Duke faces off with new rules

Players draft new standards of conduct as part of lacrosse team's `probationary' return

June 06, 2006|By MIKE KLINGAMAN | MIKE KLINGAMAN,SUN REPORTER

They'll be playing men's lacrosse at Duke University next season, but with safeguards in place to try to prevent scandals like the one that sidelined the program this year.

Duke president Richard Brodhead yesterday reinstated the team, saying the move was "probationary" depending on how well the players follow the new rules.

"This announcement is not risk-free on my part. I am taking a gamble" by restarting men's lacrosse, Brodhead said at a campus news conference. The players, he said, drafted their own set of standards for off-the-field behavior.

"How confident am I? I have to profoundly hope the members of this team live up to what they say."

Duke's season was canceled and coach Mike Pressler resigned April 5, about three weeks after lacrosse players allegedly raped a 27-year-old college student hired to strip at a team party. Three players were eventually charged with sexual offenses.

The school has begun a search for Pressler's successor, said Brodhead. Meanwhile, assistant Kevin Cassese, a former Duke All-American, will run the team.

"We're going to start a new history" with a new coach, the president said.

Duke will resume recruiting immediately, athletic director Joe Alleva said. The scandal that tarnished the school's image also struck at the team's future: Three of the team's nine recruits who had agreed to attend Duke declined because of the turmoil. The Blue Devils reached the NCAA final in 2005 and had been expected to contend for the title this year.

How far has Duke fallen?

"My concern is not championships," Alleva said yesterday. "When we get the values right, the wins will come."

In addition to having to adhere to NCAA and school regulations, the lacrosse team has shaped its own honor code dealing with thorny issues such as hazing, underage drinking and sexual harassment.

For instance, one provision of Duke's new "Team Standard" demands that "student-athletes ... notify the head coach and athletic director of any violation of the code of conduct within 24 hours, even when the violation occurs during a vacation period and/or [off campus]. Failure to notify will result in immediate suspension."

Penalties range from a warning for a first offense to a three-game suspension for a second infraction. Three strikes and a player is banished for the season.

The honor code was the springboard to reinstating lacrosse, Brodhead said.

"I told the team we simply could not return to the status quo of March 12 [before the alleged rape occurred]," he said. "We're looking for a system where people take responsibility for their own behavior. That's the essence of this case."

While the team was drafting its code, another player ran afoul of the law. On May 24, Matthew Wilson, of Durham, was arrested by police in Chapel Hill, N.C., and charged with drug possession and driving while impaired.

Wilson, a junior, was suspended from the team, which, at the time, didn't exist.

Brodhead said the incident did not deter him from bringing lacrosse back to campus in 2007:

"Over time, Duke will not be judged by the events of March 13, but how we respond to them."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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