Attending a sports school

Despite last week's win against Miami, columnist Danielle Lazarus writes that Duke's successes are too widespread to call this a football school or a basketball school.
Despite last week's win against Miami, columnist Danielle Lazarus writes that Duke's successes are too widespread to call this a football school or a basketball school.

Everyone knows that Duke is a basketball school. But nobody would even consider calling us a “football school” until this past weekend.

Last year as a tour guide, the most frequent question I was asked is if Duke has a football team.

Despite the fact that our football team had just played in its first bowl game since before the prospective students on my tour were born, some parent would always raise their hand with a confused expression on their face.

“I know your basketball team is really good,” they would say. “But I had no idea Duke even had a football team.”

Out of the dozen or so tours I gave last semester, this happened more than half of the time.

This year, however, there’s no question that our football team has arrived.

The No. 25 (I will never get used to writing that) Blue Devils are now ranked for the first time since 1994. For two weeks in a row, Wallace Wade has been packed with students and fans alike to watch Duke beat N.C. State and Miami and ascend to the top of the ACC Coastal Division standings. Possibly most unfathomable is that, although it’s November, campus is buzzing about a team that doesn’t play in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The debate around Durham this week is if we are now a football school. When I think of huge football powerhouses, I think of the SEC: Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, South Carolina, guys in ties and girls in pearls. I think of Michigan’s Big House, which, at capacity, is big enough to fit the entire population of the U.S. Virgin Islands. I think of the ACC’s own Florida State and Clemson, consistent shoo-ins atop both the ACC Atlantic Division and the AP top 25.

Considering that Duke is now on the same list as many of these teams, it’s a start. I don’t think that Blue Devil football will ever elicit the same excitement as basketball does—but in a few years when I come back to my alma mater on a Saturday in the fall, I hope I’m proven wrong.

Duke is in a very unique position. We have an amazing football team and basketball team—and field hockey, soccer, women’s basketball and volleyball teams.

Not only are we a basketball school, and not only are we potentially taking the first steps to becoming a football school—we’re a sports school.

It’s easy to look at this past weekend and talk merely about football’s victory and basketball rolling along, but many non-revenue sports have also done amazing things. I don’t want to discount football and basketball at all, but I do want to emphasize that this was arguably the most exciting weekend in recent Duke sporting history for more than two reasons.

Our field hockey team is on its way to the NCAA Final Four, its first trip since 2006. This past weekend, it crushed both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, surrendering only two goals between both games while scoring 10.

The women’s soccer team won a thriller to advance to the second round of its postseason tournament. After ending double overtime gridlocked in a 1-1 tie against Colorado College, junior Kelly Cobb sunk the Blue Devils' final penalty kick to give Duke a 4-3 victory.

Women’s basketball, ranked No. 2 in the nation, beat Alabama 92-57 Sunday after torching USC Upstate 123-40 three days earlier. Senior Tricia Liston led the team with 20 points against the Crimson Tide, and is averaging 18.3 each game.

And Duke’s 13th-ranked volleyball team, possibly the most consistent team on campus, tacked on to its winning streak by beating Wake Forest and Georgia Tech for its ninth and 10th straight victories. The Blue Devils have only lost one ACC game this entire season.

We’re spoiled to go to a school like Duke, where victories are a given not only in Cameron Indoor, but now in Wallace Wade, Jack Katz and Koskinen as well.

Nationwide, sports schools are rare. Between the AP football and basketball polls, only eight other teams are ranked in both (once again, I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that Duke is one of them). And if you zoom in closer, only four others are ranked between men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football.

Of those four schools, Duke is the only one that is also still alive in the NCAA women's soccer and field hockey tournaments and is ranked in the top 25 of volleyball.

I know that not many people are paying attention to all of these teams. People are just starting to care about our football team—how would they know how far the women’s soccer team has advanced? College football and basketball are both placed on a pedestal nationally, considering the popularity of their professional counterparts.

It’s awesome that Duke can have success in both of those sports. I love it. But, at the end of the day, they’re simply contributors—albeit the biggest ones—to Duke’s total athletic culture.

The fall sports season is coming to a close, and the Blue Devils are headed to a bowl game. They're also going to the Final Four, the next round of the NCAA tournament, the top of the NCAA rankings and, inevitably, March Madness.

It was a really good weekend to be a Blue Devil—but don’t we always have it good at a sports school?


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