In recent weeks, professors and students have taken Duke to task for its athletic admissions policies and culture.

Coach K responded publicly and diplomatically at halftime of the Blue-White game. And The Chronicle praised what it heard:

Between the thunderous dunks and crisp new uniforms on display in Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday, men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski made a strong statement in the athletics-academics debate.

He took the opportunity during halftime of the Blue-White scrimmage to make these remarks while recognizing the 20th anniversary of the record-setting 1986 team.

Coach K, not surprisingly, stated that both academics and athletics have a place at Duke, and that Duke’s excellence in both endeavors is what makes the University great and unique.

He mentioned that the men’s basketball program is especially cognizant of the importance of academics and does not hang up the banners recognizing championships or No. 1 rankings until the entire senior class from that year graduates. He also stressed that the people are the best part about Duke.

Though these comments are not at all shocking-no one expects a high-profile college basketball coach to say athletics do not belong at universities-the choice of venue for these comments is important.

Coach K made similar comments at a June 20 press conference. Then, he called the fallout from allegations that three members of the 2005-2006 men’s lacrosse team raped an exotic dancer “the most trying time” he’s had at Duke. “I don’t like the remarks that attack athletics,” he said, “not just at Duke but anywhere and I think that the people that do that are very narrow-minded in the total scope of what a university or college does.”

At both the press conference and the Blue-White scrimmage, Coach K said that coaches are teachers and that students learn both in the classroom and on the court, pitch and field. He stressed that the lessons student-athletes gain from athletics are an integral part of their educations at Duke.

The press conference was a very public arena, but Saturday’s comments were made in a more private, yet influential setting. With President Richard Brodhead and many parents-not to mention potential donors-in the stands, Coach K, possibly the most powerful man on campus, made it clear where he stands.

Although he said in June that “it is important for me to remember my place… I am not the president, I am not the athletic director and I am not on the board of trustees,” Coach K must realize how much authority he wields. Using this address to remind people where he stands was not, however, a subtle reminder of his power, but rather a quiet, non-confrontational way to argue his case to the community.

Compared with the parody of the Faculty Athletics Associates Program by Professors Richard Hain and Fred Nijhout, Coach K’s comments are very mature and diplomatic. He didn’t fuel the fire, but calmly reiterated his position squarely on one side of the ongoing athletics-academics debate.

It’s commendable that in this athletics-academics debate he has chosen to make his responses measured and low key, unlike others who have weighed in. Although he received criticism for keeping a low profile in the spring, he has now made multiple statements in the aftermath of the lacrosse scandal-all appropriate and constructive.

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