EDITOR'S NOTE: The fallout from Duke University's lacrosse scandal earlier this year left the program in disarray. What will the future hold for one of the nation's top collegiate programs? Joseph Santoliquito talked with a pair of Blue Devils' recruits to find out how they weathered the uncertainty. As you'll see in this story, one of those recruits, Max Quinzani from Duxbury, Mass., chose to stick with Duke. Read about the other, Ken Clausen from Hill School in Pennsylvania, who ultimately decided to enroll elsewhere, here.
TOWSON, Md. -- Max Quinzani didn't always want to play lacrosse at Duke. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound attack player out of Duxbury (Mass.) High had other choices. But when Quinzani, a three-time All-American, visited the Durham, N.C., campus last year, he fell in love, both with the place and with the Blue Devils' lacrosse team.
It was his only official recruiting visit.
He gave a verbal commitment to Duke coach Mike Pressler, and put his name on a national letter of intent during the early signing period on Nov. 1, 2005. His college life and playing career was set. Or so he thought.
Four months later, everything changed for the player who established the national high school scoring record with 577 career points, breaking by 24 the previous mark held by Casey Powell. In the wake of the infamous March 13 Duke lacrosse party, the team for whom his heart was set on playing was in upheaval. Rape, sexual assault and kidnapping charges eventually were filed against three players, and the rest of the team's 2006 season was suspended.
That shock was then compounded by a phone call to Quinzani in early April. It was Pressler.
"I had no idea what was going on, and Coach Pressler spoke to my dad and then he spoke to me for a good 10, 15 minutes," Quinzani said on Sunday at the Under Armour Classic played in Towson. "And he told me he was sorry for everything and it would have been a pleasure to coach me. He told me he was going to resign. But I have total respect for the man -- 100 percent. He built that team from the ground up. He did a great job, and did everything for me and my family. He called me to actually tell me that he was going to resign, and it was because of the incident.
"When I went down there, I went to the house where the incident occurred, and all of the guys seemed very cool. I stayed with some of the players. They took care of me. They were the kind of guys I wanted to play with. There was nothing extraordinary or out of control when I was down there, so hearing what happened came as a shock to me. Coach Pressler explained to me that he was being forced to resign. [Pressler handed in his resignation to Duke president Richard H. Brodhead on April 5.]
"He explained to me that he was the fall guy for this, and that he had to take the brunt of the punishment for something that really didn't happen. Some of the players actually called me after the incident happened. They were very adamant about how the media misconstrued the facts. They told me that everyone was staying and no one was transferring. They told me that Duke was still a great place to go."
Quinzani, though, started to have doubts.
"Right when it happened, watching the news, it painted Duke in a pretty bleak picture."
According to Quinzani, Duke released all seven of its lacrosse recruits from their commitments. Quinzani, Parker McKee and Terrence Molinari opted to stay with their plans and enroll in Durham. Scott Kocis, Craig Dowd, Ken Clausen and Tom Dodge decided to leave.
Kocis and Dowd intend now to go to Georgetown. Clausen will enroll at defending national champion Virginia. Dodge will go to Penn.
Quinzani's decision to stick with the Blue Devils came only after he explored other options. He tried both Princeton and Penn, but because it was so late in the admissions process, neither school accepted his application.
"I have to say: A month ago, I tried to get out, and I couldn't apply to those schools," Quinzani said. "Then I got a call from Duke interim head coach Kevin Cassese, and he told me that Duke wasn't a bad place after all. He's kept in constant contact with me and my family."
Cassese even visited his home after Quinzani scored nine points in the Massachusetts Division I (large school) state championship game to lead Duxbury past Xaverian
Brothers, 14-7, on June 14.
"Coach Cassese told me and my family that the atmosphere at Duke was fine and that there weren't race riots, that it was a college town," Quinzani said. "My parents wanted to know how the social scene would be. The media depicted these guys as drunken hooligans, but that was nothing what I saw when I was there. My parents had concerns that I would be going into this drunken environment, and the perception [in] the media was that these guys were a bunch of animals.
"If Princeton or Penn would have accepted my application, I would have gone. I was wondering if I was believing a lie from all of these kids. The original story that coach Pressler told me was true. I'm ashamed at what the TV said. I had some doubts because of what the media was feeding us, but I suppose I'm a little mad that I let the media shake me like that. I have no doubts anymore.
"I almost had to fall in love with the school again."
Joseph Santoliquito is the managing editor of RING Magazine and a
frequent contributor to ESPN.com.