DURHAM, N.C. – Nearly six months after rape allegations were first made against members of the Duke lacrosse team, basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and other athletic administrators gathered with the school's athletes for a closed-door pep talk to start the school year.
"What this situation this spring did was that people wanted to put a cloud over all of athletics and specifically lacrosse, and I don't think that's fair, quite frankly, because we have so many great kids," Krzyzewski told The Herald-Sun of Durham. "If somebody did something wrong, then hold them accountable, but don't indict everyone. So tonight was about saying to the rest of the student-athletes, 'Hey, y'all are good. Have a great year. Let's keep pursuing excellence.'"
A woman hired to dance at a lacrosse team party at an off-campus house on March 13 accused three players of sexually assaulting her in a bathroom. On March 27, the school canceled the rest of the lacrosse season and coach Mike Pressler was eventually fired. Rape charges against three players are pending. Their lawyers have strongly proclaimed their clients' innocence.
Every athlete, coach and staff member in the athletic department — a total of 850 people — attended Monday night's meeting at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Former Duke athletes such as basketball players Grant Hill and Johnny Dawkins and football player and Shaw University president Clarence Newsome also helped with the presentation.
Athletics director Joe Alleva said the gathering wasn't a direct result of the charges brought against three members of last year's lacrosse team, but acknowledged the meeting probably wouldn't have happened otherwise.
"I would rate morale as low in April and May, but I would rate the morale as back to normal and high right now," Alleva said. "I thought we had already turned the corner, but this really does help. It's a fresh start. We're turning the page, and we're moving forward."
Jenny Shull, a junior on the volleyball team, seemed to appreciate the message.
"Everyone felt real unified, and it gave us a morale boost," Shull said. "There have been tough moments because it was always, 'Wow, you go to Duke University. They're known for their academics and for their great athletics and for overall excellence.' You were looked at almost as a perfect school, and this thing in the media showed us as not 100 percent perfect, and it was kind of rough.
"We just had to support each other and be there with each other through hard times."