Succisa Virescit. Cut down, it grows again.
That latin phase has been the motto for the 2007 Duke lacrosse team, a group that has endured an indescribable past year. And, the expression used to inspire the team can now also be referred to as apt given that they will be playing in the NCAA Final Four on Saturday afternoon. They have lost a mere two games this year and they are the #1 seed in the tournament. It’s hard to imagine a team playing with more motivation than this group over the weekend and here’s hoping that all the scrutiny, hatred, critics and certainly, prosecutors of the past year will receive a metaphorical middle finger during this weekend’s games.
In some ways, however, the middle finger has already been raised. This is a team that was on the verge of literal death at this time last year, no longer sure if the program would be reinstated at Duke or if some large percentage of the players would transfer. To even be in a place where they are in the national semifinals, playing against the second ranked team in the tourney, Cornell, is victory unto itself. I can only imagine the pride the players must be feeling right now–to have endured so much and returned to glory so quickly after a Grecian myth type fall.
When I heard earlier this week though that the team was, once again, playing for the national championship, as they did a mere two years ago, my thoughts immediately turned to one Mike Pressler, former coach of the team for 16 years. Coach Pressler resigned in the wake of the scrutiny and allegations of 2006 and has now been relegated to coaching in tiny Rhode Island, at tiny Bryant University. Bryant is a DII school, so even as he begins to develop a legitimate program at Bryant, it’s a far cry from competition such as UNC, Johns Hopkins or Syracuse. If it hasn’t happened in some form already, I sincerely hope that college lacrosse and certainly Duke and/or the Duke lacrosse program find some means to recognize Coach Pressler this weekend. While their “regrowth” may take the form of a national championship this year, Pressler’s will need to present itself in the form of moral victory–in the form of knowing he constructed the powerhouse program that now exists and that neither he nor his players performed any actions worthy of the national vilification that forever altered his life.