Search for head coach narrows to at least 6

Though Saturday's emotional 30-22 victory over archrival North Carolina may affect the selection of Duke's next head football coach, a list of at least some of the finalists has been selected by the Blue Devils' football coach search committee, according to a source speaking to The Chronicle on the condition of anonymity.

Interim head coach Ted Roof headlines the list, as he has the backing of both his players and the handful of recruits that he has landed since he replaced Carl Franks just five weeks ago. Roof's team has enjoyed much success, including hard-fought losses to N.C. State and nationally-ranked Tennessee, and ACC wins over heavy-favorite Georgia Tech and UNC, a team Duke had not defeated since 1989.

Following Saturday's game, Roof deflected the attention from himself, and rather placed it squarely on the shoulders of his victorious team and coaching staff.

"We've done absolutely the best we know how, and whatever happens, I can look myself in the mirror--so can our coaches and so can our players," he said. "We came together the absolute very best we know how, and I think I'm most proud of that. Right now I'm not worried about what is going to happen in the next couple of weeks."

Athletic Director Joe Alleva spoke to the media briefly afterwards, saying that a decision could be made within 10-14 days.

"[Roof's] done a terrific job, there's no question," Alleva said. "He's a strong candidate for the job. My strategy hasn't changed: We're still going to interview coaches, and we're going to interview Ted.... Hopefully we'll have a decision in the next 10 days to two weeks."

Other finalists for the Duke head coaching position are Norm Chow, the offensive coordinator for the high-powered Southern California Trojans; Dick Biddle, a two-time All-ACC linebacker for the Blue Devils in the 1970s and the current head coach at 12-0 and playoff-bound Colgate University, a Division I-AA school; Paul Johnson, head coach at Navy; Jack Bicknell, Louisiana Tech's head coach; and perhaps most surprisingly, Bobby Ross, the former head coach at Maryland and Georgia Tech, and in the NFL for the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers. Duke's Sports Information Director, Jon Jackson, declined to comment on any specific candidates, though he did say that no firm number of finalists had been set.

The 67-year old Ross, whose son is currently an assistant coach at Virginia, spoke with Maryland's student newspaper, The Diamondback, about his life after coaching in an Nov. 19 article. Ross admitted to missing his job as a coach, as he had abruptly retired in the middle of the 2000 season when he was at the helm of the Lions.

"I don't think you do something for 44 years and it just drops out of your life. And it hasn't in mine," he told the Diamondback. "I still have a competitive feeling when I get around the game, and obviously I do miss it a lot."

And in response to a query regarding whether or not he would consider a return to coaching, Ross said, "I'd like to. I don't know that opportunity will come about. Some people might perceive me as being old. I think it's how old you feel. I have a lot of energy now, and I'm in great shape--physically probably the best shape I've been in awhile.

You never know, but I don't know. I have no idea." Ross coached the Terrapins to three ACC titles and four bowl games in five seasons, and served as a mentor to current Maryland coach, Ralph Friedgen. At Georgia Tech, Ross led the Yellow Jackets to the 1990 co-national championship, following an undefeated season and a 45-21 dismantling of Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl. It was the school's first national title in 38 years.

At the end of the next season, Ross accepted a job as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers, a team he led to Super Bowl XXIX. Soon thereafter he moved to the Lions, where his teams accumulated a 27-32 ledger before his retirement nine games into the 2000 campaign. Chow, who told The Los Angeles Times several weeks ago that he would be willing to listen to Duke if it expressed interest in him, is widely considered to have one of the best offensive minds in the college ranks. He served as an assistant coach at Brigham Young for 27 years, where he taught Heisman winner Ty Detmer, and other star quarterbacks such as Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Marc Wilson, Gifford Nielsen and Robbie Bosco.

Chow then accepted an assistant position at N.C. State, where he coached current Heisman-candidate Phillip Rivers during his freshman season. He returned to the West Coast and USC after one season in Raleigh, and helped Carson Palmer to the 2002 Heisman Trophy. The Trojans are now the No. 2 team in America, with much of their success due to first-year starting quarterback Matt Leinart.

Last year, Chow turned down a head coaching offer from Kentucky, as he was attempting to land the head job at Utah, a position which he was not offered.

Biddle--who said Thursday night that Duke was yet to contact him but he would "certainly listen" if the Blue Devils showed interest--has enjoyed much success with the once-lowly Red Raiders. The eighth-year coach took over the program following an 0-11 season, and led it to a winning season in his first year. He is only the third coach in Division I or I-AA history to accomplish such a feat. In all, Colgate has won four Patriot League titles under Biddle and advanced to the playoffs four times.

Navy has flourished under second-year head coach Johnson, as it is in the midst of a 7-4 season. This will be only Navy's third winning season in 20 years. A representative of Navy's athletic director said Thursday night that Johnson had not been contacted by Duke regarding the job opening.

Bicknell, now in his fifth season at Louisiana Tech, has made great strides at a small Western Athletic Conference program, particularly his ability to recruit--he pulled in the No. 25 recruiting class in 2003. Currently, Tech is 5-6, but one of those losses came to future ACC-member and national powerhouse Miami, and another to No. 2 Louisiana State. Still, Louisiana Tech defeated Big Ten stalwart Michigan State 20-19 early in the season.

But the search for Duke's next head coach could begin and end with Roof, whose success has won over his players in a very short amount of time. Indeed, the team has already rallied around the former defensive coordinator, and has not been shy in sharing that sentiment with the media.

"We wanted to go out on a good note as seniors, we wanted to beat Carolina for the first time in 13 years, and we wanted to do this for Coach Roof to give him a fair shot at the job next year," senior Ryan Fowler said after the win over UNC. "We did it for all of those things, and maybe the biggest thing of all was for Coach Roof."


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