Just not right

The Baltimore Sun

I love watching Duke play lacrosse. I love the great passes the Blue Devils thread through defenses that lead to goals. I appreciate the speed and the synchronization of their offense. There isn't a better-shooting team in the country when it comes to placement.

But I can't root for them to win a national title.

A year ago, it was different because I thought the Duke players, and the sport itself, had become victims of the witch hunt in Durham, N.C., in 2006.

But there is no more sympathy and compassion for the Blue Devils this time around. A new attitude was forged after the NCAA granted Duke players an extra year of eligibility shortly after they lost to Johns Hopkins in May in the Division I title game.

It was a poor decision by the NCAA, and it basically was made so Duke could put a halt to some of the lawsuits that were going to be filed by the players or their parents.

It also allowed Duke officials to escape any accountability for the boneheaded way they handled the investigation into rape allegations against three players.

The allegations were eventually proven false and dropped, but unfortunately, the entire incident has led to an uneven playing field.

No. 1 Duke played Loyola at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field on Saturday, and it was no contest. It was like the men against the boys in a 21-8 Duke win.

In all honesty, it was fun to watch because the Blue Devils play at such a high level. They play the game the way it's supposed to be played -- with a fast, relentless pace.

You marvel at the over-the-shoulder shots and behind-the-back passes of attackmen Zack Greer and Matt Danowski and the aggressive play of defenseman Tony McDevitt.

You feel some redemption for the Blue Devils because they came up so short a year ago and were used by university officials and some civil rights leaders during the investigation.

But on the other side of the field, I watched as Loyola players left with their heads down. I watched Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey repeatedly shake his head in disbelief at what he had just watched.

Toomey, as well as college lacrosse, deserves better. So do Maryland's Dave Cottle, Virginia's Dom Starsia and Hopkins' Dave Pietramala.

Toomey's team shouldn't have had to play against Danowski, the 2007 National Player of the Year, again in 2008. He shouldn't have had to game-plan again for Greer or McDevitt or any other fifth-year player because the NCAA shouldn't have granted the Blue Devils an additional year of eligibility.

Instead, the NCAA should have denied Duke's request by citing one of its favorite phrases about "a lack of institutional control."

School officials bobbled the entire Duke incident from the beginning, but they refuse to take any blame.

Everyone else involved seems to have been punished -- from the players to the alleged victim. Their lives have changed forever. Former Duke coach Mike Pressler was fired, and is now the head coach at Division II Bryant.

Even former Durham County district attorney Mike Nifong has been disbarred for allegedly manipulating and fabricating evidence.

But aren't we forgetting someone? How about Duke president Richard Brodhead? Wasn't he the guy who overreacted and tried to win the public relations game back in 2006 when he canceled the season after eight games? Didn't he play a major part in pressuring Press- ler to leave town?

But Brodhead and his administration have basically washed their hands of the matter despite throwing the team under the bus.

To make amends, Brodhead cozied up to the other Atlantic Coast Conference presidents to see whether they would approve the extra year of eligibility. Once he got approval, he went a step further to the NCAA.

It was a bold move and so arrogant, and so Duke. Instead of standing up and admitting his mistakes, Brodhead has tried to absolve himself and his administration of any wrongdoing.

The words "I'm sorry" don't appear to be in his vocabulary.

Maybe, just maybe, that's all people want to hear instead of trying to buy them out as the university did in a settlement with Pressler, or trying to gain backroom favors as Duke did with the NCAA to avoid more litigation.

It's just hard to root for a school with such a snobby, better-than-you attitude. It seems everyone has to suffer the consequences. This time, it's Division I college lacrosse. It's a Loyola, a Dartmouth, a Georgetown.

It's unfair.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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