The independent news organization of Duke University

Committee recommends lacrosse team's reinstatement

The committee charged with investigating the on- and off-campus conduct of the men's lacrosse team reported to President Richard Brodhead Monday that the program should resume with "appropriate oversight."

The committee, chaired by School of Law Professor James Coleman, also advocated the need for a student-athlete code of conduct, improved communication between student affairs and athletics and a clearer University-wide alcohol policy.

"We recommend that the lacrosse program continues, but that it be carefully monitored and that a mechanism be put in place to fairly and actually hold our athletes to the high standard of conduct their classmates, professors, parents and the community expects of them," Coleman said at a press conference Monday evening.

Coleman said problems pertaining to the lacrosse team stemmed predominantly from alcohol. The report concluded that there was no evidence for a culture of racism or sexual assault or misconduct.

Senior Associate Director of Athletics Chris Kennedy, who oversees the lacrosse team, said Monday the question of when a search for a new head coach to replace Mike Pressler-who resigned under pressure from the University April 5-was "premature."

Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said last week the contents of the report would help determine the future of the lacrosse program.

Through a statement released by the University, Brodhead applauded the committee members for their thorough work, but he did not take a firm stance on the program's future.

"The Coleman committee's report will give us useful information as we consider the future of men's lacrosse at Duke," Brodhead said. "We now have something we have lacked to date, namely, careful, evidence-based inquiries into student behavior and institutional process. I look forward to discussing the reports with members of the Academic Council and others in the days and weeks ahead."

Alleva said last week all current juniors on the team said they planned on returning to Duke next year, with or without a lacrosse season. Kennedy said Monday the report would provide "another piece of information" for current players and recruits considering leaving Duke's men's lacrosse program.

The 25-page report was compiled through interviews of administrators, police officials, former players and many other individuals associated with the program. The committee did not interview current men's lacrosse players.

The committee found that the lacrosse players were by and large "academically and athletically responsible students" who have graduated at a 100 percent rate and taken an active role in the community.

But the committee also said under the influence of alcohol, the team has been irresponsible and have "an extensive record of repetitive misconduct."

"We certainly didn't view that this was a case of boys being boys," Coleman said. "What was missing from the record that we see was any effort at all at responsibility. The conduct was repetitive, the conduct was excessive. The conduct occured not only in the fall semester, but also in the spring during their season."

Coleman acknowledged, however, that problems related to alcohol are not limited to the lacrosse team, student-athletes in general, or Duke.

"The record doesn't suggest that it is a problem limited to athletes. It involves the entire undergraduate population," Coleman said. "We certainly assume this is not a problem unique to Duke."

Coleman's comments echo what Alleva told The Chronicle in an interview April 24. Alleva said he did not think the lacrosse team culture was outside of the mainstream of other student-athletes at Duke or the student population at large.

"I look at the lacrosse team and really a lot of our teams as fraternities," he said. "They hang out together and they party together. I would guess their behavior is not significantly different than other male living groups."

The report did not blame anyone specifically, instead primarily referring to breakdowns in communication between those who knew of inappropriate behavior and those in the athletic department who are ultimately responsible for overseeing athletes' behavior.

The committee concluded that there was not adequate communication between the Office of Judicial Affairs and the Athletic Department, specifically former head coach Mike Pressler.

"We made clear that if that standard is going to be enforced by coaches then there has to be a mechanism so that coaches are aware of disciplinary problems that their players are having," Coleman said. "That doesn't exist at Duke right now."

Similar to what Alleva said last week, the committee recommended an institutionalized "code of conduct" to hold student-athletes to a "higher standard" of behavior.

The reasoning presented by the report was that "it is uniformly considered an honor and a privilege to be an athlete at Duke University and that responsibility should not be taken lightly."

The future of the lacrosse team will not be known until Brodhead makes further statements on it. No timetable was given Monday for that decision.


Share and discuss “Committee recommends lacrosse team's reinstatement” on social media.