More and more the
case has become as much about Nifong's actions as about what happened that
night. Nifong has declined repeated SI requests for an interview, and since
winning the May 2 primary, he has been markedly mum. He polled 2 to 1 among
African-American voters, an advantage that more than accounted for his victory
margin of 883 votes.
it's maybe political: I can't read his mind," Bethea-Shields says. "I'm
more concerned with the effect it has on that young lady and those 46 young men
and whoever else has been swept up in this whirlpool. If you want to say it's
about sexism or classism? It's about all that. But the basic thing is, was
there a crime? Will we ever get to the truth?"
THE THREATS began
on March 25, the day Duke athletic director Joe Alleva announced the forfeiture
of two lacrosse games. Coach Mike Pressler's in-box filled with e-mails
detailing the harm he would suffer. His wife, Susan, fielded anonymous hate
calls. He sent his eight-year-old daughter out of town. For several days the
Blue Devils' coach would get up at 5 a.m. to tear down the signs taped to his
house. DO YOUR DUTY. TURN THEM IN, read one; the rest he won't repeat. One day,
while he walked in his driveway, a car sped by and three eggs shattered at his
feet. "Boom, boom, boom," Pressler says.
He gave, until
now, no interviews. Sleep? "One eye open: You don't sleep at all,"
Pressler says of the first week after the rape allegations became public.
"If something does happen, it's my home and my family, and I've got to be
ready for that. And then there's the anxiety: What's next if the season's
canceled? If changes are made? I've got to keep my cool for my family and the
players. If the guys see I'm frazzled, it's going to filter down. But when I
was alone, you can imagine what was going through my mind."
So far, no one has
taken a more obvious hit from the case than the 46-year-old Pressler, the 2005
national coach of the year, a man who had spent the last 16 years building the
Duke program to the highest level. On April 5 he woke up still thinking he
could salvage the season. Then, around noon, news broke of McFadyen's e-mail,
which described how he would kill and skin a stripper at the next party while
gratifying himself in his " Duke issue spandex." Few outside the team
knew that McFadyen's twisted boast was a takeoff on American Psycho, the Bret
Easton Ellis novel that will be taught in at least two classes at Duke this
fall. But even those who vouch for McFadyen's character were horrified.
"Based on the context, where we were with the case?" Pressler says.
"We all let out a gasp."
"Kerosene," says one top school official. Symbolically, it was the Duke
case's equivalent of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, confirming all the
worst suspicions about the roles of class, race, sex, power and privilege at
the university. In the face of what Duke president Richard Brodhead refers to
as "the heightened, not to say hysterical" tone of those speaking out,
he had little choice. McFadyen was suspended, and five committees were formed
to investigate the program and Duke's response to the rape allegations. Half an
hour after the e-mail was made public in court, Pressler met with Alleva, who
offered him the choice of resigning or accepting an indefinite suspension. In
other words: Quit or wait to be fired.
Pressler will only
say, "I resigned." But no one close to the program buys that. As Mark
Anderson, Pressler's lawyer, puts it, "Mike was the sacrificial
arrival in 1991, Duke lacrosse was a perennial ACC also-ran; last spring the
Blue Devils lost to Johns Hopkins by a goal in the NCAA championship game.
Pressler has graduated 100% of his players, and from 2001 to '05 twice as many
of his players made the ACC academic honor roll as did lacrosse players at any
other conference school. Though everyone knew the 2006 season would be about
winning the national title, Sherwood says Pressler more often stressed
increasing the team's honor-roll numbers. After his midterm grades came out
last fall, Sherwood, a third-string walk-on out of Baldwin ( N.Y.) High, was
confronted by Pressler. The coach assigned Flannery to find him two tutors, and
Sherwood's freshman teammates began riding him about his studies. On the field
and off, the team motto applied: All in, all the way.
"Right then I
knew Pressler was another parent for me," Sherwood says.