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Coach K says he had ‘no knowledge’ of alleged 1999 sexual assault linked to Duke player

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Coach K says he had ‘no knowledge’ of alleged 1999 sexual assault linked to Duke player

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski says he’s not sure if a rape allegation against one of his former players is “true or not” and he didn’t know about the accusation until hours after it became public Friday. 

Meredith Watson, the second woman to come forward to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, said in a statement released by her lawyer that she was raped two decades ago by an unspecified Duke basketball player. Krzyzewski responded to that allegation for the first time after Duke defeated Virginia 81-71 Saturday night.

“I think there was an allegation made, right?” Krzyzewski said. “So, I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but there is an allegation. I did not find out about until late last night. I had no knowledge. That (allegation) is hugely important and our university will take care of whatever actions and give whatever information that is needed.”

A person with knowledge of the alleged sexual assault told USA TODAY Sports that the incident occurred in 1999, a year before Watson said Fairfax sexually assaulted her when both were students at Duke. That person was granted anonymity because details of the incident have not been made public. 

Nancy Erika Smith, Watson’s attorney, wrote in a statement Friday that Watson “went to the dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further.”

“Something like that is serious,” Krzyzewski said of the allegation. “Our school looks at it this way. We will do whatever we can to answer whatever questions are posed to us.”

Duke athletics director Kevin White issued the following statement Saturday: 

“Duke first learned of the allegations involving a student-athlete last night when they were reported by the media. Coach Krzyzewski confirms that he had no knowledge of the alleged conduct from 1999. The university is looking into the matter and will have no further comment at this time.”

Watson’s allegations against a Duke player aren’t the first to be made public during Krzyzewski’s legendary run at the school, which includes five NCAA titles and 1,121 wins since he took the helm in 1980. 

Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, detailed two sexual abuse allegations made against guard Rasheed Sulaimon after Sulaimon became the first player in Krzyzewski’s tenure to be dismissed from the team in 2015. The two women were allegedly assaulted during the 2013-14 academic year, although neither filed a complaint with the school or with local police, The Chronicle reported. 

The Chronicle, citing multiple anonymous sources, said multiple members of the athletic department had knowledge of the accusations. No charges were filed in either allegation. 

Krzyzewski said in a statement at the time that “Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations.”

While Krzyzewski didn’t state what obligations Sulaimon failed to meet, Sulaimon’s mother told The Baltimore Sun in October 2015 after her son transferred to the University of Maryland that the allegations played a role. 

“He didn’t want to deal with it,” Angela Sulaimon told the newspaper. “He wanted to go on with the season. But there was no record, there were no formal charges. Nobody said, ‘Yes, he did it.’ ”

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