Mike Krzyzewski, coach of the powerhouse Duke University men’s basketball team, refused to comment on a report alleging he, along with other coaches and administrators, were aware of sexual assault allegations against a player and failed to report them.
Krzyzewski, one of the most lauded coaches in basketball, received several questions about the accusations against Rasheed Sulaimon and the university’s response on an ACC coaches’ conference call Monday, but declined to address them. “I don’t have any comment on that,” Krzyzewski said. “Thanks for asking.”
Sulaimon was dismissed from the team on January 29 — the first player dismissal in Krzyzewski’s 35 years running the Duke basketball program. But a report published Monday in the university’s student newspaper, The Duke Chronicle, also said that coaches and administrators were aware of the allegations against Sulaimon as early as March 2014. Krzyzewski’s official statement said the dismissal stemmed from the fact that Sulaimon “repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations.”
According to The Chronicle’s report, two women separately voiced allegations of sexual assault by Sulaimon at a recurring “student-led diversity retreat Common Ground.” The first came in October 2013, three retreat participants told the school paper, and the second came in February 2014, according to four participants.
An anonymous “former affiliate” of the basketball program reportedly became aware of the allegations and, after speaking with the women, brought the allegations to Krzyzewski and several other coaches in March 2014.
The anonymous affiliate also named several university administrators who were made aware of the allegations against Sulaimon, including Mike Cragg, deputy director of athletics and operations; Kevin White, vice president and director of athletics; and Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students.
“Nothing happened after months and months of talking about [the sexual assault allegations],” the anonymous affiliate told The Chronicle. “The University administration knew.”
Because neither woman wanted to pursue their case further, formal action was not taken with the Office of Student Conduct or local police — potentially the result of an all too familiar sentiment: “The fear of backlash from the Duke fan base was a factor in the female students’ decision not to pursue the allegations, sources close to the women said.” The two women also declined to speak with The Chronicle for its story.
Regardless of their decision, however, The Chronicle notes that “the University is legally obligated by Title IX to look into any indications of sexual assault.”
In a statement issued Monday, the university declined to comment on the report, saying it was “prohibited by law from disclosing publicly any particular student’s confidential education records.” The statement continued, “The university takes immediate action when it receives reports of alleged sexual misconduct or other violations of the student conduct code, which includes investigation and referral to the Student Conduct Office for review in a timely manner as required by law. Duke also takes every possible action internally to ensure anyone who raises a complaint of sexual misconduct is supported and the campus community is safe.”
Heading into March Madness, Duke’s number three national ranking and perennial title contender status mean the Sulaimon story likely isn’t going away anytime soon, a fact that is only compounded by Krzyzewski’s unique fame among basketball coaches. His range of accomplishments, from coaching Team USA to recently becoming the first Division I coach to reach 1,000 wins, place “Coach K” among the most renowned people to ever stalk a sideline.
It’s also just the latest in a rash of sexual assault cases involving college athletes and, in several instances, university officials. Late last week, and just days after being dismissed from the team, former Louisville guard Chris Jones was charged with rape and sodomy.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court last week claims that the University of New Mexico interfered with an investigation into a woman’s report of an alleged gang rape involving multiple football players. The suit marks at least the third time this year alone that a civil suit has been brought against a university over its handling of a sexual assault case involving an athlete.