Coleman Committee report, excerpts
2. Administrators responsible for the discipline of students were generally aware of the irresponsible conduct of lacrosse players associated with drinking. With the exception of the Office of Judicial Affairs, none of these administrators was especially alarmed by the conduct. Although some administrators claim that they communicated their concerns to Coach Pressler, there is no evidence that they adequately did so.
The most persistent concern of administrators in the Division of Student Affairs and the Athletic Department relating to the conduct of lacrosse players was with their prominent role in the fall Tailgate events, not the team's extensive disciplinary record. Although successive administrators in the Office of Judicial Affairs were generally aware that lacrosse players were often entangled in the disciplinary process, they did not take steps to determine the full extent of the record until the Fall of 2004. When the Dean for Judicial Affairs determined both the number of disciplinary charges against members of the lacrosse team and the number of lacrosse players against whom charges had been filed, various administrators discussed what to do about it. Eventually, administrators brought the disciplinary record of his players to the attention of Coach Pressler. But neither administrators in Student Affairs nor administrators responsible for the Athletic Department adequately conveyed to Coach Pressler any sense of alarm. Nor did the administrators responsible for the Athletic Department demand that Coach Pressler take extraordinary action to address the problem. Indeed, after advising Coach Pressler of his team's problematic disciplinary record, the Athletic Director extended the Coach's contract for an unprecedented three years.
There is no dispute among senior administrators in the Division of Student Affairs and the Athletic Department that their primary focus on the behavior of lacrosse players centered around the team's conduct at Tailgate events, not the disciplinary record of the team. Beginning about two years ago, representatives from the Student Affairs and the Athletic Department along with representatives of the Duke University police met to discuss how to control the outrageously excessive behavior of Duke students at Tailgate. In 2005, those meetings focused on getting the lacrosse and baseball teams to help; players from those teams are credited with starting the Tailgate tradition, and were among its most lusty participants.
Tailgate became a source of concern for Student Affairs after the University banned beer kegs from campus in 2001 - 2002. In reaction, students sought ways to circumvent the new policy. One response was to hold tailgate parties before football games. Originally these tailgates, lead by lacrosse and baseball players, were held just off campus, where students thought they could use kegs. The Vice President for Student Affairs appealed to the Athletic Director to get the baseball and lacrosse players to remove the kegs. In the Fall of 2003, the student tailgates had moved to the parking lots around the athletic fields and clashed with tailgate parties being held by opposing fans in the same locations; there also was other misbehavior, including damage to cars, foul language, and excessive drinking. Eventually, Student Affairs intervened and assumed control over the event. 34
The Executive Vice President told the Committee that in the summer of 2005, he put pressure on the Athletic Director to enlist the assistance of the baseball and lacrosse coaches to help moderate Tailgate. The Athletic Director met with the two coaches and requested their aid. He did not direct them to respond in any particular way. The baseball coach banned his players from the event. The lacrosse coach took a different approach.
Coach Pressler did not think it was appropriate to ban his team from an event generally open to Duke students and sponsored by Student Affairs. In the Fall of 2005, the group of administrators who monitored Tailgate decided to impose a time limit for the event, to encourage students to stop drinking and attend the football game. Coach Pressler took action that he thought would contribute to that goal. He ordered his players to leave Tailgate fifteen minutes before the football game, to meet him at the flagpole outside the football stadium, and then as a group to attend at least the first half of the game. Administrators in Student Affairs hoped other students would follow the lacrosse players out of Tailgate and into the game because of their prominence in the event.
Coach Pressler told the Committee that his team strictly obeyed his order and left the Tailgate and attended the game. This was corroborated by the assistant lacrosse coach and by the team trainer. Although other students followed the lacrosse players out of the first few Tailgates, they stopped doing so mid-way into the season.
The Vice President for Student Affairs concluded the effort to recruit the lacrosse players to help moderate Tailgate was a failure. He told the Committee, "Our request had been to recruit the team to help start the exodus from the tailgate and for them to help encourage others to head to the football game. That never happened." The failure, however, cannot fairly be blamed on either the lacrosse players or their coach.
