Rasheed Sulaimon at center of sexual assault allegations prior to dismissal

Rasheed Sulaimon’s dismissal from the Duke basketball program is clouded by allegations of sexual assault, which surfaced nearly a year before he was released from the team in January. Multiple sources close to the situation have confirmed that members of the athletic department were made aware of the allegations as early as March 2014.48

The Duke men’s basketball department has not provided a detailed explanation of the dismissal, which was the first in head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 35 years at the helm of the program. Sulaimon, a junior, was dismissed from the Duke basketball team Jan. 29 after he “repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations,” Krzyzewski said in his official statement.

Sulaimon’s dismissal came not from a singular incident, but was the result of multiple actions detrimental to the program, Matt Plizga—the men’s basketball sports information director—told The Chronicle the day of the dismissal

The allegations

Separate allegations of sexual assault by Sulaimon came from two female students in the 2013-14 academic year. Both students voiced allegations publicly, but neither filed a complaint through the Office of Student Conduct or took legal action through the Durham Police Department. The students declined to discuss their allegations with The Chronicle.15

In October 2013, a female student said in a large group session at the student-led diversity retreat Common Ground that Sulaimon had sexually assaulted her, three retreat participants said. At the following semester’s Common Ground retreat beginning in February 2014, a second female student said she had been sexually assaulted by Sulaimon, according to four retreat participants.16

Common Ground is a four-day retreat in which students discuss identity—including issues involving race, socioeconomic status, gender and sexuality—through interaction with other participants, discussion groups and personal narratives. The retreat is held once each semester, with 56 participants selected from a student applicant pool.5

A former affiliate of the Duke basketball program, who was with the team throughout the majority of Sulaimon’s basketball career, became aware of the allegations made at the Fall 2013 Common Ground. The anonymous affiliate began speaking to the female student in January 2014, and began speaking to the second female student in March 2014 after learning of her allegations.9

The allegations were brought to the attention of a team psychologist in March 2014, the anonymous affiliate said. That month, the allegations were brought to Krzyzewski and assistant coaches Jon Scheyer and Nate James and associate head coach Jeff Capel.

The anonymous affiliate said other athletic administrators were then made aware of the allegations. Among the administrators identified by the anonymous affiliate were Mike Cragg, deputy director of athletics and operations; Director of Basketball Operations David Bradley; and Kevin White, vice president and director of athletics. The allegations were also brought to the attention of Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students, according to the anonymous affiliate.18

“Nothing happened after months and months of talking about [the sexual assault allegations],” the anonymous affiliate said. “The University administration knew. Kevin White knew, Mike Cragg knew.”7

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.14

“[The Jameis Winston sexual assault case reaction] would be the same from a fan base as large and as passionate as Duke’s,” the anonymous affiliate said, referring to the former Florida State quarterback, who was the subject of both a police investigation for alleged sexual assault in Fall 2013 and a university conduct hearing in Fall 2014. Winston did not face charges, and he was later found not in violation of the university’s code of conduct.12

Because the women voicing the allegations did not want to pursue their cases, no official complaints were filed with the Office of Student Conduct.5

If a complaint is filed with the Office of Student Conduct, an investigation is conducted and a disciplinary hearing occurs if necessary. If a student is found responsible for sexual misconduct in a disciplinary hearing, the recommended sanction is expulsion.7

Even if a student chooses not to file a complaint, however, the University is legally obligated by Title IX to look into any indications of sexual assault. If the Office of Student Conduct receives information about a possible assault with a student perpetrator, the protocol is to investigate to whatever extent is possible, Wasiolek said.2

“Sometimes, it’s so little information that there’s really nothing to follow up on. When we have the name of an alleged victim, we would certainly want to talk with that individual,” Wasiolek said. “When we have the name of an alleged respondent, we would want to talk with that individual as well. Depending on what information we get from either of those individuals, that will dictate how we proceed.”2

Even if an official complaint is not filed, Student Conduct still documents all conversations it has as part of an investigation of a potential sexual assault, Wasiolek said. The records are kept confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.2

Wasiolek declined to comment on the subject of allegations against Sulaimon.

Written by Lefty Aaron Brooks

Lefty Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a former D2 College Athlete who played both basketball and baseball for two different D2 Schools. Brooks gets his nickname, Lefty, from his pitching side which is different from his batting stance, his basketball shooting hand, and almost everything else ‘Lefty’ does on a daily basis. Aaron is also from the Terrapin state of Maryland which plays on his nickname as well, Lefty Dreissels, former Maryland Head Coach. Lefty joined WJS in 2013 and has grown with the website. Aaron ‘Lefty’ Brooks has guaranteed a Maryland National Championship in 2016. Lefty also preaches that Len Bias would have been greater than Jordan & Lebron combined!