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of 4 )
RALEIGH - The warning signs of a Duke University lacrosse team
skidding toward disaster are scattered through the courthouse records of
Durham and Orange counties – and have been for at least the past seven
Speeding down I-40 while
drunk. Urinating in public. Using an adult’s ID to buy a case of beer
while underage. Kicking in the slats of a fence after an argument with a
records show, 41 Blue Devil lacrosse players –about 31 percent of all
players on the roster from then until now –have been charged with a
variety of rowdy and drunken acts.
Of this year’s squad of 47 players – their season
canceled, their coach exiled and their university shamed – roughly a
third have been charged with similar misdemeanors.
In contrast, records show, only two members of
Duke’s 27-man soccer squad for this year have been arrested – on charges
of misdemeanor property damage and resisting arrest. Four of this
year’s 22 baseball players have been arrested in connection with
underage alcohol offenses, all misdemeanors, records show.
Taken separately, the charges
against Duke lacrosse players read like standard-issue, alcohol-fueled
offenses of college students experiencing their first taste of freedom.
Most are minor cases, quickly settled, that fall far short of the
allegations of an escort service dancer who says she was gang-raped
during a team party March 13 in the bathroom of a white rental house on
Buchanan Boulevard where three lacrosse co-captains lived.
None of the misdemeanor
charges encompasses the ugliness of team member Ryan McFadyen’s searing
e-mail in which he threatened to kill and skin strippers or a racially
provocative insult shouted by an unidentified white male on Buchanan
Boulevard the night of the team party.
But taken as a body of
work, the charges track the noisy
passage of a championship lacrosse team with a reputation for a
swaggering sense of entitlement and privilege. They underscore the
hard-drinking image of the Duke lacrosse team – which some residents say
is a super-sized version of the university’s elitist, party-hearty
"There is a culture
at Duke of an entitlement to be drunk in the evenings and on the
weekends," said Robert Panoff, a former Notre Dame club lacrosse player
who has lived for more than a decade in Trinity Park, the neighborhood
on the edge of Duke’s east campus where the lacrosse team captains
attitude that pervades the Duke campus, and it’s not just the lacrosse
team," said Panoff, founder and executive director of a nonprofit
research and education organization. "There is a particular swagger at
Duke. Is there a particular machismo and variation of that swagger on
the lacrosse team? Absolutely."
Panoff is quick to point
out that lacrosse is not a
monolithic culture. But for other Durham residents, the lacrosse
imbroglio has raised racial tensions.
The dancer who is alleging
the rape is black. She says
her three unidentified attackers are white. All but the team’s lone
black player have submitted to DNA tests, and Durham County District
Attorney Mike Nifong said results could be released this week. Nifong
said he’s confident the woman was sexually assaulted. But attorneys for
the players say no rape, assault or sex occurred.
The case has ripped an
already frayed town-and-gown relationship, underscoring the friction
between the school, with its $41,000-a-year cost and walled campus, and
the surrounding city.
this preppy arrogance that they will never be held accountable for what
they’ve done – that their daddies will get them out of it," said Eugene
Brown, a Durham city councilman who lives a block from the rental
"What do you do
when you walk out and some guy is urinating on your house and you ask
him to stop and he refuses?" Brown said. "We’ve been living with this
for years, and the lacrosse players were the worst."
On the field, Duke’s team
the reputation for playing a disciplined and aggressive brand of
lacrosse, a fast-paced, hard-hitting game invented by American Indian
tribes. Under coach Mike Pressler, who resigned last week, they won
Atlantic Coast Conference championships in 1995, 2001 and 2002. Last
year, they narrowly lost the NCAA championship game to another perennial
lacrosse power, Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore.
Former Duke baseball
loutish behavior and dancers at team parties weren’t just a lacrosse
thing – they did the same thing and often joined the lacrosse team at
tailgate parties during Duke football games.
But Duke’s current baseball
racked up an arrest record like the lacrosse team’s. Triangle court
records show 16 lacrosse players currently on the roster have been
arrested in the past three years on charges ranging from public
urination on a private residence to underage possession of a malt
beverage to helping a minor get a mixed drink.
In addition, sophomore
player Collin Finnerty
and two friends were arrested last fall in Washington on simple assault
charges. Finnerty was ordered to perform 25 hours of community service
in Washington; if he does, the charges will be dropped, his attorney
On Wednesday, university
President Richard Brodhead announced five committees charged with
investigating the culture of the lacrosse program, student conduct,
Duke’s handling of the gang-rape allegation and other issues.
Brodhead said a faculty
will investigate the lacrosse team’s renegade reputation and "look into
that whole history and tell us whether that’s true or not."
Alcohol and young,
aggressive athletes playing a violent game are a volatile combination,
said William Scroggs, senior associate athletic director at UNC-Chapel
Hill and chairman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s
rules committee for men’s lacrosse.
"Everything that goes wrong
athletics, behaviorally, revolves around alcohol," said Scroggs, UNC’s
former men’s lacrosse coach, ticking off a list that includes drunken
driving, fights and sexual assaults. "My personal opinion is it’s an
alcohol issue, not a lacrosse or athletics issue. These types of things
don’t happen on a Tuesday afternoon when no one’s been drinking."
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