The rape allegations have since been discredited, and Duke would like the players to be able to, in effect, make up for lost time.
Duke, which plays Cornell in the final four at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday, has 12 seniors on the 41-man roster, including Matt Danowski, one of the nation's top attackmen. If the NCAA approved the request, the seniors could remain enrolled by pursuing a second major or entering a Duke graduate program. The team already has a graduate student, co-captain Ed Douglas (Gilman), who had a year of eligibility remaining because he didn't play as a freshman.
John Danowski, Duke's coach and Matt's father, said last night that it wasn't an appropriate time to discuss the request or which players might stay at Duke if it were granted. "We don't know what's going to happen," the elder Danowski said. "This game Saturday is so important to us and when the time comes we'll deal with it."
Danowski said Duke has 13 players coming in next season as freshmen.
NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said he hadn't seen Duke's application, which is called a season-of-competition waiver.
"The real issue is, are we talking about a suspension that was an institution's decision? This wasn't the NCAA's decision," Williams said. "We look at such requests on a case-by-case basis."
Duke initially suspended the season March 28, 2006, after an exotic dancer claimed she was sexually assaulted by three team members at a party at an off-campus house. A week later, Duke canceled the season.
Last month, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped charges against the three players, saying no attack occurred.
John Walsh of Bethesda, whose son, Johnny, is a senior on the team, said yesterday that he had long heard that Duke might seek relief for players who felt cheated out of a season. Duke had a 6-2 record when the season was canceled and was coming off a year in which it had advanced to the NCAA title game.
"I don't think my son would do it [remain at Duke]," Walsh said. He said his son already had a job lined up on Wall Street. "But someone like [Matt] Danowski and Zack Greer would obviously rewrite the records books if they had another year," Walsh said.
Williams, the NCAA spokesman, said he couldn't recall another case in which a team asked for an extra year. "Not to my knowledge, not an entire team," he said.