennedy, Duke's senior associate athletic director, told USA Today that about a dozen players are exploring transfers. Sophomore attackman Zack Greer, who led the nation in goals last year, has contacted Delaware and Penn State. Sophomore attackman Josh Coveleski has called Loyola. Should a player move to another ACC school, league rules would force him to sit out a year, unless a waiver is granted.

The lack of available scholarship funds figures to limit the amount of player movement, in terms of playing in 2007. But the majority of Duke's incoming, seven-man class appears to be heading elsewhere.

"I don't think anybody can afford to lose seniors, not have incoming freshmen and have a couple of kids transfer," Cottle said. "That would hurt any program. You can't fix that in a year."

Among the class of 2010, an Ivy League source confirmed that defenseman Tom Dodge of Manhasset (N.Y) High School, will sign with Penn. Like all Ivy League schools, Penn does not offer athletic scholarships. Sources familiar with the situation also said attackman Max Quinzani of Duxbury (Mass.) High School, will choose Princeton or Cornell, and defenseman Ken Clausen of The Hill School in Downington, Pa., is pursuing Virginia.

Sources also said Georgetown, which typically competes hard with Duke for recruits, is close to landing three original Blue Devils signees - midfielder Scott Kocis, attackman Tom Dowd and midfielder Terrence Molinari. Georgetown coach Dave Urick declined to comment.

Cottle looks at the unknown and wonders what to do.

"Do you tentatively schedule another team [to replace Duke] at that time? There is no good answer to what to do about Duke," Cottle said. "I don't think anybody is comfortable with it. It would be bad for lacrosse not to have Duke around next year."

Added Starsia: "This is the most hurtful situation I've born witness to in 32 years of coaching college sports. Duke lacrosse is an important part of the college lacrosse landscape. I would like to think Duke comes out of this saying we can get this lacrosse thing right."

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

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