This is a call to arms for all Duke Basketball fans out there: It is time to give Duke Football a chance.
If you’ve read my columns with any regularity you know by now that I’m a tried and true Duke Basketball fan. Despite not actually having gone to Duke, which isn’t all that strange, I’ve remained a steadfast fan of the Blue Devils since about the age of seven, when my brother first started there. And before I was ever a fan of the basketball team I was a fan of Duke Football.
I know it seems strange, but unlike a lot of other Duke Basketball fans I was and have always remained a fan of the Duke Football program. There are current Duke alumni that don’t really even care about Duke Football, and here I am, a non graduate and I pull just as hard for the football team as I do the basketball team.
Why you might ask? Perhaps I feel a kinship, considering the high school football team I played on was awful. How bad was it? We won exactly one game in my four years as a varsity player. I was a starter a majority of those four years and each and every week we went out there and got beaten and in some cases badly. Yet I came back each and every week.
Same for the Duke Football program. They have been beaten but never have quit.
So, watching Duke Football each and every Saturday and seeing loss after loss, it reminded me of my days as a high school football player. I know those guys worked hard. I know they gave their best effort, but they just weren’t good enough to win on the ACC level. That has pretty much been the case for most of my time as a fan of the Duke Football program.
Aside from the Steve Spurrier era and the one season under Fred Goldsmith, I’ve seen the Blue Devils post maybe three winning seasons. I’ve seen Duke play in two bowl games but never win one. This seems like an odd way to start a column trying to convince the Duke Basketball fans to check out football but trust me I’m getting there.
During the two plus decades I’ve watched, and now am writing about Duke Football, I’ve never had much optimism until now. I know two consecutive three-win seasons is hardly reason to fill the seats at tiny Wallace Wade but the product that Duke is putting out there is so much better than what it has been.
That is due large in part to David Cutcliffe and his coaching staff. They have begun, slowly but surely, to alter the culture around the program. The players are starting to believe they can win. And it is the players Cutcliffe and company are attracting that is giving me the most hope. Duke is getting bigger, faster and stronger, and while they are a long ways away from being elite they are still infinitely more talented today than they were four years ago.
And it isn’t just the talent it is the total dedication to the football program that has me optimistic. Duke has improved its facilities a little each year under Cutcliffe. The team has new practice facilities that are state of the art including an indoor practice facility something that not even some of the elite programs have. Wallace Wade still has a long ways to go but new concession stands and restrooms at both open ends of the horse shoe are a sign of things to come. And things aren’t stopping there.
The plan over time is to take out the track and lower the field adding seating closer to the action to make the stadium more intimate for the fans. Even more long term plans apparently are in store to add new press box with more luxurious seating and an upper level seating on both sides, as well as possibly closing in the horseshoe, though that is more long term,
For any of those exciting things to happen to the stadium though the fans have to start showing up and for that to happen the team has to start winning more consistently.
The winning I feel is coming. I think this year serves as a potential breakout season if not at least a bridge season between consistently not good and consistently good. The schedule is a bit too difficult in my opinion to feel Duke will get six wins, but I’m not ruling that out completely. The team I think should and could win five games, and if they can get to five why not six? Granted they would have to beat a team or two they are not supposed to but it could happen.
What would be nice if the fans started to show up. Students’ interest in football is fairly nonexistent and with the Blue Devils having such a limited alumni base in the Durham area, Wallace Wade is typically never filled unless it is filled with opposing fans. Now is the time to change that.
And this is more for those Duke Basketball fans who are in the area or are close and who either have no allegiance to other football teams or whose team of choice is located somewhere else.
If you are a Duke Basketball fan why not show up to the football games. The games are easy to get to and family friendly. While the stadium has its faults there are really no bad seats anywhere to be found even in general admission.
The cost is also reasonable and again if you have a family, a football game is a fun way to spend a Fall, Saturday afternoon if not the occasional Saturday night. The team is getting better and the games over the last several years have generally been more competitive as well as more entertaining. And simply put it is football and American’s love their football.
Granted this isn’t Ohio State or Alabama we are talking about here, but it is still football and if you can’t see those other teams play but still enjoy football why not show up. If Duke starts winning or at the very least they grow even more competitive you can say you were there to witness the start of something positive.
Considering how far the program has had to come it isn’t a shock that they still have a long way to go before they are a consistent and sustainable winning program. But for all of those Duke Basketball fans out there with nothing to do between the end of March and the beginning of November I strongly recommend catching a Duke Football game or two and you might be pleasantly surprised that you did.
All I’m saying is just give them a chance.