Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Clash over Cutty

Barry Saunders, who I assume was hired to the News and Observer (along with his writing and journalistic skills, blah) to provide the young hip urban (read: black) perspective wrote an article calling Duke's decision to hire the savior of our football program, Coach Cutcliffe "spineless."
I assume Saunders is black because of his repeated use of the word "brothas" (something that I don't know any black person under the age of like 40 to say), when referring to Rod Broadway and Karl Dorrell and so his argument, which isn't really backed up by any facts besides the fact he's known Rod Broadway for years and that Broadway is a good coach, seems to come down to racial disappointment. More or less he's mad his friend didn't get a job. Just say that- don't make it a racist conspiracy.

It really doesn't make any sense to complain, sure I was all about Rod Broadway but to have a coach come in with that experience and those credentials, acclaimed universally is an amazing hire and an amazing moment for the program and Saunders' in his assertion that Joe Alleva " owed it to us to tell why Rod Broadway wasn't [the perfect choice]" would have been unfair to everyone involved, especially to Rod Broadway; perhaps by explaining why he wasn't the choice (something I've never seen any AD or GM do ever) he would point out Broadway's flaws thus putting him at a disadvantage for any future head coaching positions.

It's actually a pretty horrible column and Saunders just seems really angry; I don't know if it's the racialness that seems to creep up so often over Duke or whether he's just bitter because he has a "u" in his last name and thus he's not the greatest running back ever and instead is relegated to writing and criticizing. (and of course you know once Duke starts winning the decision he labeled as "spineless" he'll be calling genius, though probably couched in an awkward urban vernacular so he can keep his street cred." P.S. nice hat, jackass
(I am fiercely loyal, obviously; within 3 days of him being my coach I'd defend him to the death)
And about "It was business as usual, business as it has been the last 22 times Duke hired a football coach" at leats one of those 22 times worked out incredibly well as AlFeatherson invokes in his article praising Cutty entitle "Cutcliffe Announcement Mirrors Wade Hiring"

When Dean W.H. Wannamaker lured Alabama head football coach Wallace Wade to Duke after the 1931 Rose Bowl, he knew that he was getting a proven major college football winner. Wade arrived in Durham with a 63-13-3 record in eight seasons at Alabama that included two Rose Bowl trips and three national championships.

None of the next 11 head football coaches hired by Duke have started work with a winning resume as a major college head coach. Bill Murray and Red Wilson had successful small-college records when hired and Steve Spurrier had three winning years in the USFL. But not one had even been a winner at a major college before landing at Duke.

David Cutcliffe, introduced as the Blue Devils’ new coach Saturday night, Dec. 15, 2007, breaks that streak. The former Ole Miss coach was 44-29 in six seasons as the head coach at the University of Mississippi.

“When I talked about the criteria we were looking for in a head coach, that criteria included a coach who has been a head coach with a winning record,” Blue Devil athletic director Joe Alleva said. “Coach Cutcliffe is an experienced leader and a proven winner.”

The parallel between the Wade hire in 1931 and Cutcliffe’s hire in 2007 is no coincidence. As the 1930s opened, the former Trinity College had just become Duke University and the massive construction project that became West Campus was in the final stages of completion.

Wannamaker wanted his athletic program to reflect the transformation of the small regional college into a great national university. Hence, he went out to get the best coach in college football.

“We are determined to integrate the sports of youth with the whole program of the university,” Wannamaker wrote to Wade on Feb. 15, 1930 (and quoted from Lewis Bolling’s excellent biography Wallace Wade).

Alleva and current Duke president Richard Brodhead had similar motives as they searched for a replacement for Ted Roof.

“This is a university that’s committed to the highest levels of athletic achievement, together with the highest levels of academic achievement,” Brodhead told the media when Cutcliffe was introduced. “As you probably know, we’ve had one sport that has fallen a little short of the athletic achievements we aspire to. We love our football players. We admire them. We respect their efforts. And we are invested in their success.”

That investment often has been questioned by those outside the Duke community, who see the program’s recent lack of success – just one winning season in the last 18 years – as a sign of Duke’s disinterest in a sport it once excelled in.

Brodhead made it clear that by hiring Cutcliffe, he was trying to send the same signal as Wannamaker’s hire of Wade sent so long ago.

“When we made our announcement three weeks ago about looking for a new coach, it wasn’t just about making a change of one person,” Brodhead said. “That was really a moment for Duke University to recommit itself to the proposition of excitement in football and winning seasons in football.”

It was that renewed commitment to football success that convinced Cutcliffe to come to Durham.

“We have a president and a director of athletics that I’ve got to thank – because they are about total commitment,” Cutcliffe said. “As they were evaluating me, obviously I’m evaluating them. I know where their heart is. I know where their intellect is. They are totally committed to what we’re doing.”

Cutcliffe said that before he agreed to come, he wanted to know what Duke’s plan for success was.

“My job is to have a plan,” he said. “What is the administration’s plan to make Duke football better?”

