Manny Diaz hired as next Duke football head coach

Manny Diaz will take over the Duke football program following the Birmingham Bowl.
Manny Diaz will take over the Duke football program following the Birmingham Bowl.

It is time for a new era in Durham. 

Duke officially announced the hiring of former Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz as its new head football coach Thursday night, following earlier reports from Yahoo Sports' Ross Dellenger on X. The move comes just 10 days after former head coach Mike Elko announced his departure for Texas A&M’s head coaching position. 

“As our process unfolded, it became abundantly clear that Manny Diaz is the right fit for Duke University and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Manny, Stephanie, and their family into the Duke community,” Athletic Director Nina King said in a team release. “Manny’s previous experiences have prepared him for this opportunity, and he is, quite simply, an outstanding football coach who will capitalize on the positive momentum of this program.

Diaz comes to Duke after two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Penn State. He helped turn the Nittany Lions into one of the best units in the country during his time in State College, Pa., ranking first in the nation in total defense in 2023 with just 223.2 yards allowed per game — the fewest in FBS since 2011. The 49-year-old has called the defensive plays all over the country throughout his career, including spells at Miami and Texas, an asset that will help his ability to recruit nationally.

The Miami native brings a wealth of ACC experience to Durham, beginning from his time as a member of the defensive staff at N.C. State from 2000-05. Diaz made his return to the conference in 2016 when he took the defensive coordinator position at Miami, where he molded the Hurricanes into an elite defensive unit that ranked fourth in total defense during his last year as coordinator in 2018. He is also responsible for creating the famous “Turnover Chain,” which turned his defense into a social media phenomenon as much as it was an on-field one. 

Diaz also brings head coaching experience, as he took over in Coral Gables, Fla., after the retirement of Mark Richt in 2018. In his three years heading up Miami, Diaz was 21-15, going to three straight bowls before being let go in 2021.

Diaz will be the Blue Devils’ third head coach in three years. David Cutcliffe parted ways with the program in 2021 after a storied 14-year tenure and disappointing ending. Elko was named his successor just 12 days later and spearheaded a rapid — and dramatic — turnaround of the program

After earning just one conference win in Cutcliffe’s final two years, Duke took down five ACC opponents in Elko’s first season en route to a 9-4 final record and Military Bowl victory. The Blue Devils continued to compete throughout the 2023 season, beating then-No. 9 Clemson for the team’s first top-10 win since 1989. Duke rose to No. 16 in the AP Poll at its highest before falling to then-No. 4 Florida State. The Blue Devils closed out the regular season 7-5, going 4-4 in the ACC. They will play Troy in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 23. 

The day following the conclusion of the 2023 regular season, the news broke that Elko was taking the Texas A&M position, kicking off King’s “nationwide search.” Associate head coach Trooper Taylor was named the interim in the meantime. While roster details for next year are indeed murky, numerous Blue Devils have already entered the transfer portal, including junior quarterback Riley Leonard. The Chronicle is tracking every entrance and departure for the program. 

“We are grateful and humbled for this opportunity and could not be more excited to be the head football coach at Duke University,” Diaz said. “I’d like to give a special thanks to Dr. Price and Nina for their trust in me and our family as well as a true commitment to this program. Duke University is an elite institution in every facet, and we are excited to be a part of it. I’m beyond excited to get to work.”

Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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