Collin Finnerty is getting a fresh start. Three months after he and two former Duke lacrosse teammates were declared innocent of sexual assault charges, Finnerty formalized his decision yesterday to transfer to Loyola.
The Baltimore school said it would ask the NCAA for a ruling to ensure that Finnerty, who sat out the 2007 season while his case was investigated, receives an extra year of eligibility allowing him to play three years for the Greyhounds. The NCAA had already granted an extra year of eligibility to the 33 Duke lacrosse team members whose 2006 season was canceled in the wake of rape allegations.
Finnerty will enter Loyola as a second-semester sophomore and join a team that lost to Albany in the first round of this year's NCAA tournament.
"Collin reached out to Loyola midway through the season," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey. "Collin represented himself very well."
Toomey said Finnerty, a 6- foot-3, 175-pound attackman from Chaminade High School in Garden City, N.Y., was familiar with Loyola because Chaminade "has a good knowledge" of the Jesuit school.
Finnerty is the last of the three former Blue Devils defendants to complete his plans. Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J., transferred to Brown, and Bethesda's David Evans graduated last year and is working on Wall Street.
Friends described the Finnertys as torn between wanting Collin to return to his Duke friends and hoping he could start over somewhere else.
Finnerty and the others were indicted last year after a stripper alleged that she had been pulled into a bathroom and raped during an off-campus party in March 2006. The case collapsed, and Durham County District Attorney Michael B. Nifong was disbarred for violating rules of professional conduct and resigned last month. Many players and their families from the 2006 team remain angry at Duke because they say administrators and faculty members didn't support the players as they should have.
Finnerty was always welcome at Duke, coach John Danowski said.
"It was always about what was going to be in the best interests of Collin and his family," Danowski said. "He was a very integral part of our program."
Finnerty appeared in five games in the 2006 season - suspended by Duke after the allegations surfaced - and had two goals and one assist.
"The kids adore him," said Sally Fogarty of Chevy Chase, whose son, Gibbs, just completed his sophomore year on Duke's team. "My son and Collin were going out for the same position and Gibbs thought he was the greatest guy. Gibbs was really hoping Collin would come back to Duke."
Finnerty mentioned his former teammates in a statement released by the family through the Associated Press.
"I am excited to be returning to school and look forward to finishing my college career at Loyola," Finnerty said.
"Now that I have made my college decision, my life is my own again. I loved Duke and will miss all my friends there, especially my teammates and coaches. They are an unbelievable group of guys who stood behind me from Day One, and I wish them all the best," he said.
Last year, Finnerty was sentenced to six months' probation in a misdemeanor simple assault case. A man testified during the trial that Finnerty and others taunted him and made mocking references to homosexuality in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood.
Toomey said Loyola fully evaluated Finnerty just as it would any transfer student.
After Finnerty expressed interest, "We responded and said we'd like to invite him to campus and shadow one of our players for a day. Then he and his mother came back to campus a few weeks ago," Toomey said.
Duke invited Finnerty to return in January, about three months before the North Carolina attorney general dropped all remaining charges. Finnerty declined the invitation and, instead, took classes near his home and coached high school lacrosse while he weighed his options.