In a Rare Interview, Former Duke Lacrosse Coach Mike Pressler Discusses the Scandal and His Forced Resignation. A Duke Athletic Department Director Remembers the Chaos on Campus and Reflects on Pressler’s Treatment.
Above all be loyal. It could be the motto of Bryant Lacrosse Coach Mike Pressler. It’s the reason he hasn’t taken other colleges’ offers to triple his salary. He’s loyal to Bryant, because it hired him after Duke University showed him zero loyalty when it forced him to resign nine years ago in the “Duke Rape Scandal” that turned out to be a big lie. Pressler speaks at length about his life during and after the scandal for a 60 MINUTES story reported by Armen Keteyian, which also includes a Duke athletic department director in a rare interview expressing regret over Pressler’s treatment. Keteyian’s report will be broadcast Sunday, April 12 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Bryant University in Rhode Island hired Pressler a few months after he was forced to resign by Duke amid the lacrosse team rape scandal caused by the false accusations of a stripper. The national scandal frightened even his own college alma mater; it would only agree to meet him off of its campus for a job interview.
Pressler appreciated Bryant’s offer. After the three Duke lacrosse players were declared innocent, other schools sought to hire the former Division I coach of the year. But Pressler turned down the big money. “[Loyalty] is everything…everything. And without that, as a man, you have nothing,” he tells Keteyian.
At Bryant, he so improved the lacrosse program that the Division II team was moved up a notch to Division I, where it distinguished itself against some of the nation’s top teams. Ron Machtley, Bryant’s president, says Pressler is an inspiration to the team and society. “He’s never come to me and said, ‘Ron, can you match this offer?’ He has made a commitment to stay here and that kind of loyalty, which he showed to his team and which his team ultimately showed back to him– is something that’s very rare in society today.”
To turn down the money and the fancy perks that came with it was the only way says Pressler. “Got to go back to the events of the summer of ’06. For me to turn and– and leave a place… the administration that has given me and my family so much…I couldn’t live with myself,” he tells Keteyian.
As the false accusations took wind in 2006, he says he was advised to distance himself from his team. “That was, like, blasphemy…We don’t run…don’t quit, you know…you finish what you start at all costs,” says Pressler. The costs were high. He received hate mail and calls, hate signs were placed in front of his home mocking his support of “the Duke rapists.” “Google up one of the boys’ names, my name…you saw the word ‘rape,’ ‘sexual assault’ next to your name… that just was– even today, I get emotional about it,” says Pressler. At the height of the scandal Duke told him to resign or risk being fired. Watch an excerpt.
Chris Kennedy, senior deputy director of athletics at Duke says there was a chaotic atmosphere on campus. Duke was in the national news every day over a false story framed by class, race and sex in a Southern town. He felt for the players. “It was painful because you had 46 kids who were really suffering who knew for a long period of time…some number were going to be indicted based on no evidence whatsoever,” he says. “Imagine the stress of that on the kids and on their parents and everything.” Kennedy says many at the University have come to regret what it did to Pressler. “I think that a lot of officials at the university have come to the realization or came to the realization within a year or so that probably, Mike shouldn’t have lost his job.”