Local News

Duke, Ex-Lacrosse Coach Reach Settlement

Posted June 7, 2007 9:04 p.m. EDT
Updated June 8, 2007 12:29 p.m. EDT

— Duke University has reached a financial settlement with Mike Pressler, the former men's lacrosse coach who lost his job in the wake of since-debunked rape allegations involving his team.

Though the university would not disclose terms of the deal, a school official confirmed Thursday that Duke had reached "an amicable, fair financial settlement" with Pressler a few months ago.

"Coach Pressler is an excellent coach and did a great job building the Duke men's lacrosse program," John Burness, Duke's vice president for public affairs, told The Associated Press. "Unfortunately, last spring, it was essential for the team to have a change of leadership in order to move forward.

"We regret the negative consequences this decision had on Coach Pressler. He and Duke reached an amicable, fair financial settlement in which Duke recognized his contributions to the lacrosse program and the circumstances of his departure."

Lee Southren, Pressler's agent, declined to comment Thursday night.

Pressler was in his 16th season at Duke when a woman told police that she had been attacked by three players at a March 2006 team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper. The allegations eventually led the university in Durham to cancel the remainder of the highly ranked team's season and accept Pressler's resignation.

Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans were indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. They were later cleared by state prosecutors, who called them "innocent" victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."

The Blue Devils returned to field this season and reached the NCAA championship game under first-year coach John Danowski, losing by a goal to Johns Hopkins on Memorial Day.

Pressler is the only Duke official who lost a job as a result of the case, even though an internal university investigation concluded he was the only school employee to take significant action when accusations of wrongdoing – including disorderly conduct and public urination – emerged about the lacrosse team.

He finished his Duke career with 153 wins, three Atlantic Coast Conference championships and 10 trips to the NCAA tournament. He was named the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association's coach of the year in 2005. He now coaches at Division II Bryant in Rhode Island.

Pressler has helped write a book, "It's Not About the Truth," about his experience. It goes on sale Tuesday, the same day the prosecutor who labeled the lacrosse players "hooligans" goes on trial for several alleged ethics violations tied to his handling of the case.