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Brodhead: Duke Men's Lacrosse Team To Play Next Season

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DURHAM, N.C. — Duke University announced Monday that the school's men's lacrosse program will resume play in the fall, but under stronger administrative standards.

"I am, I know, taking a risk in reinstating men's lacrosse," Duke University President Richard Brodhead said in a prepared statement released Monday. "The reinstatement is inevitably probationary. ... (If) we did not allow these players the chance to take responsibility for creating a new history for their sport at Duke, we would be denying another very fundamental value: the belief in the possibility of learning from experience, the belief in education itself."

Possible violations include underage drinking, disorderly conduct and harassment. Student-athletes who commit a violation would first be given counseling and community service. A second violation would lead to a three-game suspension. A third violation would bring forth a season-long suspension.

Students who fail to notify the team's head coach and the athletic director of a violation within 24 hours would be immediately suspended from the team.

Brodhead said he and the school's athletics administrators would rethink their decision if they see any repeat of "patterns of irresponsible, individual or team behaviors familiar from the past."

"I told the team when I met with them last month that, if and when we were to resume the play of lacrosse, we simply could not return to the status quo. 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," Brodhead said in his statement.

In April, a grand jury indicted sophomores Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault. A grand jury indicted team co-captain David Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md., on the same charges in May.

An exotic dancer, who is also a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, told police three men raped her in a bathroom at an off-campus house where team members lived. Defense attorneys have strongly proclaimed the players' innocence.

In the wake of the allegations, Brodhead suspended the highly ranked team, which reached the national championship game in 2005, from play and later canceled the remainder of its season.

Long-time coach Mike Pressler resigned and Brodhead launched internal investigations into the culture of the program and the school's reaction to the rape allegations.

In the statement, Brodhead also said that 25-year-old Kevin Cassese, a two-time Duke captain and U.S. national team player, will serve as interim coach of the team while the school searches for a permanent coach.

A faculty committee concluded that players on the team regularly abused alcohol and misbehaved, but also found the players to be serious students with no record of racial or sexual violence. The group recommended Duke maintain a lacrosse program, but with much stronger university oversight.

The committee recommended that there be an explicit code of conduct for all athletes and that they be held to a higher standard than other Duke students because their actions reflect more strongly on the school. It also found that there should be better communication between the student affairs and athletics departments. The committee concluded that many times poor student behavior went unchecked because the departments did not share information.

In Monday's letter, Brodhead also announced changes in the oversight of athletics. Beginning immediately, Brodhead said he will assume direct responsibility for overseeing the athletics department. After canceling the team's season, the school allowed team members and incoming recruits to contact other schools about playing elsewhere, although no current team members have announced plans to transfer. At least two of seven recruits have said they plan to go elsewhere.

Cassese, from Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., led the Duke men's lacrosse team to a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference championships and was named the ACC Player of the Year in 2001. He concluded his career in 2003 with 80 goals and 38 assists and currently ranks 25th all-time at Duke with his 118 career points.

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