Two months after a whirlwind of controversy precipitated the end of the 2006 men's lacrosse team season, President Richard Brodhead announced the reinstatement of the program under stricter oversight and a new interim head coach Monday.
Although three members of the 2006 team-David Evans, Trinity '06, and juniors Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann-were indicted on rape allegations an exotic dancer made after an off-campus party March 13, Brodhead said he thought it was appropriate to allow the return of the program with several new initiatives aimed at preventing future incidents.
Apart from criminal allegations, controversy surrounding the case raised several issues regarding the behavior of the team within the community, and Brodhead said he would not have brought the team back without a "clear statement of the conduct we expect from the players going forward."
The lacrosse team pledged to adhere to a self-imposed code of conduct, a precursor to the over-arching policy for all athletes that Director of Athletics Joe Alleva is currently preparing.
In addition, Brodhead announced a re-structuring of the way the Department of Athletics interfaces with the University. He also named the members of the Presidential Council that will act in an advisory role to the ongoing Campus Culture Initiative, a committee designed to examine undergraduate social life.
"I am, I know, taking something of a risk in reinstating men's lacrosse," said Brodhead, who was accompanied to the press conference by Alleva, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Robert Steel, Athletic Council Chair Kathleen Smith and Board member Daniel Blue.
"None of us is free from the liability to err, that's why we're human. To make a mistake, to recognize it as such and take responsibility for making a change might be said to be the essence of education. That's the opportunity that is now available to our team," Brodhead said.
Kevin Cassese, Trinity '03, a 25-year-old, two-time All-American, was named interim head coach while Alleva begins a national search for a permanent head coach. Cassese, who returned to Duke last summer as an assistant coach, was introduced at a press conference Tuesday.
"Duke is in my veins," Cassese said. "I have full confidence that I will be able to lead the program in the future."
Several members of the lacrosse team attended Cassese's press conference, cheering loudly when he was introduced.
"It's kind of a bittersweet thing," said Casey Carroll, a senior defenseman on the team. "We're all ecstatic on one end that we get to represent our school again, but in the back of our minds it'll always be [former head] coach [Mike] Pressler having to leave and what's happened with Collin, Reade and Dave."
Carroll said Cassese, despite his age, has the complete respect of the team and he and his teammates were eager to move forward. Alleva said Cassese would be considered for the head coach position but Pressler would not be.
Brodhead and Alleva emphasized that Pressler had served the program well both on and off the field. The Coleman Committee, which Brodhead charged April 5 to investigate the culture of the men's lacrosse team, did conclude, however, that there was a pattern of misbehavior within the program, much of which was said to have been caused by alcohol abuse. The report found that Pressler had taken steps to clean up the team's behavior prior to the March 13 incident.
A new head coach will provide symbolic meaning for the Blue Devils going forward, Brodhead said. "We're not going to go back to the old program," Brodhead said. "If and when we restarted lacrosse, I always said, we're going to start a new history. And it's just really for the point of making a new start that we will need a new coach."
Although several media organizations began to report the program's return Friday afternoon, Brodhead said he did not make his final decision until Saturday. Brodhead met with the entire team in early May and told the players they needed to make a commitment to higher standards of off-the-field conduct.
Members of the team drafted a mission statement for the program as well as a "team standard" for conduct.
"I do recognize that, as stated in the Coleman report, there have been behavioral issues involving team members in the past and these issues cannot continue," Cassese said. "I intend to hold all team members accountable to the set of team standards they have presented."
Brodhead also announced Monday that he will assume "day-by-day oversight" of the athletic department, which previously had reported through Executive Vice President Tallman Trask.
In addition, Alleva or a senior athletic department official will be included in the Provost's Undergraduate Leadership Group and changes will be made to the Athletic Council.
"Oversight of athletics is done very differently at universities," Brodhead said. "Athletics cuts across every dimension of the University.. Rather than having one of the officers have responsibility, I will take responsibility for overseeing the wholeness of athletics, and then I'll be in a position to make sure athletics interfaces with all of the operations relevant to it."
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Several of the problems outlined by the committees-including communications issues between the Duke University Police Department, the Office of Student Affairs and athletics-are being streamlined, Brodhead said. The new system's aim is to provide a new level of accountability across different parts of the University.
Brodhead's fifth committee, the Presidential Council, will be headed by Roy Bostock, Duke '62, and Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, Women's College '67, and will advise the president and the Board of Trustees as it reviews Duke's responses to the issues raised by the lacrosse incident.
Brodhead joked that it seemed as if he had received the advice of "everyone in America" on the future of the men's lacrosse team, and he also acknowledged that some faculty members had questioned the role of Division I athletics at Duke. Flanked by two members of the Board of Trustees, Brodhead re-affirmed Duke's commitment to success in both athletics and academics, better reconciling the values of each.
"Duke has great traditions of athletic excellence and I am eager to continue those traditions," Brodhead said. "But as this University has long recognized, we must pursue these athletic goals within the context of larger education values and not as ends in themselves."
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