Duke Report recently spoke with Bob Harris who is the “Voice of the Blue Devils.” Bob is the play-by-play announcer for Duke University men’s basketball and football teams. He was inducted in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. You can follow Bob on Twitter @bluedevilsvoice or his website at voiceofthebluedevils.com. Our interview focused on his time covering Duke Football. I hope you enjoy our interview.
DR: How long have you been covering Duke Football?
Bob: I came to WDNC Radio in Durham on Labor day, 1975 to sell advertising for the station, which was the flagship of the Duke Radio Network. As a matter of fact, there were only three stations on the network that season, WDNC, WIST in Charlotte, and WGWR-AM in Asheboro. The Duke Network was trying a new approach for the air staff that fall. They were going to have a ‘Guest Color Commentator” for each game; a former player, etc. I was promised one game late in the season. Midway through the season, they realized the process didn’t work because there was never any cohesiveness with a different person every week. I was asked to do the color on 4 of the last 5 games. When football ended, I did color on basketball. My first football play-by-play came in 1976. I was named to the position near the end of the previous basketball season to replace Add Penfield who had to retire due to health issues. That 21-18 Duke win at Tennessee on Saturday September 11th began a streak of 433 CONSECUTIVE Duke football broadcasts.
DR: What changes have you seen with the program and fan attendance over time with Duke Football?
Bob: The Duke program has had many changes in my 39 years here. They went from 5-5-1 my first year to 10-4 last season, playing in the ACC Championship game and earning a bid to the Chick-fil-a Bowl. In between were three other bowls and an ACC championship under Steve Spurrier in 1989. In between there were 7 seasons with 2 wins, 2 with 1 win, and 4 winless seasons. I have broadcast from the depths to the pinnacle, you might say. The attendance has closely followed the records. Many ‘fans’ are fair-weather. But I also have to thank the ‘TRUE BLUE’ fans who have sat in Wallace Wade Stadium for every home game, no matter what the record was. I think one reason for the up-and-down fluctuations was the lack of continuity of coaching. David Cutcliffe is the NINTH Head Coach I have had the pleasure of working with. But I have worked with 109 assistant coaches in that time, and 6 were at Duke two different times, and one was here 3 times. One QB that I remember had 4 different Offensive Co-ordinators in his 5 years here.
DR: What are 3 to 5 highlights of your career of covering Duke Football?
Bob: I don’t know if I can limit my favorite moments to only 5. Of course, any win over UNC is a highlight. Unfortunately, I have heard Duke ring the Victory Bell only 8 of those games. That Tennessee game in ’76 would be on the list because it was my first game, and it was an unexpected win. The UT kicker missed all three PATs and the defense made a critical stop in the last 2 minutes to preserve the win. Calling the game in Chapel Hill that Ben Bennett set the NCAA career passing yardage mark ranks up there. Randy Cuthbert powering in with the go-ahead TD to beat #7 Clemson in 1989, Vince Fusco kicking an ACC record 6 FGs to tie at Clemson 18-18 in 1976, beating Tennessee again in 1988, 25-24, Jamison Crowder’s last minute TD catch vs UNC in 2012 and clinching the Division title in Chapel Hill last season have to head the list. Another highlight was being carried off the field as the winning coach in the 1994 Spring Game. (picture attached)
DR: Can you give us your thoughts on the David Cutcliffe era at Duke?
Bob: Coach Cut inherited a team that had gone 1-11 in 2007, and then had 4 seasons in which his teams won 15 games. The 2012 team was his ‘breakout’ team, going 6-6 in the regular season and earning a bid to the Belk Bowl. But the 2013 squad showed what Cut and his staff had believed all along, that they COULD compete in the ACC.
DR: What will you remember most from this past epic Duke football season?
Bob: To go 10-2 (8 straight) in the schedule with HUGE wins at Virginia Tech, at home over NC State and Miami, and at Wake and UNC, was nearly phenomenal. The ACC Title game showed that FSU was National Championship calibre, and to play Texas A&M a game like they did, gave Duke fans a peek at what lies ahead for this program.
DR: What are your thoughts on the upcoming season and future of Duke football?
Bob: The key to any team’s success in any season is injuries. If the Blue Devils can stay relatively injury-free, they will contend for the championship again, and get a large bowl. With the return of so many starters, as well as reserves who played lots of QUALITY minutes last season, the future is bright. Seven home games will again bode well for the program. Key matchups, at this time of the year, should be AT Miami and Georgia Tech. Pitt and Syracuse on the road will be testers as well, and, of course, UNC in Wade on Thursday night with our world-wide radio coverage and national TV joining a PACKED HOUSE on November 20th.
DR: Thanks for your time Bob.
Bob: Thanks for the interview.