At 4:30 p.m. on
that April Wednesday, Pressler called a team meeting to tell the players their
season was over and he was finished. Two years ago his brother Scott died at 41
of a heart attack and Pressler gave the eulogy. This, he says, was even harder.
In tears, the man no player had ever seen cry stood in the lacrosse meeting
room and told the players how proud he was of them, how he didn't blame them.
He hugged each one.
"All of us
feel guilt," Zash says. "Whether we're choirboys or not, we were part
of a team that got him thrown under the bus. To see him be the fall guy for
something he wasn't involved in or had any clue about what was going on? It's
horrible. We feel horrible for that."
It got worse. On
April 10 Pressler's daughter flew back into Durham. She had grown up with the
team--"my boys," she called them--and had an eight-year-old's certainty
that the family would stay in Durham forever. Hadn't they just put an addition
on their house? The grass hadn't even grown in yet.
Pressler told her,
"Daddy's going to have to move on. I'm not
going to coach
your boys. But I promise you, your life won't be affected, you can go to all
your camps in the summer." She asked if she could have a boat if they move
near the water, a horse if they move out West. She asked about friends.
"Your friends will always be your friends," Pressler told her.
"We'll visit them, they'll visit you. But guess what? You're going to have
another group of friends. So...."
Her lip began to
quiver. He felt his eyes sting. Daddy spoke softly, trying hard not to
And what about
Duke? More than money or race, the factor that made the rape case such a media
sensation, that gave it the legs for its continuing run across the cable
universe, was the school's long-standing and at times obnoxiously trumpeted
sense of itself. Once a superb regional university like Wake Forest in nearby
Winston-Salem, Duke in the past 20 years has evolved into an educational force
not far behind Harvard or Yale while expanding its reach as a sports power.
Really, only two universities, Stanford and Duke, have been able to
consistently utter the phrase, "We do it the right way" without hearing
snickers; with three national titles in basketball since 1991 and a 96%
athletic graduation rate, Duke seemed to have mastered the balance between high
academic standards and big-time athletics.
"If this was
Mississippi or Penn State," says John Burness, Duke's senior vice president
for public and government relations, "it wouldn't be as big a story."
Such a statement carries more than a hint of smugness, and perhaps a bit of
truth. Duke is special, yet for those inclined to schadenfreude, the school's
need to remind everyone of that makes a Blue Devils scandal a bit more tasty.
"A lot of people hate, hate, hate Duke because it has this image of the
golden child," says Lisker. "They're happy to see the golden child
Yet the most
vociferous critics seemed to rise off the Duke campus. In mid-April The
Chronicle, the student newspaper, published a full-page ad headlined WHAT DOES
A SOCIAL DISATER SOUND LIKE? and signed by 88 faculty members. The ad fixed the
lacrosse case as an emblem for sexual and racial oppression. Peter Wood, a
history professor who had played college lacrosse and coached the women's club
team, spoke of how, in June 2004, he had written a concerned letter to the dean
of arts and sciences. The 10 lacrosse players in his class, he says, did well
academically. But their clannishness disturbed him, as did the fact that they
skipped one of his classes for a morning practice.