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A chance to focus on

Before Director of Athletics Joe Alleva took the same position at LSU Friday, the Department of Athletics and Duke boosters could have theoretically ignored some of the issues that they have long faced.

But now that Alleva is gone, Duke supporters must recognize a number of the key challenges that make the job among the most difficult in the country, in addition to one of the most prestigious. At no other institution but Stanford and possibly Notre Dame does the athletic director need to toe the line between academics and athletics as consistently as Duke's Director of Athletics does.

That obstacle, which is incredibly important, is only one of the myriad difficulties Alleva's successor will encounter.

Here are four of the major challenges facing Duke Athletics that should be on the mind of Roy Bostock, the search committee chair:

  1. Football: the field and the classroom

New head coach David Cutcliffe has brought a surge of energy and enthusiasm to a downtrodden program. Before a single pass has been thrown, he looks like a great hire who has the opportunity to take this program to places it hasn't been since Steve Spurrier strolled the sidelines. Until there is routine success on the field and in the classroom, however, this will always be the primary point of concern for the Duke athletic director.

How can a team balance the need for 20-25 recruits per year with the stringent academic guidelines the Duke administration imposes? For all his struggles, Alleva at least got the academic side right. In Alleva's 10-year tenure, the football squad led the country in overall graduation rate three times. Figuring out how to balance that with on-the-field performance, though, is an unenviable task for whomever takes the helm from Alleva.

  1. Football: the bank account

BCS football, when done right, is a cash cow. At schools like Miami and Notre Dame, proceeds from the gridiron help offset the costs of every other sport. But here, it's a banner year when the football team breaks even, putting immense pressure on other sports to trim expenses. This means that Duke, with a smaller alumni base than most schools, must put a bigger emphasis on raising money to pay for these programs.

Stanford, which has a similar alumni base, has endowed many scholarships for its non-revenue programs, allowing it to partake in significantly less annual sports fundraising. This arrangement has been quite successful on the field, as well, as the Cardinal has won 13 consecutive NACDA Director's Cup titles, awarded to the nation's best-performing athletic department. For this reason, among others, it may be wise for both the new athletic director and search committee to look at the Duke of the West for inspiration.

  1. Mike Krzyzewski

Having sat in a press conference with Coach K, I can assure you he's an intimidating individual. The only thing more daunting than working or playing for him may be having to tell him what to do. Krzyzweski indirectly endorsed Alleva to earn the promotion in 1998, which may have led to Alleva's hiring.

That's not to say that Krzyzewski, considered one of the most powerful and successful individuals in all of college sports, shouldn't have a lot of clout in the entire athletic department. It could, however, be difficult for a new athletic director to understand how to balance his responsibilities with those of Krzyzewski.

  1. The retirement of Mike Krzyzewski

Whether Coach K retires soon or 10 years down the road, Bostock and Duke President Richard Brodhead must enter the search with the mindset that the man or woman they hire will be responsible for piloting the ship through the storm that will be K's departure.

With his family mentality of Duke Basketball, K seems likely to want to install one of his assistants into the position upon his retirement. But will this be the best fit for the program? Will that person-be it Johnny Dawkins, Steve Wojciechowski, Chris Collins or Greg Paulus-feel too much pressure to fill K's shoes?

The person then in charge of the athletic department needs to be able to make the calculated and unbiased decision of whether it's best to maintain strength by hiring a proven winner or keeping it in the family and letting K decide.

So who's up to the challenge? If Duke wants someone who has had experience and success with football, it simply cannot hire an athletic director candidate from within.

If it wants someone who places a strong emphasis on academics, such a demand narrows the field considerably.

Either way, the search committee's top priority should be finding someone who can alleviate the problems on the horizon before they become immediate concerns.


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