- May 16, 2014
SMITHFIELD, R.I. — There is more salt in the salt-and-cinnamon beard, but otherwise, Mike Pressler is about the same these days, eight years after he left Duke as the most infamous lacrosse coach in the nation.
The fiery eyes, the gruff, rumbling voice, the solemn intensity of purpose all remain. He keeps his hat brim pulled low, a whistle always hanging from his neck, notes poking out of his back pocket. But most surprisingly, he is again leading a men’s lacrosse team with hopes of playing until Memorial Day.
This time, it is tiny Bryant University, in northern Rhode Island, the only program that would return Pressler’s job-begging phone calls in the summer of 2006, after the rape investigation involving three members of the Duke lacrosse team embroiled Durham, N.C., and the nation.
All charges against the players were eventually dropped, but Pressler, the only Duke employee to lose his job in the aftermath, had to salvage his promising career about as far from Tobacco Road and the Atlantic Coast Conference as conceivable.
Bryant, a Division II team when he took over, is in only its sixth year at the Division I level, but last Sunday, the unseeded Bulldogs stunned second-seeded Syracuse, 10-9, in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament, becoming the first Bryant team to advance in the postseason since the move to Division I.
Bryant (16-4), which defeated Siena in a play-in game, will face No. 7 seed Maryland (12-3) on Saturday at Hofstra, Pressler’s first appearance in the Round of 8 since he led Duke to the national title game in 2005. His phone has blown up with text messages from friends and former players.
Memories have flooded back. Not all of them are bad.
“Time,” he said, “is a great healer.”
Pressler sat in a small coaches’ office off the locker room near the practice fields on Thursday, wearing a camouflage hat and brown sunglasses. He leaned forward and spoke softly but did not deflect questions about the months that upended his life and career.
“I will never dismiss it,” Pressler, 54, said. “It’s never dismissed in our minds. Sometimes, we’ll go weeks or months and it’s never brought up. This week, it’s brought up a lot.”
He rarely mentioned his Duke days without using the word “we,” referring to him and his wife, Susan, and their two daughters, Janet and Maggie, who were 14 and 8 in the spring of 2006, when 46 members of the lacrosse team hosted an off-campus house party and hired two exotic dancers. One of the women falsely accused three players of sexually assaulting her.
During the investigation, the Duke season was canceled after eight games. Pressler was painted as an aloof, if not enabling, leader whose undisciplined team had already had recurrent run-ins with the law. He was fired after 16 seasons with the Blue Devils.
His home, in Duke Forest, was within earshot of the public-address system at the football stadium. It soon became the epicenter of a national uproar. Television trucks parked in his front yard. Pressler could not go for a jog without hearing helicopters hovering overhead. His house was vandalized, he received threatening emails and his daughters were taunted in school.
“The longer we stayed in that environment,” Pressler said, “the less healthy it was for myself and, especially, my family.”
He added, “There was just too much going on in a negative way to subject my family to any more of that, especially since I was no longer the coach.”
Pressler recounted many of those memories in a book, “It’s Not About The Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered,” published in 2008 as a promise fulfilled to his Duke players on his final day as coach. He has returned to the Duke campus only twice, for funerals in the university chapel. (Pressler reached a confidential settlement agreement with Duke in 2010 on a breach-of-contract suit brought over slanderous remarks by a former senior administrator to the news media.)
“Smithfield is home,” Pressler said. “It’s been eight terrific years for the family.”
As the rape investigation simmered into August 2006, Bryant Athletic Director Bill Smith called a friend from high school, Joe Alberici, the Army coach and a former Pressler assistant. Smith said he needed to use caution to bring Pressler on campus for an interview. After all, he was the most recognizable disgraced coach in the United States.
Smith listened to recommendations from Alberici and others, followed news media reports and read what James E. Coleman Jr., a Duke law professor, and a faculty committee had written about the case and Pressler’s role. He said he concluded that hiring Pressler was a “no brainer.”
Not everyone on campus was convinced. Smith said that about a week after he hired Pressler, he convened a meeting with a handful of faculty members and an administrator who had expressed concerns about Pressler. Smith said that he laid out his notes and that everyone left the meeting feeling “extremely positive.”
During an interview with the university president, Ronald K. Machtley, Pressler said he was told there was no guarantee that Bryant would move up to Division I.
“There was a maybe,” Pressler said.
It hardly mattered.
“I couldn’t be picky,” he said.
By the fall of 2008, however, Bryant was officially a member of the Northeast Conference, and money has quickly poured in. The university will soon announce plans for the construction of a multisport indoor practice complex and a 10,000-square-foot weight room.
Pressler’s personal history was something the players knew but rarely spoke of. But last Sunday, they found the right moment.
