Ex-Duke lacrosse coach settles lawsuit

Staff writerMarch 31, 2010 

Former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, center.


— Duke University and Mike Pressler, the man at the helm of the lacrosse program when a stripper brought false rape accusations against three team members, have settled a lawsuit filed by the former coach.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

"Coach Michael Pressler is an excellent coach," Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a prepared statement. " He did a great job building the Duke men's lacrosse program, while maintaining a 100 percent graduation rate in his sixteen years. Duke University regrets any adverse consequences that the Newsday or AP article had on Coach Pressler or his family. Duke wishes nothing but the best for Coach Pressler in his future endeavors, especially at Bryant University and as he leads Team USA in the World Lacrosse Championships."

Pressler , who built a national powerhouse lacrosse team during his 16 years at Duke, was forced out in April 2006 shortly after an escort service dancer accused players of gang-raping her - allegations that turned out to be phony/

In 2007, Pressler and Duke reached a confidential settlement.

Lawyers for Pressler argued in a 2008 Superior Court hearing that language from the settlement agreement showed the former Duke employee was no longer bound by policies of previous contracts with the university.

Pressler has alleged that John Burness, Duke's former senior vice president of public affairs and government relations, made slanderous, libelous and defamatory remarks about him to the news media after the settlement was reached.

Burness retired in June 2008 after 30 years on the job.

Initially, Pressler argued that Duke had reneged on its settlement agreement, which had a clause prohibiting disparaging remarks.

But in a legal maneuver designed to sidestep arbitration, Pressler dropped that claim and slimmed down his complaint to focus on Burness' comments.

In the suit, Pressler complains about an April 9, 2007, article in the New York newspaper Newsday quoting Burness as saying the difference between Pressler and current lacrosse coach John Danowski was "night and day."

In that article, the suit contends, Burness described Danowski as a "mensch," a Yiddish word for a person of great integrity and honor that Pressler 's lawyers defined in their brief.

The second comment that Pressler complained about came in June, when The Associated Press quoted Burness as saying, "It was essential for the team to have a change of leadership in order to move forward."

Since losing his Duke job, Pressler has written and promoted a book about the lacrosse case. He now coaches at Bryant University in Rhode Island.

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