NCAA to allow Duke players to reclaim lost season
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The NCAA has granted Duke's request for an extra year of eligibility for its men's lacrosse players following rape allegations that led to the cancellation of much of last season.
The decision affects 33 players who were not seniors during the 2006 season, and it grants them a fifth year of eligibility regardless of whether they play at Duke or another school. The announcement Wednesday came just two days after the Blue Devils lost to Johns Hopkins by a goal in the NCAA championship game for the second time in three seasons.
"These individuals were involved in an unusual circumstance that we believe warrants providing them the opportunity to complete their four years of competition," said Jennifer Strawley, NCAA director of student-athlete reinstatement and membership services.
Everybody in the lacrosse world was embarrassed by what happened. But it almost feels now as if nobody's really paying for this thing.
Virginia coach Dom Starsia on being unhappy with the decision
Duke played just eight games last year before the university canceled what was left of the season as police investigated allegations a woman was sexually assaulted at a March 2006 team party. Players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and Dave Evans were later indicted, but the accusations were eventually debunked by North Carolina's top prosecutor, who called the trio "innocent" victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."
This year's seniors would be eligible next season by pursuing graduate-level course work. Coach John Danowski said he planned to talk with them in the coming weeks to see if any would be interested in staying.
"Sometimes four years runs its course and they might want to move on and forward with their lives," said Danowski, whose son, Matt, was a senior All-American for Duke. "Certainly we'll give them their space. Everybody assumed this was a long shot and we didn't allow them to think about that because we were also playing for the national championship.
"For these [seniors] ... whatever they want is fine with me," he said.
Virginia coach Dom Starsia, whose Cavaliers won the national championship in 2006, was unhappy with the decision, though he said it was about more than seeing some of Duke's top players possibly stick around a while longer.
"Everybody in the lacrosse world was embarrassed by what happened," he said. "But it almost feels now as if nobody's really paying for this thing. I would've been the first to say that Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty probably deserved another year. But I'm not sure that everybody involved here should be painted with the same broad brush and it just seems that's what the NCAA chose to do.
"Most of these wounds seem to be self-inflicted at Duke. I'm not sure if the institution has kind of held itself accountable for everything that happened," he added.
Duke defenseman Tony McDevitt said he talked with his fellow seniors after the NCAA's decision, though it was too early to say whether any would stay and put post-graduation plans on hold.
"I think it's well-deserved," said McDevitt, who is scheduled to start working with Merrill Lynch in New York in July. "When we think back to our junior years, when we lost that season and didn't have a chance to play for a title, that hurt a lot and it still hurts. To have an opportunity to play a full four years -- which is what we all expected to do when we came to Duke -- it's great and definitely worth thinking about."
The NCAA said it considered several factors, including unanimous support from the presidents of the Atlantic Coast Conference universities, according to a news release.
Seligmann and Finnerty were sophomores when they were suspended from the university after charges were filed, though they were invited back when it was clear the case had no merit. Neither accepted, with Seligmann opting this week to attend Brown University and play lacrosse there. Evans graduated the day before he was indicted last May.
Also on Wednesday, a Duke alumnus bought a full-page ad in USA Today to show support for the program. The headline on the ad reads, "For a team very few people stood by, how about a standing ovation?"
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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Lacrosse Scandal at Duke
All charges against three former Duke lacrosse players have been dropped in the probe of a sexual assault alleged to have occurred at a team party a year ago. North Carolina's top prosecutor called the players the victims of "a tragic rush to accuse." Story
• Disgraced prosecutor Nifong dropped from lawsuit
• Former prosecutor Nifong files for bankruptcy
• Three Duke lax players sue school, prosecutor
• Dept. of Justice won't investigate Nifong
• Ex-Duke lacrosse coach suing school
• Wrongly accused players sue city, ex-DA
• Duke president apologizes to accused lax players
• Ex-Duke DA Nifong serves sentence, leaves jail
• Exonerated Duke players seek $30M settlement
• Nifong reports for one-day jail sentence
• Nifong held in criminal contempt
• Nifong pleads not guilty to contempt charges
• Four lax players returning to Duke for 5th season
• Nifong apologizes for wrongdoing in Duke case
• State Bar formally orders disbarment for Nifong
• Lax player in Duke case transfers to Loyola, Md.
• Nifong a no-show at removal hearing
• Player's attorneys call for contempt on Nifong
• Nifong's predecessor named as interim replacement
• Governor set to replace Nifong as Durham D.A.
• Duke, former lacrosse players reach settlement
• Judge: Nifong must leave office immediately
• Disciplinary panel disbars Nifong
• Prosecutor Nifong says he'll resign
• Lax player's lawyer testifies about evidence
• Testimony: No conspiracy to hide evidence
• Duke prosecutor faces disbarment in trial
• NCAA grants Duke lax players extra season
• Cleared Duke player Seligmann to attend Brown
• Hopkins ends Duke's run, wins ninth lacrosse title
• Cleared Duke player Seligmann to attend Brown
• Police made mistakes in lineup
• Ex-Duke coach; University caved in to pressure
• AG's office releases report
• Cossack: Case crumbled early
• Nifong apologizes to players
• Ex-coach never lost faith
• What they're saying
• All charges dismissed
• Defense attorney in Duke lacrosse case dies
• Former prosecutor fighting charges
• Top N.C. prosecutor tours Duke lacrosse house
• Ex-DA defends self against charges
• Duke urges diversity following rape allegations
• Duke wins season opener
• Team greeted by near-record support
• Players ready to return to field
• Brown recruiting Duke player charged with assault
• Opponent wants D.A. removed from office
• Grand jurors speak out
• Hearing postponed until May
• Duke begins practice for 2007 season
• Nifong faces more ethics charges from state bar
• Nifong gets extension to answer complaint
• NAACP asks for thorough exam of case
• Prosecutor's future uncertain
• Attorney general takes over
• Prosecutor asks off case
• Defense: Accuser said one player just watched
• Judge orders paternity test
• Duke prez defends decision
• Ex-player sues over failing grade
• Lawyer: Players invited back to class
• N.C. State Bar files complaint against prosecutor
• D.A. drops rape charges
• Legal experts: Why the remaining charges?
• Judge OKs paternity tests
• Report: Accuser is pregnant
• Defense attorneys: No Duke players' DNA found on woman
• Justice Department asked to investigate Duke case