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Duke official regrets treatment of former lacrosse coach

Posted April 9, 2015
Updated April 10, 2015

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— Nine years after Duke University forced lacrosse coach Mike Pressler to resign amid accusations that three of his players raped a stripper at a team party, a senior athletics official says many in the administration regret the way the situation was handled.

"I think that a lot of officials at the university have come to the realization or came to the realization within a year or so that, probably, Mike shouldn't have lost his job," Chris Kennedy, senior deputy director of athletics at Duke, tells "60 Minutes" in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

After Crystal Mangum claimed three white players trapped her inside a bathroom at an off-campus house during a March 13, 2006, party and sexually assaulted her, the story became a national headline, and Kennedy said the Duke campus was in chaos over a story framed by class, race and sex.

"It was painful because you had 46 kids who were really suffering who knew for a long period of time … some number were going to be indicted based on no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “Imagine the stress of that on the kids and on their parents and everything.”

Attorney Wade Smith, who represented one of the players, recalled on Thursday the storm of controversy that followed the campus, the lacrosse team and the players for months.

"Duke University never could’ve been prepared for this. I mean, who could’ve been?" Smith said. "There were people marching in the streets, people with pitchforks. The community was furious."

President Richard Brodhead and other administrators needed to take action, Smith said, so Pressler was quickly sacrificed in an effort to quell the storm.

"With all this swirling around them, their thought was, 'We’ve got to move now,'" he said.

Pressler, a former national coach of the year, said he considered it "blasphemy" to leave his team in crisis. At the same time, he was being inundated with hate mail and found signs in his front yard mocking his support of “the Duke rapists.”

"Google up one of the boys' names, my name … you saw the word ‘rape,’ ‘sexual assault’ next to your name," he tells "60 Minutes." "That just was, even today, I get emotional about it."

Given the choice of resigning or risk being fired, Pressler stepped aside. A few months later, he was hired by Bryant University in Rhode Island, where he still coaches.

“[Loyalty] is everything," he said. "Without that, as a man, you have nothing."

Mangum's rape accusations were later found to be false, all charges were dropped against the players and Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred and jailed for his handling of the case. Duke and Durham have settled lawsuits filed by the players, who have gone on to start families and have successful careers in law and finance.

"Things are not always as they seem," Smith said. "It would always be smart to wait, if you can, and let the facts clarify themselves. In retrospect, it would’ve been good for Duke to do that."

Unfortunately, he said, that lesson still needs to be learned, citing the uproar over a "Rolling Stone" story about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity that later proved to be unfounded.

"The truth is not going to just come and sit in your lap. You’ve got to look for it and find it. You’ve got to not leap to conclusions, and you’ve got to not assume people are guilty," he said. "The lesson is already gone. We didn’t really learn it for keeps."


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  • Collin McLoud Apr 10, 2015
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    Like that will ever happen. Al, Jesse, & the NAACP will come running to help liars like Crystal Mangum & tawana Brawley. But when people like Melissa McLaughlin or the 16yo girl in Winter Springs, Fl get gang raped by black men the NAACP is nowhere to be found. The NAACP pushed for the Racial Justice Act to overturn the death penalty of Marcus Robinson in which Rev. Barbour stated:
    "The time has come for us in North Carolina and America to face the ugliness of the continued realities of racial discrimination".
    Ironically the good ol Rev. Barbour never mentioned that Robinson stated two days before shooting Erik Tornblom in the face with a shotgun that he was going to "burn him a white boy".

  • Teddy Fowler Apr 10, 2015
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    The University environment in America doesn't really care about the truth anymore... they have their own narrative that is more important and the truth just gets in the way....

  • Quin Satterthwaite Apr 10, 2015
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    a senior athletics official says many in the administration regret the way the situation was handled.
    "Many", lol. Kind of telling how they were unable to say "all".

    "Duke University never could’ve been prepared for this. I mean, who could’ve been?" Smith said. "There were people marching in the streets, people with pitchforks.Just say no to pitchforks. Thats how you are prepared.

  • Jamie Lowe Apr 10, 2015
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    "Mike shouldn't have lost his job," Ya think?!?!?! Considering he was fired for a LIE!!!! There was an actual predator of women playing on the men's basketball team. Will that Mike get fired? HYPOCRITES!!!! I guess only coaches get fired at Duke over fake allegations!!!

  • Barbara Sossomon Apr 9, 2015
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    I feel for him and those boys. There is never a way to right this wrong done to them.

    It must really be hard to see all of the things that Crystal Mangum has done and gotten away with and know that you were sacrificed by Duke University and the Gang of Professors who should have been his peers, but sat in judgement over him.

    I wish him all the best!

  • Chris Vet Apr 9, 2015
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    The NAACP, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson also owe him and the team a sincere appology.