DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Duke University’s lacrosse coach resigned yesterday and the school canceled the rest of the season amid a burgeoning scandal involving allegations that three players on the highly ranked team raped a stripper at an off-campus party.
Mike Pressler spent 16 seasons at Duke and won three Atlantic Coast Conference championships. Last year, his team appeared in the national championship game.
“Coach Pressler offered me his resignation earlier this afternoon, and I accepted it,” said Duke athletic director Joe Alleva. “I believe this is in the best interests of the program, the department of athletics and the university.”
The rape allegations have roiled the campus and the city, raised racial tensions, and heightened the long-standing antagonism between the privileged students at the elite university and the poorer people of Durham.
The stripper is black and said her attackers were white. Investigators and witnesses have said the lacrosse players taunted her with racial slurs and insults.
Students and townspeople have marched on campus and off in recent days, angry over the school’s handling of the allegations and the team members’ refusal to cooperate with police. Investigators have said the athletes are sticking together and keeping silent. No one has been charged.
The lacrosse team’s co-captains have denied that anyone was sexually assaulted at the party, as have attorneys for the players.
Earlier yesterday, authorities unsealed documents stating that hours after the alleged rape, a player apparently sent an e-mail saying he wanted to invite more strippers to his dorm room, kill them and skin them. It was not clear whether the message was serious or a joke.
“The court released today a previously sealed warrant, whose contents are sickening and repulsive,” said Duke President Richard Brodhead said in announcing the cancellation of the rest of the season. Last week, Brodhead suspended the team from play.
The stripper, a student at a nearby university, has told police that she was hired to perform at a party at a house just off campus last month and was raped and choked three men in a bathroom. Investigators are awaiting the results of DNA tests on 46 of the 47 team members. The team’s lone black member did not have to provide a sample.
District Attorney Mike Nifong has said that he is “pretty confident that a rape occurred,” but that he does not expect to file charges until next week.
Duke, considered a national title contender before the lacrosse season began, had a 6-2 record with seven regular-season games remaining before the scandal broke.
The e-mail, according to an application for a search warrant of the player’s dorm room, was sent from the player’s Duke e-mail account just before 2 a.m. on March 14.