Following Duke’s victory over rival North Carolina, a victory that gave Duke its first 10-win season ever, clinched the ACC Coastal Division and secured possession of the Victory Bell for the second straight year, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe was emotional.
During his post game interview on TV he said that he was so happy that he wanted to cry. No one could blame him if he did. The emotions of such a monumental moment, a season that has been the culmination of years of work poured out a bit as he appeared to get a bit chocked up in his post game press conference.
The Blue Devils leader looked like he may be fighting off tears, however, as he often does he interjected a one liner to soften the mood.
“It was pretty special a great moment,” Cutcliffe said. “I don’t’ mind these Gatorade baths. All of these people that have grinded through the years with Duke football, deserved a very special feeling out there on that field.”
Cutcliffe talked about former players like Re’quan Boyette who is now on the coaching staff and what those players had to go through in order to help get the foundation of the program established.
When he first took over Cutcliffe inherited arguably the worst program in all of the FBS. A team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1994. A team that hadn’t won a conference title since 1989 and really between 1971 and 1994 the successful years of Duke Football could be counted on a single hand.
Cutcliffe talked about that very first work out in January, something he remembered vividly. He said that he stopped the team’s first workout short, just 10 minutes in fact, and addressed the team he called the fattest softest football team he’d ever seen.
“I knew we were going to help you. I didn’t know we’d help you this much,” he told them. “That team bought into it. It became apparent to me that discipline and conditioning had to be the foundation. That team accepted that role to change Duke Football’s discipline and conditioning and so the standards started changing. We’ve come a long way.”
At that time Cutcliffe, who has admitted about having doubt about taking over the program, was worried the coaches he had just hired might leave. But most, like him, stuck it out and today the program sits a top the ACC Coastal Division, a goal the team and coach had .
Cutcliffe said he keeps book with goals and that the one that contains when he had envisioned winning the division title was somewhere in his kitchen. He said he was anxious to go back and look at where that is and compare it with the actual success his team is now experiencing.
Naturally when it comes to an up and coming program having success, the questions about the coach’s future with that program inevitably come up. I’ve been asked that questions by fans and other college football writers and analysts who wonder what I think.
My answer is that I don’t feel that Cutcliffe will leave because of the loyalty that Duke has shown him but something he said following the game when asked about comparing his past successes with this year makes me feel even more confident that Cutcliffe will remain at Duke until he retires.
“We have had obviously some dynamic teams at Tennessee. We had some really good football teams at Ole Miss and we had to work very hard to build that,” Cutcliffe said “But this, no offense to anybody else, this just feels special. This is better. This is different. I know exactly where we were when we came. To Coastal Division Champions today is pretty special.”
Duke will advance to the ACC Title game to take on Florida State, something that Cutcliffe calls a great honor despite the likely improbable odds. Still he is happy his team is continuing their season and feels that no matter what happens this year will have paid huge dividends.
“I love the fact that we are still playing. Winning breeds everything that is positive. It breeds your recruiting. It breeds your backups trying to get better and get on the field,’ Cutcliffe said. “It creates energy and very positive energy. Its not the end of all ends. You still have to remember what your work ethic is and how you go about your business.”
As of Saturday night he will have already gone about the business of breaking film and getting ready to prepare his team for that next challenge, because no matter how great it is, it isn’t anything that he hasn’t faced before and eventually overcome at Duke.