Committee recommends Duke lacrosse team resume play next season

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – A Duke University committee recommended its men’s lacrosse team resume play next season, but said the team had a history of problems tied to alcohol and needed strict monitoring.

“Although the pattern of misconduct in recent years by the lacrosse team is alarming, the evidence reviewed … does not warrant suspension of the sport,” a committee of seven faculty members wrote in a report released Monday night.

Duke suspended the highly ranked lacrosse team from play last month, following allegations that a 27-year-old black student at a nearby university hired to strip at a March 13 team party was raped and beaten by three white men.

A grand jury has indicted two players on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault, and District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he hopes to charge a third person.

The report released Monday night did not consider the rape allegations, but instead focused on the behavior of the team during the past five years. It found that while the team performed well academically and athletically, “a large number of the members of the team have been socially irresponsible when under the influence of alcohol.”

“We looked closely but found no compelling evidence to support claims that these players are racist or have a record of sexual violence,” said Duke Law School professor James E. Coleman Jr., who chaired the faculty committee that prepared the report.

The rape allegations led Duke to accept the resignation of coach Mike Pressler and begin several internal investigations, including the examination of the lacrosse program.

The two players charged – sophomores Reade Seligmann, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, of Garden City, N.Y. – have been released on $400,000 bond and are scheduled to appear in court May 15.

The report was released the same day Seligmann’s attorney, Kirk Osborn, demanded Nifong’s removal from the case, accusing him of using it to help his election prospects. Nifong faces a primary election Tuesday that could decide whether he remains in office.

“They don’t want to go up against me,” Nifong said when asked outside court Monday about the defense request for his removal. He has denied any political motivation behind his investigation.

AP-ES-05-01-06 1952EDT

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