Commentary

Former Duke players move forward

Finnerty, Seligmann enact positive change through lacrosse

Updated: March 10, 2010, 2:15 PM ET
By Anna Katherine Clemmons | ESPN.com

Editor's note: Nearly three years after they were exonerated of charges in the Duke lacrosse team's sexual assault case, Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans have moved on with their lives. Here, Seligmann and Finnerty offer an update on their careers. Evans declined to be interviewed for this story.

[+] EnlargeCollin Finnerty
Loyola AthleticsLoyola's Collin Finnerty has been named to the watch list for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given annually to the nation's top lacrosse player.

Collin Finnerty left Duke in the spring of 2006 and spent a year living at home with his family in Garden City, N.Y. With the trial continuing, his future was uncertain, but the then-junior knew he wanted to resume the sport he loved.

"I definitely still wanted to play lacrosse, but it was hard for a lot of coaches to talk to us with the case still going on."

Finnerty spoke with several coaches and said Loyola's head coach was the most receptive. "Coach [Charley] Toomey was far and away the most outgoing, and wasn't opposed to talking to me with everything that was happening, which was good to see."

Finnerty enrolled at Loyola in the fall of 2008 and -- despite having not played lacrosse in more than a year -- started every game of 2008 and '09, finishing second on the team in goals scored and assists last season. This season he's been named to the watch list for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given annually to the nation's top lacrosse player.

When he arrived at Loyola, students asked him about the Duke experience and he occasionally received long stares, but those who spoke to him were supportive.

"It wasn't anything we weren't used to getting during the case," he said.

He's kept in touch with most of his Duke classmates and has played against them four times in the past two seasons (he'll also battle them March 13). Revisiting the Durham campus last spring brought "mixed emotions … it's a place that I had a lot of negative connotations, but also a lot of great people."

Loyola is currently ranked 10th in the nation and Finnerty, a co-captain, said the team's goals are to reach the playoffs and have a shot at the national championship.

He will graduate this spring as a communications major, but isn't sure what career path he'll take. And regardless of his team's outcome, he still roots for Pressler.

Moving Forward

It's been four years since the first charges were made in the Duke lacrosse team's sexual assault case and nearly three years since the players involved, Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans, were exonerated. Here, Seligmann and Finnerty offer an update on their careers while former Duke coach Mike Pressler recounts his current successes with Bryant University.

Pressler builds Bryant's lacrosse program
Lacrosse helps former Duke players move forward

"He's a great coach, and so determined," Finnerty said. "He's made huge steps with that program, so I can only imagine they'll be successful."

Much like Finnerty, Seligmann learned after leaving Duke that continuing lacrosse might be a challenge because of the timing of their case. Seligmann, a New Jersey native, expressed interest in Ivy League schools, but couldn't talk to many head coaches until after transfer applications were due.

Brown's head coach, Lars Tiffany, was extremely supportive, Seligmann said, going so far as to save him a roster spot through the end of the trial in the spring of 2007.

"He was one of the first calls I made after we were exonerated," Seligmann said of Tiffany. "I wasn't accepted into Brown yet, but I was hopeful I would be. Either way, I wanted to thank him." Seligmann enrolled at Brown in fall 2008 and started five of 13 games for the Bears at midfield that year. He also became involved in the Innocence Project, a national nonprofit created to exonerate wrongly convicted people and reform the criminal justice system.

Seligmann first learned about the project when he, Finnerty and David Evans were invited to a benefit honoring recently freed persons who'd been wrongly convicted and served jail time. "That's when I realized this is an incredible organization," Seligmann said. "If you hear these people speak, you can't believe some of the injustices they faced."

He decided to become involved at a collegiate level, bringing the idea of raising funds for the Innocence Project to his new teammates. The team holds an annual 36-hour run and donates the proceeds to a chosen cause. In 2008, they selected the Innocence Project and raised more than $20,000. As a result of his efforts, Seligmann received the inaugural IMLCA Boston Market Humanitarian Award, which recognizes student-athletes for their strategies and efforts in addressing community needs with campus-based efforts.

Seligmann had a strong 2009 on the field, winning the most improved award after finishing as the team's fourth-leading scorer and totaling the most assists among midfielders. He's expected to build on those numbers in 2010 while playing his final season of collegiate lacrosse. He has also continued to work with the Innocence Project, recently working to organize a symposium at Brown of experts who look at current ID'ing procedures for criminals. Seligmann hopes to attend law school after graduation and perhaps one day work with those who are wrongly accused.

"I'd never compare myself to the exonerees," Seligmann said. "But they've taught me that you don't have time to be bitter about what's happened to you. You need to look back on your experiences and try to enact positive change."

Anna Katherine Clemmons is a writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.

Anna Katherine Clemmons is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine.