Local News

Former Duke Lacrosse Coach Speaks Out About Resignation

Posted June 22, 2006 9:35 a.m. EDT
Updated January 7, 2007 12:02 p.m. EST

— The hardest part of stepping down as Duke University's men's lacrosse coach nearly three months ago was telling the players, former coach Mike Pressler told Sports Illustrated in an interview featured in this week's issue.

Pressler -- who before his departure, took the National Coach of the Year award and ended the previous season with a record-setting 17 wins -- resigned April 5, nearly one month after an exotic dancer told Durham police that three lacrosse athletes raped her at a team party on March 13.

Pressler told the magazine he wanted to stay at Duke, but that Duke athletic director Joe Alleva gave him the choice or resigning or accepting an indefinite suspension.

"I felt if I was allowed to continue, I could solve any problems," he said. "... Anytime I'd been aware of something, I took care of it," he said. "But the administration felt that wasn't going to be the case. For me to buck, that would not be in the best interest of those 47 kids and all the alumni. Take a bullet? I'd do it again."

In fact, a university committee studied the culture of the lacrosse team and found that Pressler disciplined players whenever he knew about a problem. It also found that many times other campus departments did not alert the coach to problems.

The coach's attorney is quoted as saying Pressler was the "sacrifical lamb."

Neither Pressler nor Alleva were available for comment on Wednesday, but Pressler's attorney told WRAL that the former Duke coach wants to stay in coaching, but currently does not have any job prospects.

In his comments to SI, Pressler said he hoped people would remember more than just the rape allegations when recalling his tenure at Duke.

"I'm certainly not proud of this moment. I'm certainly not proud of the situation we're in. I'm certainly not proud of what happened on March 13," he said. "But in the end you're not judged by one game or one season. You're judged by the body of your work. And in the end I think our body of work has been very positive for a lot of people."

Just weeks after his resignation, a Durham County grand jury indicted Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty of Garden City, N.Y., on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. David Evans, a team co-captain from Bethesda, Md., was indicted on the same charges in May.

In the midst of the investigation, Duke University President Richard Brodhead also suspended the men's lacrosse season, but a Duke committee, last month, recommended that the team resume play next season.

Pressler's interview appears in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday.