Lacrosse Program Reinstated

August 1, 2006
Duke lacrosse players

 Jon Gardiner

The Duke men's lacrosse program will resume this fall under a strict new standard of behavior drafted by the players, including stronger administrative oversight of the program, President Richard H. Brodhead announced June 5.

The news came exactly two months after he suspended the team's season following allegations of rape at an off-campus team party on March 13. Three members of the team have been indicted; the other forty-four members have been exonerated.

Brodhead said in a letter e-mailed to the Duke community, "Though it did not confirm the worst allegations against this team, the Coleman Committee [a faculty committee chaired by Duke Law School Professor James Coleman] documented a history of irresponsible conduct that this university cannot allow to continue."

"As I wrestled with this issue, I decided that Duke should only resume men's lacrosse if we made a clear statement of the conduct we expect of the players going forward; if the players made a commitment to live by these expectations; and if we had a strong oversight mechanism to monitor the situation. These conditions have now been met to my satisfaction."

Under the lacrosse team's new behavioral standards, violations will include underage drinking, disorderly conduct, and harassment. Minimum penalties include counseling and community service for a first offense; a three-game suspension for a second offense; and a season-long suspension for a third offense. Failure to notify the head coach and athletics director of a violation within twenty-four hours will result in immediate suspension from the team. The coach and the athletics director can impose alternative or stricter penalties.

The university plans to conduct a national search for a permanent head coach, according to athletics director Joe Alleva. He has named Kevin Cassese '03, a former All-America lacrosse player and captain of the 2003 Duke lacrosse team, as the interim coach. He returned to Duke as an assistant coach in July 2005.

In his letter, Brodhead also announced changes in the oversight of athletics. Brodhead will assume direct responsibility for overseeing the athletics department. He will also ask Provost Peter Lange to include a senior member of the athletics department on Lange's Undergraduate Leadership Group "to overcome any separation of academics, athletics, and student life," and he will propose changes to the Athletics Council "to ensure that we have the means to monitor successfully the policies and practices in athletics."

Brodhead noted that some "have questioned whether Division I athletics has a place at a school as academically strong as Duke. I would reply that if it isn't easy to get the balance right, it's also not clear that the task is impossible. I would rather work to put athletic goals in proper relation to our academic mission than to 'solve' the problem by throwing out half of the equation."

On April 5, Brodhead announced the suspension of the lacrosse season and appointed five committees to address issues raised by the March 13 incident. Three of the committees have completed their work. A fourth committee is now assessing the campus culture and working to clarify the standards of behavior expected for all Duke students, including when students are off-campus. The committee is expected to submit its initial report by December 1.

The fifth committee, which will advise the president and trustees, is co-chaired by two former Duke trustees: Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke '67, who was among the first African-American students admitted to Duke and is now provost of the University of the District of Columbia; and businessman Roy Bostock '62, who chairs the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Brodhead noted, "The current crisis gives Duke an opportunity to 'step up' and take a leadership position on issues of broad concern in American education."

"None of us is free from the liability to err: That's why we need education," he continued. "To make a mistake, to recognize it as such, and to take responsibility for making a change might be said to be the essence of education. That is the opportunity now available to our team."