Before the game at Syracuse, the senior captain J K Poirier gathered his teammates together in the locker room.
“Guys,” he told them, “let’s do this for ourselves, for our school and everyone that came here. And let’s do this for Coach P.”
Posted April 9, 2015 4:54 p.m. EDT
Updated April 10, 2015 12:19 a.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — Nine years after Duke University forced lacrosse coach Mike Pressler to resign amid accusations that three of his players raped a stripper at a team party, a senior athletics official says many in the administration regret the way the situation was handled.
“I think that a lot of officials at the university have come to the realization or came to the realization within a year or so that, probably, Mike shouldn’t have lost his job,” Chris Kennedy, senior deputy director of athletics at Duke, tells “60 Minutes” in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.
After Crystal Mangum claimed three white players trapped her inside a bathroom at an off-campus house during a March 13, 2006, party and sexually assaulted her, the story became a national headline, and Kennedy said the Duke campus was in chaos over a story framed by class, race and sex.
“It was painful because you had 46 kids who were really suffering who knew for a long period of time … some number were going to be indicted based on no evidence whatsoever,” he said. “Imagine the stress of that on the kids and on their parents and everything.”
Attorney Wade Smith, who represented one of the players, recalled on Thursday the storm of controversy that followed the campus, the lacrosse team and the players for months.
“Duke University never could’ve been prepared for this. I mean, who could’ve been?” Smith said. “There were people marching in the streets, people with pitchforks. The community was furious.”
President Richard Brodhead and other administrators needed to take action, Smith said, so Pressler was quickly sacrificed in an effort to quell the storm.
“With all this swirling around them, their thought was, ‘We’ve got to move now,'” he said.
Pressler, a former national coach of the year, said he considered it “blasphemy” to leave his team in crisis. At the same time, he was being inundated with hate mail and found signs in his front yard mocking his support of “the Duke rapists.”
“Google up one of the boys’ names, my name … you saw the word ‘rape,’ ‘sexual assault’ next to your name,” he tells “60 Minutes.” “That just was, even today, I get emotional about it.”
Given the choice of resigning or risk being fired, Pressler stepped aside. A few months later, he was hired by Bryant University in Rhode Island, where he still coaches.
“[Loyalty] is everything,” he said. “Without that, as a man, you have nothing.”
Mangum’s rape accusations were later found to be false, all charges were dropped against the players and Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred and jailed for his handling of the case. Duke and Durham have settled lawsuits filed by the players, who have gone on to start families and have successful careers in law and finance.
“Things are not always as they seem,” Smith said. “It would always be smart to wait, if you can, and let the facts clarify themselves. In retrospect, it would’ve been good for Duke to do that.”
Unfortunately, he said, that lesson still needs to be learned, citing the uproar over a “Rolling Stone” story about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity that later proved to be unfounded.
“The truth is not going to just come and sit in your lap. You’ve got to look for it and find it. You’ve got to not leap to conclusions, and you’ve got to not assume people are guilty,” he said. “The lesson is already gone. We didn’t really learn it for keeps.”
What happened to the Duke lacrosse coach? He was fired in 2006 in the wake of allegations of rape against three athletes in the program that proved to be baseless. Pressler’s firing was publicly portrayed by Duke as a resignation, which gave rise to the implication that the coach resigned due to the students’ presumed guilt.
Where is Collin Finnerty now? Today, he works as a law clerk at the U.S. District Court in New Jersey. Finnerty also left Duke as a sophomore, and finished his degree at Loyola College in Maryland. Today, he works as an analyst at Deutsche Bank.
How much did Duke lacrosse players settle for? Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans brought a lawsuit against Duke University, which was settled, with the university paying approximately $20 million to each claiment.
What happened to the 2006 Duke lacrosse team? Duke University officials suspend the men’s lacrosse team for two games following allegations that team members sexually assaulted a stripper hired to perform at a party. Three players were later charged with rape. The case became a national scandal, impacted by issues of race, politics and class.
What happened to the Duke lacrosse coach? – Related Questions
Is Crystal Mangum in jail?
Mangum testified that she stabbed Daye in self-defense. Mangum was sentenced to 13 to 18 years in prison. She is currently in the Southern Correction Institution in Troy. Her projected release date is February 2026.
Did Duke lacrosse players sue?
Three Duke University lacrosse players and the City of Durham settled a long-running lawsuit Friday, closing another chapter in a case that exposed flaws in the Durham justice system and ended a district attorney’s legal career.
Is Duke a all boy school?
Duke University has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,649, with a gender distribution of 49% male students and 51% female students. In sports, Duke University is part of the NCAA I.
How did Ethics investigators allege Nifong committed his crime in the Duke lacrosse team case?
