Duke University will field a men's lacrosse team next season, but the program and those connected to it have been changed by rape charges against three players and a barrage of media attention.
The university has accepted a campus committee's recommendation to reinstate the suspended program, said an official close to the program who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made. The university might announce the decision at a media briefing planned for today.
Restarting the program, which is certain to be a welcome move in the tight-knit, Eastern lacrosse community, poses a variety of challenges. Some of the hurdles are practical, such as keeping up with recruiting at an institution that has lost time - and perhaps prestige - in the annual scramble to sign the best high school talent.
"With the program on hold, and without a head coach, it's going to have an effect on recruiting for them," said lacrosse coach Kevin Giblin of Montgomery County's Georgetown Prep. Two of that school's players have become captains at Duke in the past two years. Neither was among the three players charged in the alleged rape.
"Nowadays, the kids are making their [college] decisions earlier and earlier. Duke was always competing with other more local college programs, but with their program on hold, it's definitely going to have an effect," Giblin said.
Duke coach Mike Pressler resigned in April, several weeks after it became public that a 27-year-old student at North Carolina Central University said she was pulled into a bathroom and raped after being hired as a stripper at an off-campus Duke lacrosse party in March.
About one-third of the team members had previously faced minor unrelated charges related to such things as underage drinking and public rowdiness. Duke has not announced Pressler's successor.
Some of the lacrosse program's challenges are more indirect than recruiting and harder to define.
Those who know them say team members have undergone a broad range of emotions that include sadness and shock, as well as anger at the media and at the district attorney who brought the charges. It may be difficult for returning players to have the same focus or resolve that they once did.
Sally Fogarty of Chevy Chase said her son, Gibbs, a member of the Duke team last season, was so stunned by the events of the spring that he had a hard time imagining what might happen to the program next year.
"He's just been really sad and really depressed," said Sally Fogarty, a Duke graduate who has helped the university raise funds. "These kids on this team are all such good friends, and when Collin [Finnerty] and Reade [Seligmann] were indicted, we in the community were devastated. It was just a spin of the roulette wheel. It could have been anybody's kid on the team."
Initially, she said, Gibbs Fogarty wondered what he would do without lacrosse. The program Fogarty entered had contended for the NCAA title the previous season, losing to Johns Hopkins in the title game. This year's program was shut down by the university before the postseason tournaments began.
"At first, Gibbs did say, 'I can't go to school without playing lacrosse.' He really struggled once the season was canceled," his mother said. "He had way too much time on his hands, no structure, he missed the older guys, and it was really hard, especially for the younger kids. There was fear and unpredictability about what was going to happen. They really worried about Collin and Reade."
The third indictment may have been tougher still for Gibbs Fogarty to handle. David Evans, like Fogarty, had attended the all-boys Landon School in Montgomery County. Evans was a senior last season at Duke, and Fogarty was a freshman. Like Finnerty and Seligmann, Evans was charged with first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. Evans called the charges "lies" and said the allegations will be proved wrong.
"Gibbs always admired and looked up to David, starting at Landon. That [the indictment] was very difficult," Sally Fogarty said.
She said her son is committed to returning to Duke.
Landon, in Bethesda, had a handful of graduates on the Duke team.
John Shooshan, a Landon assistant lacrosse coach, said his former players "were able to hang in there. Every one of them said, 'We love Duke, we're going to stick it out.' They were just cautiously optimistic that the university would support the lacrosse team and they would have a program again."
Sun reporter Mike Preston contributed to this article.