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Committee Recommends Duke Lacrosse Team Resume Play Next Season

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DURHAM, N.C. — A Duke University committee recommended Monday that the school's lacrosse team resume play next season, but said the team needs strict monitoring because of a history of problems tied to alcohol.

"Although the pattern of misconduct in recent years by the lacrosse team is alarming, the evidence reviewed ... does not warrant suspension of the sport," a committee of seven faculty members wrote in a report.

Duke suspended the highly ranked lacrosse team from play last month, following allegations that a black woman was raped and beaten by three white men at a team party where she had been hired to strip.

A grand jury has indicted two players on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault, and District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he hopes to charge a third person.

The report released Monday night did not consider the rape allegations, but instead focused on the behavior of the team during the past five years. It found that while the team performed well academically and athletically, "a large number of the members of the team have been socially irresponsible when under the influence of alcohol."

"We looked closely but found no compelling evidence to support claims that these players are racist or have a record of sexual violence," said Duke law professor James E. Coleman Jr., who led the committee.

The rape allegations led Duke to accept the resignation of coach Mike Pressler and begin several internal investigations, including the examination of the lacrosse program.

In a statement released with the report, Duke President Richard Brodhead did not offer an opinion on the panel's recommendation, saying only that the report will "give us useful information as we consider the future of men's lacrosse at Duke in the weeks ahead."

"The picture that emerges is complex, with players praised as respectful to employees who worked near the team, and criticized for their inability to learn from multiple citations for inappropriate behavior," Brodhead said.

Coleman said the committee's work ended with the report.

"I hope the community will read the report and then make its own judgment about whether the record warrants suspension or termination of the program," he said. "We didn't think so."

The report concluded that the disciplinary record of the lacrosse team was "noticeably worse" than other athletic teams at Duke, with a larger percentage of lacrosse players involved in alcohol-related incidents.

But, Coleman said, "the conduct of lacrosse players did not differ from the misconduct of other Duke students who drink too much and unfairly impose upon their neighbors."

The report also found that university administrators learned of the team's "extensive disciplinary record" in 2004, but except for coach Mike Pressler and the school's dean of judicial affairs, no one else at Duke "appears to have treated the lacrosse team's disciplinary record as a matter of serious concern."

Pressler's attorney said earlier Monday he would have no comment on the report. Pressler was among the many people interviewed by the committee, including parents of team members. The group only spoke with one current member of the team.

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