Terms in this set (5)
How did Ethics Investigators allege Nifong committed his crime in the Duke lacrosse team case? He failed to tell the accused about critical DNA evidence that could clear them of rape allegations. Nifong still has questions about the night in question and the role the lacrosse players had.
How long did it take the prosecutor to drop the charges against the Duke lacrosse players?
Eventually, to defend himself in front of the state bar, Nifong had to recuse himself from the case, and he handed it over to Roy Cooper, the North Carolina attorney general who four months later dropped the remaining charges against the players, declared them “innocent,” and called Nifong a “rogue prosecutor.”
Who won the Duke lacrosse game?
– Maryland attackman Jared Bernhardt scored five goals and seven points overall to lift the No. 3 seed Terrapins and hand second-seeded Duke a 14-5 loss in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Semifinals Saturday afternoon at Rentschler Field.
How tall is Brennan Oneill?
At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, O’Neill dwarfs most other college lacrosse players who, according to LacrossePack.com, average out at about 6-foot and 188 pounds. He also has incredible stick skills, and—according to Danowski—”makes whatever the correct lacrosse play is.”
Where is Crystal Mangum?
Mangum was sentenced to 13 to 18 years in prison. She is currently in the Neuse Correction Institution in Goldsboro. Her projected release date is February 2026.
Did Brock Turner get convicted?
The trial concluded on , with Turner convicted of three charges of felony sexual assault. On , Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail followed by three years of probation.
Who was the DA in the Duke lacrosse case?
Disbarred Duke lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong is back, along with more misconduct allegations. The spotlight of injustice in the criminal system is back on Durham County, N.C., made famous by the misadventures of former district attorney Mike Nifong in the Duke University lacrosse case in 2006.
What role did the media play in the Duke lacrosse case?
Throughout this case, the media have played an unusually large role in the attorney’s legal strategy, as NPR’s Adam Hochberg reports. Since that infamous team party in March, prosecution and defense lawyers have appeared on TV more than they’ve appeared in court.
Where did Michael Sowers go to high school?
Coming out of Upper Dublin High School, Sowers had interest in Duke as a potential college destination, but the Blue Devils never developed a serious recruiting relationship with the All-American.
When was the Duke lacrosse case?
ESPN’s ’30 for 30′ documentary ‘Fantastic Lies’ probes the infamous 2006 Duke lacrosse case, where three white student-athletes were (falsely) accused of raping a black stripper.
Is Duke test optional 2022?
Test-Optional Policy for 2021-2022 Application Cycle
Due to the limitations on opportunities to prepare for and take the SAT and ACT because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Duke Kunshan is continuing a test-optional policy for the 2021-2022 application cycle.
Why Duke is a bad school?
4. “Elite” is a bad word: Duke is an elite school — expensive, with high academic standards, and a high graduation rate for its athletes. The pride Duke’s coaches, players, and fans take in the school’s academic reputation comes across to fans of rival programs as just another example of Duke’s arrogance.
Is Duke a Tier 1 school?
Tier 1 schools include: Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, UChicago, Caltech, Columbia, Brown, Northwestern, The University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Duke, Vanderbilt, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Rice.
What types of prosecutorial misconduct took place in the Duke lacrosse case?
Duke lacrosse case. In 2006, Nifong pursued rape, sexual assault, and kidnapping charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans, three white members of the Duke University men’s lacrosse team.
Which of the following is true of the way most jurisdictions view the part time prosecutor?
Which of the following is TRUE of the way most jurisdictions view the part-time prosecutor? They are permitted to practice as prosecutors on a part-time basis and also permitted to practice law and represent private clients.
Does Duke have a lacrosse team?
The Duke Blue Devils men’s lacrosse team represents Duke University in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I men’s lacrosse. Duke currently competes as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and plays its home games at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.
Is Chanel Miller adopted?
Chanel Miller was born in 1992 in Palo Alto, California, the elder of two daughters of a Chinese mother and an American father. Her mother emigrated from China to become a writer and her father is a retired therapist.
Is Michael Sowers a senior?
In fact, Sowers placed two seasons on the all-time points in a season list, once during his sophomore season and again as a senior. Sowers was a star player since his freshman year. He earned First Team All-Suburban One League honors and followed that up with All-State and All-American honors as a sophomore.
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Mike Pressler is in his ninth year as Bryant University’s lacrosse coach and he has shaped the Bulldogs into a plucky, stubborn opponent. They have won the Northeast Conference championship each of the last three seasons and last year dumped mighty Syracuse, 10-9, before falling to Maryland in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Pressler, 55, clearly knows what he’s doing, and he is also a man who previously paid a steep price for sticking by his players and living by his convictions. In 2006, amid trumped-up claims that three of his players at Duke raped a black female stripper hired for a team party in off-campus housing, school officials bumrushed him into resigning after 16 years as the Blue Devils’ coach.
