Whatever did or didn’t happen with Rasheed Sulaimon, whatever he knew or didn’t know, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski still isn’t talking about it.
“I really don’t have any answers more for those questions,” Krzyzewski said after Wednesday’s 94-51 win against Wake Forest, citing FERPA, the federal student-privacy act, as the reason for his silence.
“I would hope you understood, that’s what I’m supposed to do. If you were in my position, by federal law, that’s what you would do. I’m going to uphold that. I’m going to do that. As an employee of Duke University and an American citizen. All right? OK.”
This is the way it’s going to be for Duke from now on: All anyone will be talking about with Duke basketball is what Duke isn’t talking about.
Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, published a story Monday that claimed, citing anonymous, second-hand sources, the Duke basketball staff was aware of allegations of sexual assault against Sulaimon during the 2013-14 season.
Sulaimon was dismissed from the team in January for what Krzyzewski described in a statement as a failure to “consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program,” but he is still enrolled at Duke.
Just like that, Duke’s season was about something entirely other than basketball. Now it’s about a bunch of accusations that are as explosive as they are anonymous.
The Chronicle’s story was built entirely on hearsay, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to verify, but the subject matter is so volatile and the implications so dire that it’s also impossible to ignore.
So everyone’s talking. But not Duke. It’s awkward.
On Monday’s ACC teleconference, the day the allegations surfaced, Krzyzewski said “no comment” eight times in response to questions about Sulaimon.
“I have no comment,” Krzyzewski said at one point. “Why would I change? I have no comment. That’s it. No comment.”
On Tuesday, athletics director Kevin White issued a statement clarifying that Krzyzewski and his staff “have fulfilled their responsibilities” with regard to reporting student misconduct and that FERPA prevented them from commenting on any specific individual or situation.
Still, at Duke’s final home game Wednesday night, a thorough throttling of Wake Forest on Quinn Cook’s senior night, crews from CNN and Good Morning America joined the usual game-night throng in the cramped Cameron press room.
The additional presence of the Dallas Cowboys contingent of Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten made it even more of a circus.
University spokesman Michael Schoenfeld and Krzyzewski’s wife Mickie stood off to the side, behind Krzyzewski, in addition to the usual athletic department staff.
“Coach, the allegations of sexual assault against Rasheed Sulaimon, did they play any role in your decision to dismiss him?” Krzyzewski was asked.
“I’m not going to be able to answer that question,” Krzyzewski said. “I would hope that you would understand. I’m just not able to answer that question. Anything else?”
There were more questions about Sulaimon. Krzyzewski still wouldn’t comment.
“This was a fabulous night for our kids,” he said. “We had a celebrated senior have an amazing, amazing night. We’re going to enjoy his night and his career. I really don’t have any answers more for those questions. I would just hope you understood, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
He might as well get used to it. There’s no taking back the accusations in the Chronicle and no specific response Duke or Krzyzewski can or will offer, citing FERPA. The questions will keep coming.
This is going to hang over the team as long as it’s still playing. And based on the way Duke has played lately – coincidentally, since Sulaimon’s departure – that could be a very long time.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947