"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.