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Lacrosse scandal costs Duke this recruit

EDITOR'S NOTE: The fallout from Duke University's lacrosse scandal earlier this year left the program in disarray. What will the future hold for one of the nation's top collegiate programs? Joseph Santoliquito talked with a pair of Blue Devils' recruits to find out how they weathered the uncertainty. As you'll see in this story, one of those recruits, Ken Clausen from Hill School in Pennsylvania, ultimately decided to enroll elsewhere. Read about the other, Max Quinzani from Duxbury, Mass., who chose to stick with Duke, here.

DOWNINGTOWN, Pa. -- Ken Clausen did all the right things, all the things a high school athlete has to do to attract recruiters from an upper-echelon college, starting with his choice of the right high school, the prestigious Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., the same school Donald Trump's children attended.

Clausen, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound lacrosse player, got great grades at Hill -- a 3.5 average out of a possible 4.0, and a score of 1,700 on the SAT. He also cultivated his lacrosse skills, becoming one of the best high school defensive players in the country.

His credentials were so strong that Clausen gained the attention of the nation's top lacrosse schools. Duke coach Mike Pressler began recruiting Clausen in December of his junior year, and Pressler had plenty of competition. On July 1 alone last year, Clausen, preparing for his senior year at Hill, received 25 calls from 25 different schools across the country.

Pressler won the recruiting battle. On Nov. 1, 2005, Clausen signed a national letter of intent to attend Duke. When he went on his official recruiting visit in December, it was all good. He hung out with the team and spent two very enjoyable days and nights in Durham.


"I had a great time," he recalled. "I didn't experience anything out of control. I went around with the team and I got to see the environment. It was a college environment, and I'd say it was typical. There was alcohol, but those were guys who were 21 and older drinking."

Then came the call. Pressler, the soon-to-be ex-coach of the nationally ranked Blue Devils, sounded distressed. Three Duke players had been accused of rape during a team party on March 13.

"Coach Pressler told me what was going on. That's how I heard about it," Clausen recalled. "I spoke to some of the players. They told me they were 100 percent innocent of what they were accused of and that the truth would come out. They haven't swayed publicly [from] what they told me privately. More than anything, I wanted to see the right outcome. I really didn't know how to feel at the time, but I kept thinking that the right thing would come out of it. They were frustrated and they wanted to rectify what they were accused of. I really wanted to support them, and I was really hoping for a quick solution to the whole thing."

But a quick solution didn't materialize.

Instead, Clausen, like the other six members of Duke's 2006 recruiting class, was given his release from the school. Max Quinzani, Parker McKee and Terrence Molinari opted to stay. Scott Kocis, Craig Dowd, Tom Dodge and Clausen decided to leave.

Kocis and Dowd decided on Georgetown; Dodge will attend Penn. Clausen will enroll at defending national champion Virginia.

The uncertainty over whether Duke would field a team next season -- the university suspended the squad's 2006 season in April -- led to Clausen's decision to leave. Earlier this month, Duke president Richard H. Brodhead announced that the program would be reinstated, but those two months of limbo left Clausen hanging for too long.

"After Coach Pressler told me in late March that he was going to resign, I started to think that this wouldn't be a short process," Clausen said. "That's when I started to think about making a move. My parents and me both tried to wait it out; and every night, we talked to each other about what was going on.

"After that, I was glued to the newspaper and TV and tried to get as much information as I could about what was going on. I was unsure of what my future was. I never saw anything in sports get blown up as much as this did. On my visit, I enjoyed every one of the players. I thought they were great guys. That's why I was shocked when I heard these accusations. ... With Duke's consent, we started to talk about where else I might consider."

But Clausen was still torn. He wanted to remain loyal to Duke, his dream school, and to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the premier collegiate lacrosse league in the country.

"But there was a lot of anxiety that there wouldn't even be a team next year," he said. "I wanted to be loyal to the school that I had committed to and to my future teammates. I tried to support them as much as I could, but it became tough. It was starting to become too late in the school year to starting looking at other colleges. It became tough to think about staying. I was afraid that Duke wouldn't have a program next year. I didn't know what to expect."

Clausen kept up a dialogue with some of the players. But in the end, he feared he would be caught without a place to play if Duke chose to not bring back its lacrosse program.

"I really admire Duke [for giving] all their recruits a full release," Clausen said. "The toughest part was deciding that I wanted to go to another school. And with Virginia, another ACC school, I had to get a special waiver, because you can't transfer from one school to another within the ACC. You have to sit out a year; and since I officially signed with Duke, I was part of Duke."

Clausen knew Virginia assistant coach Mark Van Arsdale because Van Arsdale helps run a lacrosse camp with Hill School coach Ned Ide each summer. When Duke released Clausen from his letter of intent, Van Arsdale was helpful in getting him through the admissions and eligibility process. Now he'll be joining a team fresh off of an undefeated national championship season.

"I'm thrilled Duke's going to have a team next year, and I'm hoping to keep in touch with the coaches there," Clausen said. "I hope they come back and have a great season, except when they play Virginia. I hope they can come back and cast out the shadow that they have."

Clausen likely will be on the field for the Cavaliers when they face Duke this coming season.

"I hope there are no hard feelings," he said. "When I made my decision, I spoke to some of the Duke players and told them about it. They fully supported it. They asked me to hang in there as long as I could, but they also told me to do what was in my best interest. When I let them know I made the decision to go to Virginia, they told me it was a great school and they wished me the best of luck."

Joseph Santoliquito is the managing editor of RING Magazine and a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.