The forced resignation, CBS reporter Armen Keteyian noted in a “60 Minutes’’ story that aired last Sunday, made Pressler the “sacrificial lamb needed to appease protesters and protect the school’s gold-plated image.’’
Everything about the woman’s story was bogus. The three players, all indicted on rape and kidnapping charges, were exonerated more than a year later. Yet when all the smoke cleared, Pressler was out on the street, out of work, a coaching pariah. He was turned down repeatedly for college coaching vacancies until Bryant officials had the courage to back a guy whose fatal flaw in Durham was telling Duke administrators that he believed his players were innocent, that he refused to abandon them, that they deserved due process of law.
He knew his players were guiltless, said the resolute Pressler, and he felt they deserved his loyalty and that of the university.
“It’s everything,’’ he told Keteyian of his sense of loyalty. “Without that, as a man, you have nothing.’’
Out of work, Pressler took action against Duke for wrongful termination and settled early in 2007 for an undisclosed sum. He then sued the school only a few months later, claiming that Duke broke confidentiality terms outlined in the settlement and further contending a school official slandered him. Some three years later, Duke settled the suit before trial, terms again confidential, and issued Pressler an apology. It took the prospect of court proceedings for Duke to start making things right with its former employee.
By then, thankfully, Pressler was already working his magic in Smithfield, R.I., transitioning the Bulldogs from Division 2 to 1. He was paving his road to redemption the way all coaches prefer, with a whistle dangling from a string attached to one hand and an eye fixed on winning.
Amid Pressler’s redemptive tale told so artfully by “60 Minutes’’ stood Chris Kennedy, virtually a Duke lifer, though he earned his undergraduate degree at Georgetown (’71) as well as a master’s there in ’74 before beginning his workaday life at Duke in 1977. Today, Kennedy is the school’s senior deputy director of athletics.
Early this year, Duke dedicated a tower on its athletic fields to Kennedy, an homage to his decades of service in the athletic department. He is a respected, remarkable guy, which came through vividly when he spoke to “60 Minutes.’’ His son, Joe, played for Pressler at Duke and captained the team in 2005, the season before the rape accusation.
Keteyian noted in the story that Kennedy commented on camera for “60 Minutes’’ even though he was advised to remain silent by school officials, warned that talking would not be in his or the school’s best interest.
Kennedy obviously didn’t care about the warning, or simply felt it was time to stop remaining silent, because silence is too often damning, even cruel. His comments made clear that Pressler had been wronged by the school. Further, Kennedy said the ordeal had been arduous on him, too, sharing with Keteyian, “Other than the death of my wife, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever been through.’’
“It was painful,’’ added Kennedy, “because you had 46 kids [lacrosse teammates] who were really suffering, who knew for a long period of time, that two, three, four . . . some number were going to be indicted based on no evidence whatsoever. Imagine the stress of that on the kids, their parents . . . ’’
No one had to imagine the price Pressler paid. It was all too real. A Bryant spokesperson, contacted early last week by the Globe, said Pressler would not make himself available for an interview in the wake of the “60 Minutes’’ report.
“In some quarters of the [Duke] administration,’’ Kennedy told Keteyian, “there was some belief that [the alleged crime] may have happened, and if that’s the case, they had to respond.’’
The three student-athletes eventually cleared their names and gained their lives back. The accuser was exposed as an utter fraud, the charges dropped. Nitwit district attorney Michael Nifong, who led the public’s rush to judgment with his histrionics and hearsay, was shown to be a rogue prosecutor who ignored the facts, seemingly as a cheap, hurtful ploy to try to get reelected.
And Pressler? Besmirched by all of it and forced to quit by then-Duke athletic director Joe Alleva. Pressler told “60 Minutes’’ that prior to landing the Bryant gig, one school was so reluctant to have him on campus to talk about a coaching opportunity that it requested the job interview take place at a highway rest area in Lynchburg, Va. Ah, the bravado of academia.
Some nine years after the firing, his words measured and firm, Kennedy said that Duke officials blew it.
“I think that a lot of officials at the university have come to the realization, or came to the realization within a year or so,’’ said Kennedy, “that probably Mike shouldn’t have lost his job.’’
Good on Kennedy. He said what needed to be said, amid a climate and culture in which he was encouraged to keep his mouth closed.
We send our kids to these schools, pay obscenely high tuition rates, for them to learn how to succeed in an increasingly sophisticated and demanding world. Urging students to tell the truth, admit mistakes, correct wrongs, speak truth to injustice, and be decent, compassionate human beings are lessons all schools should be expected to teach.
Too often, as was the case with Duke, they flunk the course themselves.