Duke squares off with Stan Wilcox on ACC's biggest stage
The Chronicle: You're taking Florida State on the road to take on your old school in the ACC championship game this weekend. Is that at all strange for you to think about?
Stan Wilcox: It's exciting. Before I left Duke, I said to the football team, 'Hey, I would ask you guys just to do one thing for me, and that is make it to Charlotte for the ACC championship game, because I know Florida State is going to be there and I want you guys there too.' They have actually rose to the challenge and made it there, and now it will be a great time to see all of the guys that I'd been around a lot at Duke. Once kickoff goes, I'm all about FSU and the tomahawk chop.
TC: You're someone who worked so closely with the program during your time at Duke. How closely have you been able to follow the Blue Devils this season and what have you seen from them as Coach Cutcliffe continues to build the program into something that I'm sure was a vision the two of you had together.
SW: I've been able to follow most of the games, because actually what we would do is if the game was on television we'd put it on in our box at our games, or I would put the game on on my iPad or my iPhone and keep tabs on what the Duke Blue Devils were doing. I knew this year would be a good year for them because of knowing the talent that we had been getting each season. The talent level was getting better and better, and everyone was buying into Coach Cut's system. The scheduling was a very favorable schedule this year, and everything kind of came together at the right time.
TC: A lot of the people around the country are quite surprised that Duke is going to be playing your team in the ACC championship game this weekend. You're someone who has seen this from the beginning. Are you surprised at all?
SW: Not surprised at all. While I was there, I was able to predict the year I thought that we were going to be bowl eligible. I told everybody last year that we were going to be bowl eligible. I told everybody that Duke was going to be bowl eligible again this year. I can't say I predicted that the team would make it to the ACC championship, but I knew that the team was at that stage where it can basically play within anybody within the ACC and play them well.
TC: What was your first conversation with Coach Cutcliffe like after Duke beat North Carolina and punched its ticket to Charlotte?
SW: We haven't actually talked, but we've been texting. I just texted him congratulations and he responded telling me, 'You can't come to practice.' And I told him, 'That's fine, I won't be coming to practice, but pregame meals will have to be neutral territory.'
TC: He actually made a joke in his press conference this week about trying to make you forget all the things you had seen watching Duke in the past few years. Are you helping Jimbo Fisher put his scouting report together, given all your knowledge?
SW: I guess Coach Cut has given me a little more credit for my ability to scout than he realizes. Not at all. I don't have the acute knowledge of totally understanding the different schemes and packages that Duke runs. That's definitely not on my agenda. Both teams are great teams and have great coaches, they don't need an administrator like myself who doesn't know the X's and O's to be successful.
TC: What has it meant to you shortly after taking the job at Florida State to watch what Duke has been able to accomplish and see them gaining some recognition on the national stage?
SW: I've been feeling very prideful about it. Everybody here that I've talked to, and even in my press conference when I took the job here, I told everybody that what we did here at Duke, building a program, the program was on schedule to do great things. Being able to see that happen, and people that I've talked to here, it's totally different in that [Florida State] is definitely in football country. People live and die football, and when they hear Duke football they don't think very highly—they think about Duke football in the past. And then when they see what Duke has done this year after hearing me talk about how Duke football has arrived and they're going to be a program to reckon with, now they understand what I was saying.
It's going to be a great game on Saturday. I love Duke, I love Coach Cut, I love Kevin White. But once that kickoff happens, it's on—and we're not going to hold back.