Appreciate Cutcliffe’s decision

Quick, hundreds of freshmen voraciously reading The Chronicle for the first time, name a coach of a Duke sports team. Bonus points for correct spelling.

I’m guessing you said Mike Krzyzewski. (But I’m also guessing you didn’t spell it right—don’t worry, you’ve got time.)

Now, for some extra credit, name a Blue Devil coach who doesn’t pace the sidelines of Cameron. I’m guessing that this question was a little harder for all of you. But it shouldn’t have been.

Need a hint? It’s this coach who will define your first semester as a Blue Devil fan. It’s this coach who has coached two of the more famous professional athletes of our era.

And most importantly, it’s this coach who could have bolted from Durham for a more prestigious, higher-paying job over the summer, but instead chose to finish the job rebuilding a struggling Blue Devil program.

The answer is David Cutcliffe, a man who not only coached both Manning brothers, but was so coveted by Tennessee, one of the most storied programs in college football history, that he was offered its head coaching position this offseason.

That’s right—Cutcliffe actually chose to remain the football coach at Duke over Tennessee, a school he’s dreamed of coaching at since he was a coordinator there in the 1990s. Amazingly enough, the football program that’s been the joke of Division 1A for a decade somehow found, and kept, one of the few college football coaches with integrity. Just ask North Carolina and Butch Davis how hard that is.

But not only is Cutcliffe loyal, he’s quite the maestro with X’s and O’s.

In fact, he may be one of the best in the ACC. He was able to win four games in his first season in Durham—a number that matched the amount of wins the Blue Devils had in the previous four seasons combined. Last season, Duke won five games total, including a streak of three straight conference victories that had a berth in the ACC Championship game legitimately within reach.

And this was all done by coaching a team largely made up of two-star recruits brought in by his predecessor, Ted Roof.

Keep in mind that this is a team that, mere months before Cutcliffe first took the field at Wallace Wade, was sued by Louisville after the Blue Devils backed out of a contract to play four games against the Cardinals. The contract stated that Duke would have to pay a fine if Louisville couldn’t find an opponent of “similar stature” to replace the Blue Devils. But Duke successfully avoided that fine, in a legitimate court of law, by arguing that they were far and away the worst program in Division 1A, and literally any other opponent would be of higher stature than the Blue Devils.

Imagine seeing that argument on Law & Order.

Now sit back and watch what this Duke team—now with two full Cutcliffe recruiting classes and two years under his system—does this season. Yes, the Blue Devils are still overcoming the remnants of a decade of mismanagement. But they now have Cutcliffe’s prized recruit, former four-star quarterback Sean Renfree, under the helm after two full seasons learning Cutcliffe’s complex spread offense. They have a plethora of speedy skill position players who also have experience under Cutcliffe. And they (finally) have legitimate Division 1A talent on the defensive side of the ball.

So thank David Cutcliffe for bringing genuine Division 1A football back to Durham. Thank him for creating a winning atmosphere in a locker room that was once more depressing than the Detroit Lions’. Thank him for assembling a first-class coaching staff and a recruiting class full of ACC-caliber talent. (And while you’re at it, thank him for the opportunity to see Alabama in Wallace Wade in a mere few weeks.)

Coach K and Cameron Indoor will always be the main course of a Duke student’s athletic meal. But thanks to Coach Cut making the decision to not sing Rocky Top all night long, you freshmen have the opportunity to sample a now tantalizing appetizer on the football field. Take advantage of it.


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