Local News

Duke Lacrosse Team Ready to Play After a Year Off

Posted February 24, 2007 11:58 a.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2007 12:32 p.m. EST

— Since rape allegations first surfaced 11 months ago against three players, Duke University's men's lacrosse team has operated under a microscope. Now, the attention continues as the team gears up Saturday for its first game since the season was canceled last year.

Most college lacrosse practices don't draw cameras and crowds. Duke practices, however,  have generated a lot of attention this year.

"I've never seen this sport before," said Weerapon Bordeerat while watching Thursday's practice.

The extensive media coverage surrounding the case has given birth to new and curious fans. Bordeerat arrived from Taiwan six months ago. He said he became interested in the sport after hearing news coverage about the investigation.

Team co-captain Matt Danowski is getting used to all the onlookers.

“All the media attention has given people insight into our lives and the people we are,” Danowski said. “We welcome it."

Nearly a year ago, Duke's lacrosse team was considered, by some, to be the bad boys of college athletics. Rape allegations plagued them along with rumored incidents with rowdy and rude behavior.
Now, sentiment has shifted.

New head coach John Danowski said he sees the media attention as a positive thing.

"We want to see people come out, maybe because they have a fascination with this event, on Saturday, to say, ‘That was a great game, a great event. I'm coming back,'" he said.

Saturday's home opener is expected to draw a large crowd, and the school is beefing up security. The game will also be televised live nationally on ESPN-U.

In recent years, Duke was lucky to get live coverage of two games a season. This year, five matches are already slated for national coverage.

"I think it's going to be cool," Matt Danowski said. "I mean, it's not that often we get to play on national television. I hope we look good."

The coach and the players acknowledge that with all the attention comes responsibility. They said their goal this year isn't just to win a national championship, but to represent their school and their sport well.

On Saturday, players will wear warm-up jerseys with the numbers 45, 3 and 6 to represent the three players accused of sexual assault and kidnapping Collin Finnerty, David Evans and Reade Seligmann.

John Danowski told WRAL that he's been helping Finnerty look at lacrosse programs at other schools. Seligmann is considering an offer from Brown University. Evans graduated last year.