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Indicted lax players could return

Indicted members of the 2005-2006 men's lacrosse team Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty would likely be eligible to return to the program if felony charges against them are dropped, sources within the Department of Athletics and the Office of Student Affairs said Monday.

Several members of the athletics department, men's lacrosse head coach John Danowski and the team's captain all indicated Seligmann and Finnerty-who would be juniors-would be warmly accepted back in to the program, provided they are in good standing with the University and with the NCAA.

"Collin and Reade would be welcomed back with open arms, and that's something they're strongly considering," said team captain Ed Douglas, a redshirt senior. "We look forward to having them with us."

Seligmann and Finnerty completed their coursework for the spring semester and their NCAA eligibility should not be an issue, said Chris Kennedy, senior associate athletics director.

While criminal proceedings continue against the three indicted players-including David Evans, who graduated in the spring-Finnerty and Seligmann are not on Duke's campus this semester because of the school's policy regarding violent felony charges against its students.

Their status with the University will be re-evaluated once the criminal proceedings have reached their conclusion, said Stephen Bryan, associate dean of students and director of judicial affairs.

Once the legal process is resolved, it would be up to Seligmann and Finnerty whether or not to return. In a recent interview, Seligmann told "60 Minutes," "I can't imagine representing a school that didn't want to represent me."

"It's obviously going to be a very personal decision for both of those individuals, and I'd imagine it won't be an easy decision," Douglas said. "We understand that."

Duke's judicial process

In the hectic period after the first two indictments were issued against Seligmann and Finnerty April 17, school officials were not permitted to comment on the specifics of the two players' academic situations because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

When the indictments were handed down, Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, said it was the school's policy to suspend students facing felony charges.

"Historically, it has been the University's practice to issue an interim suspension when a student is charged with a felony or when the student's presence on the campus may create an unsafe situation," Moneta said in a statement April 18.

Bryan said Monday this is the school's policy when charges of violent crimes are pressed against students.

According to key points of Duke's "Administrative Leave of Absence" policies and procedures provided by Michele Rasmussen, assistant dean of Trinity College, school policy only permits Interim Suspensions to last seven to 14 days.

When "it becomes apparent that external legal proceedings or other extenuating circumstances will prolong the period of Interim Suspension" past two weeks, students are placed on Administrative Leave and may work with their academic dean to finish coursework for that semester.

"Students on Administrative Leave may be allowed to come on to Duke's campus, depending on their particular situation and as long as the appropriate dean's office is notified and gives permission for the student to be here," Rasmussen wrote in an e-mail.

The University's policy for Administrative Leave says students may be under such status indefinitely, at which point they are permitted to enroll at another university.

"60 Minutes" reported Finnerty and Seligmann are both enrolled in coursework at colleges near their homes.

Once criminal proceedings are complete, students in good legal standing may contact the associate dean for judicial affairs and the school will decide whether to begin its own judicial process.

"If the student is returned to good standing, a retroactive notation of "Leave of Absence" will be posted on the Duke record to replace 'Administrative Leave of Absence,'" Rasmussen said.

Seligmann and Finnerty's status with the school will most likely remain unchanged until the legal case is resolved. The next court hearing is set for Friday, during which more "second setting" motions will be heard.

Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith has previously said he will not hear dismissal motions until the third setting, which will occur sometime between now and next spring, when the trial is expected to begin.

NCAA eligibility

Despite missing the fall semester at Duke, it would still be possible for Seligmann and Finnerty to be academically eligible by NCAA standards in the spring if the case does not move forward to trial.

"I can't respond specifically as to whether Collin or Reade would be immediately eligible," Jamie Pootrakul, the athletic department's director of compliance wrote in an e-mail. "But in general, in order to be eligible for practice and competition, a student-athlete must be enrolled in a full-time program leading toward a degree and must meet all progress-toward degree requirements."

The NCAA does have a "Missed Term exception," which allows student-athletes to "prorate some hours of actual attendance if they miss a complete term or consecutive terms at one time during collegiate enrollment," Pootrakul said. Seligmann and Finnerty would be likely candidates to take advantage of this exception, Kennedy said.

In addition to the missed term exception, Duke would be allowed to request a waiver of "progress-toward-degree rules" for "any circumstances the NCAA finds would warrant a waiver of the normal application of the rules, based on objective evidence," Pootrakul explained.

"I don't think there's going to be any eligibility issue," Kennedy said. "The only question is how long it'll take. If it stretches into spring and next fall, you would have to request some type of waiver. If this fall is the only term they miss it won't be a problem."

Danowski said he sees no problem in allowing the two back on the team.

"Why wouldn't they be?" he said. "If the school says they're academically eligible and they're athletically eligible, if and when the charges are dropped, we would welcome them back."

Preparing for the spring season

With Duke's first game of the 2007 season-a Feb. 24 home contest against Dartmouth-exactly four months away, the athletics department and the team are preparing for the increased attention the Blue Devils' games will likely garner.

Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said his department is reviewing safety measures for the spring to prevent any potential incidents, and he and others-including Aaron Graves, associate vice president for campus safety and security-will meet before the end of the semester to draft a more formal plan.

"My number one concern is for everyone's safety," Alleva said.

During the spring, members of the team and several members of the athletics department received death threats, Kennedy said, adding that student-athletes' safety was one of the primary concerns for cancelling the 2006 season.

The athletics department is considering all options-including an increased security presence or charging admission to games-to prevent potential incidents.

Alleva said he was not in favor of charging admission, and Kennedy said if that change were made, students would still be admitted free.

"The one thing I've learned through this whole thing is I don't know enough to anticipate anything," Kennedy said. "It would be foolish not to be concerned about security. We want to make [Koskinen Stadium] as tight as possible."

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