The significance of the lacrosse team's behavior at Tailgate is reflected in the fact that the Athletic Director specifically mentioned it in his discussion with Coach Pressler when he renewed the coach's contract in June 2005. That was before Pressler put his Tailgate plan into effect. When the coach's contract was renewed, there was no mention of the team's disciplinary record. The Committee believes it is significant that the Coach's contract was extended for an unprecedented three years.
Although Coach Pressler's response to the demand that he do something about Tailgate did not result in the goal set for students in general, it did result in a change in his team's behavior. The Dean of Students acknowledged that after Coach Pressler intervened in the Fall of 2005, the conduct of lacrosse players at Tailgate improved; the players dispersed at the designated end of the event and did not linger.
Although all of the officials whom we interviewed identified Tailgate as the signature event demonstrating the lacrosse team's excessive behavior, at best they seemed ambivalent about that behavior. The Vice President for Student Affairs, who attended the tailgates along with the Dean of Students, wrote that, "[t]he lacrosse section of the tailgate zone was generally one of the most 'energetic' and by the last game had grown to include a foam machine and foam pit for collective dancing. Actually, it was quite entertaining."
b. The response of administrators to the lacrosse team's disciplinary record
There is no question that the extensive disciplinary record of the lacrosse team came to the attention of administrators in the Fall of 2004. It is equally clear that, perhaps other than the Dean of Judicial Affairs, none of the administrators who knew about the record was alarmed about it or demanded that any extraordinary action be taken to address it.
The focal point of administrators' discussion of the lacrosse team's disciplinary record was a compilation of the record that the Dean of Judicial Affairs prepared in the Fall of 2004.3 Immediately prior to preparing the document, the dean had estimated that "67% of the team has had a disciplinary history (either formally or informally resolved by RC's/Judicial Affairs)."
On September 8, 2004, before the team's disciplinary record had been compiled, Stephen Bryan, the Dean of Judicial Affairs, and Sue Wasiolek, the Dean of Students, and others met with the coach of the lacrosse team to discuss his players' behavior. The meeting was one of several Student Affairs had with athletic teams; it was not prompted by anything specifically relating to the lacrosse team. The administrators met with the coaches of the lacrosse, basketball, football, baseball and soccer teams. The meetings lasted an hour. As a preview of what he wanted to discuss with Coach Pressler, Bryan forwarded to Pressler an email he had received from a Residential Coordinator, detailing the misconduct of lacrosse players in residential housing, including the suspicion that two lacrosse players had assaulted another student off-campus.36 Bryan said all of the coaches were supportive in the meetings, including the lacrosse coach. There was no follow up to any of the meetings.
After Bryan complied the lacrosse team's disciplinary record in October 2004, he circulated it among administrators in Student Affairs, and eventually it was sent to Tallman Trask, the Executive Vice President of the University. The report was never discussed at any Senior Leadership meeting of top University officials, although student conduct at Tailgate was discussed at such meetings. Nor was the report discussed among administrators in Student Affairs.
Although officials in Student Affairs were concerned about the lacrosse team's disciplinary record, none of them appeared to have been alarmed by it. The Dean of Students thought the players conduct was an "irritant," more because of the repetitiveness of their misbehavior than the nature of it. The Vice President of Student Affairs appeared more concerned about the behavior. He thought the team was getting away with things, but he also thought the individual cases had been handled appropriately by Judicial Affairs. He felt the collective significance of the conduct was not being addressed, but he did nothing to make that happen.
Executive Vice President Trask did not think the report was particularly serious He learned from the documented history that lacrosse players liked to hang out as a group and drink beer. When they were caught three or four times a year, they were disciplined, but Trask suggested that the sanctions imposed were not sufficiently severe to act as a deterrent. Based upon that assessment, he did not feel it was necessary for him to intervene, beyond bringing the matter to Athletic Director Joe Alleva's attention.
