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The Damage Done
S.L. Price
June 26, 2006
DUKE LACROSSE, the 46 white players, a black dancer and the reputation of the university are forever changed. But is the case solid? Was the coach made a scapegoat? Exclusive sources describe three months of fear, disbelief and confusion over what the future holds--in and out of court
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June 26, 2006

The Damage Done

DUKE LACROSSE, the 46 white players, a black dancer and the reputation of the university are forever changed. But is the case solid? Was the coach made a scapegoat? Exclusive sources describe three months of fear, disbelief and confusion over what the future holds--in and out of court

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"In the '70s and '80s Duke's commitment to strong sports and academics worked relatively well," Wood said recently. "But as those things have grown, it's far from balanced. It's out of kilter and that has created stresses."

At a press conference on June 5 Brodhead announced the return of the lacrosse program for 2006--07, the appointment of former assistant Kevin Cassese as interim coach and a team code of conduct that includes suspensions for gambling, underage drinking, disorderly conduct and harassment. Just five days earlier Brodhead had learned that another lacrosse player, junior Matt Wilson, had been arrested in Chapel Hill on May 24 for driving while intoxicated and in possession of marijuana. (He was released pending a hearing in August.) The president had considered scuttling the program but pushed ahead. "I'm taking a gamble," Brodhead said. "I have to profoundly hope that the members of this team live up to what they say."

Brodhead has one thing in his favor: Duke will always have the devotion of people who see past its failings. After watching the press conference on TV, Pressler left his house and walked around campus for two hours. He wandered past the building with his office and the meeting room where his career as Blue Devils coach died, then to Koskinen Stadium, once just a field with a couple of sets of bleachers, now a state-of-the-art, $2.3 million facility.

He walked onto the field of perfect bermuda grass. Each corner brought a memory of plays over the years. He looked up at the scoreboard and could see the numbers again: that huge win over Virginia in 2002, the comeback victory over Penn State in 1997. He looked at the stands and could see his first daughter, 14 years old now but six again in his mind, running onto the field, win or lose, to see him. "We'd get blown out?" Pressler says, and he can barely finish the thought. "She didn't care."

All of that, gone now. He left the stadium on the verge of crying again. For a time he'd harbored the hope that he'd wake up and they'd give him his job back. Now Pressler began the walk home, 45 minutes or so, and it hit him with the cold snap of finality: I'm done. This is goodbye. For what? Why? "I can't help it," he says. "I'd be a liar to say I'm over it."

Some people, he may never forgive. But the next coach? Pressler wants him to win the national title. He still flies a Duke flag on his house, still runs in Duke shorts, still wears his Duke lacrosse hat around town. He preached it and lived it, and he isn't about to change now. All in, all the way.

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