Five seniors from the 2006-2007 men's lacrosse team have gained acceptance into graduate programs at Duke and are exploring their options for returning next season.
Matt Danowski, Dan Loftus, Nick O'Hara and Mike Ward were accepted into the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program and Tony McDevitt was admitted into the Fuqua School of Business, a source inside the Department of Athletics said.
Ward-who already had been accepted to several law schools, including ACC-rival Maryland-was one of two players who had asked for his release from Duke earlier this summer, head coach John Danowski said.
Now he is the newest Blue Devil to be thrown into the mix of players seeking to exercise their extra year of eligibility at Duke.
Non-seniors from the cancelled 2005-2006 season were given the opportunity to compete for a fifth year when the NCAA granted Duke's season-of-competition waiver request May 30.
Despite being admitted to Duke, the players still face the complication of finances: whether scholarships will be available and, if not, whether a return to Duke is financially feasible.
As a result of last season's small recruiting class, there might be some athletic scholarship money remaining.
"For next year, it really kind of worked out perfectly because we tried not to overload and make the money more balanced," Danowski said. "With only three scholarships last year, we didn't want to make [the class of 2011] out of whack, so we held some money back.... We didn't plan on anybody returning, it just worked out that way."
The coach said he did not pressure any of last year's seniors, including his son,to return.
The day after the 2007 National Championship, Danowski held a team meeting, aware that the petition for eligibility had been filed but still unsure of its outcome. At that meeting, he emphasized that each player's decision should be based on his individual growth and not lacrosse.
"I'm not going to tell you to come back because I think you're a great player," Danowski said. "There's no such thing here as a hired gun. You're not coming back here just to play lacrosse. You're coming back here because this is the best possible thing for you."
McDevitt, a third-team All-American in 2007, had a job with Merrill Lynch lined up for the fall. In making his decision, McDevitt took his coach's advice to heart.
"I get a chance to enhance my educational experience at Duke and to further my résumé," McDevitt said. "To get two degrees from Duke-that would be unbelievable."
The defenseman also said the chance to return to the field played a role in his choice to try to come back.
"We get to play another year," McDevitt said. "And you get to play lacrosse with your best friends.... We've been blessed with the opportunity to play again-an opportunity that we think is just and right."
Overall, 33 players from the 2005-2006 team were granted an extra year of eligibility, meaning that other seniors from last year's team still could attempt to return to the Blue Devils. Additionally, juniors and seniors on the 2007-2008 squad will face similar decisions at the end of their fourth years.
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