Before Trask met with Alleva in the late Fall of 2004, apparently no one else had spoken to Alleva about the lacrosse team's disciplinary record. Trask told Alleva there were too many infractions, but added that the record was not serious enough to warrant doing anything drastic to the lacrosse program. Trask showed Alleva a copy of the written disciplinary report, but, according to Alleva, did not give him a copy. Nor did Alleva ask for a copy.
Alleva subsequently met with Pressler to discuss his team's conduct. Pressler did not, at that time, see the written report detailing his team's disciplinary record. Alleva told the Committee that he warned Pressler that his team was "under a microscope." The Committee could not substantiate such a warning. Pressler denies that Alleva or anyone else told him that his team was out of control. Pressler acknowledged that Alleva told him about the meeting with Trask. Alleva told Pressler that his team's misconduct was a problem and he needed to deal with it. Alleva said none of the individual incidents was serious, but the frequency of incidents was a problem. Pressler said Alleva did not tell him that "you're on warning or else." Earlier this year, Alleva suggested to Pressler that he record whenever he disciplined his players for misconduct. Pressler told the Committee that he did so informally and that he notified Kennedy of what action he had taken.
Pressler saw the summary of his team's written disciplinary record for the first time in a meeting in June 2005, which was held to discuss his team's misconduct in the Southgate residential hall in May 2005. As a result of that conduct, Eddie Hull, Dean for Residential Life and Housing, banned the team from further use of the East Campus residential halls after the end of the school year. The team had stayed in dormitories during that period to complete their season.
In response to seeing his team's written disciplinary record in June 2005, Pressler initiated a meeting with Bryan in July 2005 and asked Bryan to notify Pressler and Chris Kennedy whenever a member of his team was cited for any infraction.40 Bryan subsequently sent Pressler and Chris Kennedy, the Senior Athletic Director, emails describing charges being filed against eight lacrosse players. According to Pressler, four of the charges were subsequently dismissed. Residential Coordinators gave the remaining four players oral warnings. The last email that Bryan sent to Pressler is dated November 14, 2005. After that date, Bryan did not notify Pressler of any additional infractions by his players. Pressler assumed that Bryan was filtering out incidents that did not warrant the coach's attention.
Within the last month, Coach Pressler was asked to annotate the list on non-suspendable charges that Bryan had prepared in October 2004 to indicate both the incidents about which he had been informed and the disciplinary actions that he had taken in response.41 According to his notations, the coach was largely unaware of most of the incidents. With respect to the incidents of which he was aware, he took additional disciplinary action against either the individual involved, or the entire team when all of the players involved in an incident could not be identified. Most of the discipline imposed by the coach consisted of additional running. In one case, however, the Coach suspended two players from participating in the 2005 post-season, including play in the championship game. The players were not permitted to wear team uniforms or to sit with the team.
Despite their knowledge of the extensive disciplinary record of the lacrosse team, neither the Executive Vice President, the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Dean of Students, nor the Athletic Director followed up the actions they took in the Fall of 2004 to determine if anything had been done to address the problem. Other than the Dean for Judicial Affairs and Coach Pressler, after he was made aware of specific incidents of misconduct, no other administrator appears to have treated the lacrosse team's disciplinary record as a matter of serious concern . . .
The relationship between the Division of Student Affairs and the Athletic Department in dealing with the conduct of the lacrosse team has been based upon personal relationships, not formal systems. The Committee's review reveals the inadequacy of personal relationships as a means of structuring communications between Student Affairs and the Athletic Department. Until Stephen Bryan and Coach Pressler began to communicate directly in July 2005, there was no affective link between Student Affairs and the Athletic Department that permitted the Department to monitor adequately the conduct of student athletes . . .
Both the groundskeeper and the equipment manager spoke about the players' respect for and appreciation of their efforts for the team. They described the members of the team as the best or among the best group of athletes they have served in their long tenures with Duke athletics. Although they give coach Pressler credit for instilling these values in his team, they emphasize that the players themselves are a "special group of young men."
The team's female manager for the last three seasons, a Duke senior, echoed these sentiments.
The equipment manager also mentioned how close the larger lacrosse community was. He said Coach Pressler asked him to put decals on the team's helmet one year to honor the deaths of two students associated with other lacrosse teams.