He learned about the long range Strategic Plan for Duke football – a study of schools that have successfully blended football success with academic success and a blueprint for doing the same at Duke.

“They very quickly went into what they were going to do from a commitment standpoint, whether it was personnel, facilities – there is a plan in place here,” Cutcliffe said. “I like looking at this ... you look at what Mike Krzyzewski has done here; look at the other sports here. It all comes together when you put that strategic plan in place.

“I believe we have 100 percent commitment from the administration.”

It will be up to Cutcliffe to convert that commitment into success on the field – and, as he pointed out, excitement in the stands.

One of Alleva’s hiring criteria was to find a coach with a strong offensive background. That certainly fits Cutcliffe, who established himself as one of the nation’s most renowned quarterback coaches and offensive coordinators during his first six-year stint as Phillip Fulmer’s offensive boss at Tennessee.

“David Cutcliffe is an offensive mastermind,” ESPN commentator Mike Patrick said. “Peyton Manning pays him the highest compliment when he tells Tennessee quarterbacks, ‘Just do what he says. Period.’”

Peyton Manning was his prize pupil in Knoxville, but Cutcliffe also turned Health Shuler into a first-round NFL draft pick and fashioned a national championship offense around Tee Martin. His Tennessee teams scored 30 or more points in 62 games – which had a lot to do with the Vols’ 55-5 record from 1995-98.

Cutcliffe’s success at Tennessee earned him the chance to replace Tommy Tuberville at Ole Miss. It wasn’t long before he lured Peyton’s younger brother Eli to play for the Rebels.

“He was a huge reason why I chose to attend the University of Tennessee,” Peyton Manning said. “Speaking for Eli, Coach Cutcliffe being named the head coach at Ole Miss was a swaying factor in Eli’s decision to go to school there.”

Cutcliffe arrived at Ole Miss in time to coach the team to a victory in the 1998 Independence Bowl. That was the first of his five bowl games. He won four, including the 2004 Cotton Bowl, which capped a 10-3 season and an SEC West Division championship.

“There’s no teacher like experience,” Cutcliffe said. “I spent six years at Mississippi as a head coach and I know I was prepared. I am 100 times as prepared this time around.”

Amazingly, Cutcliffe was released at Ole Miss after the 2005 season – less than a year after his Cotton Bowl triumph capped the school’s best season in 34 years. His six-year record at Ole Miss remains the second-best tenure in school history – trailing only Hall of Famer Johnny Vaught’s 25-year run (that started in 1947). Cutcliffe enjoyed a better winning percentage in Oxford (60.3 percent) than his predecessor Tommy Tuberville (55.6 percent) and a significantly better record than his successor Ed Ogeron (30.4 percent).

Despite his dismissal, Cutcliffe retained his reputation in the coaching community.

“He is truly one of the great offensive coaches in college football,” ESPN analyst Todd Blackledge said. “I thought he did a really good job at Mississippi and knew it would only be a matter of time before he was his own boss again.”

Cutcliffe was hired as offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and spent a few months in South Bend before he suffered a heart attack that required triple-bypass surgery. He sat out the 2005 season before returning to Tennessee to resume his old duties as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

The 53-year-old coach insists that health is not an issue.

“I got fixed up,” he said. “That was like a new lease on life. My health is great – how great is it coming to Duke with all these medical facilities?”

Clearly, that was a joke. Cutcliffe made it clear that he came to Duke because he felt he could accomplish something special for the football program. That was clear when he talked about the night he drove from Knoxville to Durham for his interview.

“I got in here about 2:30 in the morning, checked into a hotel and laid down for a couple of hours,” Cutcliffe said. Then he described how he got up before dawn and toured the Duke campus on his own.

“I was looking for a sign,” he said. “I just wanted a sign – am I in the right place, doing the right thing? So I got over here and drove around. There were a few gates open, so I made my way into the stadium. I looked around the campus. There wasn’t anybody stirring at that time and I got lost a couple of times. As I got out and walked, I’ll tell you what I noticed. I didn’t find a penny. I didn’t find a nickel – something to tell me I was in the right place.

“I didn’t find any trash. That told me I was in a place that spelled pride. The buildings, the grounds ... you felt like you were on hallowed ground.”

While neither Duke nor Cutcliffe would discuss the terms of his contract, the new Blue Devil coach insisted that he is here for the long haul.

“I came here to stay,” he said. “I came here to make this home and I’d like to be here a long time. I try to stay away from ego but I am a believer in legacy. The most important lesson to me is to leave a place better than you found it and I’m about that. I really want to be a part of that. I want to leave Duke football far beyond what we found it.

“I love this opportunity. Years from now I want to look back and say, look at what we did; we did make a difference. That’s what we came here to do.”

That’s what Wallace Wade did so long ago – he changed the football culture at Duke. David Cutcliffe’s tenure won’t be measured so much in wins and losses as in his ability to restore the football culture in Durham.

If he can do that, it will be quite a legacy.

Word. God I love Coach Cutty. And this'll probably be the only time I ever say it so.. "Good Job, Joe Alleva"

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