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Duke Lacrosse Makes Eligibility Request

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) _ Duke hopes the NCAA will give back the year its men's lacrosse players lost during last season's now-debunked rape scandal.

The school is asking the NCAA to grant an extra year of eligibility for team members, who played just eight games in 2006 before the university canceled the rest of the season amid rape allegations against three players.

Still _ as his team prepares for this weekend's Final Four _ coach John Danowski figures the proposal is ``a long shot.''

``It's unprecedented, so to think that it could happen is probably unrealistic,'' Danowski said after practice Wednesday. ``It's a long shot. I don't gamble, but I wouldn't put money on it. That's for sure.''

Danowski said his Blue Devils (16-2) _ the top seed in the NCAA tournament _ are more focused on facing fourth-seeded Cornell (15-0) in Saturday's semifinals. Still, he said the proposal was about doing everything possible for ``the kids who have been through so much.''

``And if there's something else that can be done for them, I think that's a good thing,'' he said.

``Obviously most of the guys would be pretty interested in it,'' senior defenseman Nick O'Hara said. ``But for right now, that's something that's not even really thought about _ maybe in the back of your heads a little bit.''

It is Duke's second appearance in the national semifinals in three seasons. In 2005, the Blue Devils lost to Johns Hopkins in the championship game by one goal.

Duke was one of the favorites to get back to the finals last year before accusations that three players attacked a woman hired to perform as a stripper at a March 2006 team party. That ultimately led to rape, kidnapping and sexual offense charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, while longtime coach Mike Pressler resigned.

But rape charges were dropped against the players in December. The state attorney general dropped all remaining charges in April while declaring the accused players ``innocent'' victims of a ``tragic rush to accuse'' by the local district attorney.

Evans graduated the day before he was indicted last May. Seligmann and Finnerty were invited to return to school and the team, though neither has accepted.

Duke athletics director Joe Alleva said the university sought the approval of other Atlantic Coast Conference schools before going forward with the proposal. If approved, seniors on this year's team would be eligible in 2007 by pursuing graduate-level course work, team spokesman Art Chase said.

``The extraordinary circumstances that happened last spring ... were a real unique situation,'' Alleva said. ``We felt it was only fair to try to get a year of eligibility for those kids who lost last season.

``It's in the NCAA's hands now.''
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