Duke investigates sexual assault allegation against ex-basketball player

The woman says the attack happened in 1999, the same season the Blue Devils played in the NCAA final at Tropicana Field.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, shown here in 2018, says he was made aware of a 1999 sexual assault allegation against one of his former players on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. [Associated Press]
Published Feb. 11

The woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of raping her while they were Duke students 20 years ago also says a Blue Devils basketball player raped her in 1999.

Meredith Watson’s lawyer released a statement late Friday claiming Watson was raped by a Duke basketball player and, when she reported the attack to a school administrator, received no assistance. The statement did not give the name of the player nor the name of the school administrator.

Watson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, wrote in the statement: “Ms. Watson was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at Duke. She went to the Dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further. Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax.”

Duke issued a statement after Saturday night’s basketball game at Virginia, detailing its intent to investigate the claims.

“Duke first learned of the allegations involving a student-athlete last night when they were reported by the media,” the statement said. “Coach (Mike) 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.”

Krzyzewski said after Saturday’s game that he had no knowledge of such an event. Athletics director Kevin White released a statement, echoing that comment.

Krzyzewski added during his postgame comments that he takes the situation seriously: “There’s an allegation. I didn’t find out about it until late (Friday), and I have no knowledge about it. That is hugely important. Our university will take care of whatever actions and give whatever information that’s needed to be done. Something like that is serious. Our school looks at it that way. We’ll do whatever we can to answer whatever questions are posed to us.”

The 1998-99 Duke team, which finished 37-2, was one of the most talented and highly touted in school history. But it lost to UConn 77-74 in the national championship game that season, which was played at Tropicana Field.

Fairfax has denied Watson’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her on Duke’s campus in Durham, N.C., when they were both students in 2000. That accusation follows one by Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson. She has accused Fairfax of assaulting her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 in Boston.