Despite two early-season victories that restored some respectability to a beleaguered football team, the University released a mission statement last week proposing new methods of attracting top talent.
The statement, titled "Rebuilding Duke Football" and authored by Director of Athletics Joe Alleva, calls for more flexibility in player admissions, salary hikes for coaches, improved facilities and a stronger support staff.
"Obviously our record over the last few years and over the last 20 to 30 years inspired us to try to do something to make the program better," Alleva said. "Our goal is to be competitive in the [Atlantic Coast Conference] and ultimately competitive for the ACC title.... Becoming bowl-eligible would be nice too."
The most significant of the changes calls for a more flexible admissions policy in which the football program could pursue recruits with "a range of high school grade point averages and SAT scores."
Director of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag said his office will not lower standards when considering admission.
"There may be some change in the distribution of players throughout the range, but it will depend on who is recruited, who accepts a scholarship and how individual students are evaluated in the admissions process," Guttentag wrote in an e-mail.
Alleva noted that the program is not asking for a lower GPA and SAT range from which players are admitted, but a greater number at the lower end of the scale for the 15 to 25 players recruited each year. "The preponderance of our competition in football will take the NCAA minimum to admit a kid to a school," Alleva said. "We're not even talking about going down there. We want kids that can do the work and graduate from Duke University."
President Nan Keohane said she felt the adjustment would not negatively affect the University's academic integrity.
"[The policy] allows for more scope to be given to supporting a particular sport at a particular time in the University's historyï¿½ï¿½at this point, footballï¿½ï¿½to meet institutional priorities," Keohane said. "This doesn't mean lowering standards, but giving more leeway to the coaches and [Office of Undergraduate] Admissions to admit a few more students who meet the existing standards and are given an extra edge for their skills in football."
Although the football mission statement is the first of its kind in recent memory, Keohane said it is part of a larger review of athletics that the University is undertaking with the Board of Trustees. A strategic plan and overall mission statement for athletics is expected by the spring.
The football statement also calls for increased participation in the recruiting process by other members of the Universityï¿½ï¿½as long as their support falls within NCAA regulations.
"An alumnus in California can call us and tell us, 'Hey, there's a great player out here that you should take a look at,'" Alleva said. "The president and faculty members can talk to recruits when they come on campus and show recruits that the institution is behind this program."
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The other major component of the mission statement is a commitment to increase salaries for the head and assistant coaches.
"Our head football coach... is currently paid less than the average salary for Division I head coaches," the statement reads. "In addition, last year's total compensation for Duke's assistant coaches was only about 80 percent of the average total compensation for assistant coaching staffs in the ACC."
To correct this, program officials recently increased the salary level for new assistant coaches, and they have now pledged to adjust the head coach's salary accordingly as he experiences success. Alleva declined to give specifics on the increases, but added that the level of success will be determined by a number of factors, with victories foremost among them. The team snapped a 23-game losing streak in its season-opener and now have a 2-3 record.
"The mission is long-term, these [recent] wins are short-term," Alleva said. "We are getting better."
The two other parts of the planï¿½ï¿½providing adequate facilities and strong support personnelï¿½ï¿½have already manifested themselves in this fall's Yoh Football Center opening and the hiring of five new assistants in the past five years.
"The player area portion is as fine as any player's facility in the country," Alleva said of the new center, which will be officially dedicated Friday night.