Where's the love for Duke football?

I am struck by just how much has changed in Coach Mike Elko’s two years with Duke football. We’re bowl game champions. We beat Clemson. ESPN College GameDay came to Durham. We held our own against Notre Dame.  Whether this improvement is due to our beloved Coach Mike Elko, our new recruits, or the team’s passion for the game, it is clear that we are no longer just a basketball school. Duke is becoming a football school too. 

We began the season by beating Clemson, something I always believed that we would do, and went on to win the next three games. However, the hard work that our team has done to overcome so much doubt and skepticism was quickly overshadowed by the argument that perhaps the team we played in early September was not the Clemson team we were supposed to see. 

As if this wasn’t enough, we experienced a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame this past weekend. Regardless of what was anticipated this past weekend, our team showed incredible skill and heart. They fought against a tough opponent even as much of the student section, the very people meant to support them, did not believe they could win. 

Our football team has brought excitement and school spirit to campus this fall. While I believe that they always deserved our support, they especially deserve the same support and grace that we would grant other sports teams. This is the responsibility that comes with becoming an everything school. I just wonder if we are up for the challenge.

As bowl game champions, why has every game except for the ones against Clemson and Notre Dame felt so empty? The football team does so much to incentivize us to support our peers on the team from handing out free items to recording personalized videos addressed to the student body to literally paying four students who wear their jerseys (offering $1,000 to one student who stays until the end). I can’t help but think that we would never have this issue in Cameron Indoor Stadium, even with a losing team.

Many of us are pleasantly surprised to watch our football team rise in rankings and often discuss among friends how well the team is doing this year.  At the same time, I find that we constantly forget the amazing feat that happened in December during Coach Mike Elko’s first year here. I can vividly remember sitting by my laptop on the floor of my bedroom over winter break watching as we won the Military Bowl in Annapolis. I didn’t truly realize how impressive of a feat this was until I learned that our rivals at UNC-Chapel Hill, the same team that beat us at home, were unsuccessful at their own bowl game. Sadly even this isn’t enough to bring us out to Wallace Wade Stadium in full, unconditional support.

Duke football may never surpass basketball in popularity, but we can become a school that supports our football team better. With over 6,000 undergraduate students, we should have no issue filling up the student section the way we did this past weekend. 

The Duke football team has earned its stripes. Coach Mike Elko has proved himself as a great coach before our eyes and every member of the team has worked incredibly hard to get us where we are today. Even if you are not a football fan, you should be at some of the games to show your support or at least enjoy the atmosphere with friends. At Duke, students sleep in tents outside, brave the elements and stand on their feet for hours just to get a partially obstructed view of a men’s basketball game. We should keep the energy from this season going, and continue to show up for this team which has proven time and time again that they have what it takes to succeed.

Sonia Green is a Trinity junior. Her column typically runs on alternate Tuesdays. 


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