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Imbalanced Program Reaches Crossroads

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

November 3, 2003 DURHAM — There are no polls on the matter, not even unofficial. But not many knowledgeable fans would disagree that among the national schools, Duke has the best basketball program and the worst in football. The Blue Devils have won three NCAA titles and gone to nine Final Fours under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski. They have won a record five consecutive ACC Tournament titles and are favored to make it six this season. Coach K has become a millionaire many times over and is worth every penny Duke shells out in making him its highest-paid employee. The football team has lost 30 consecutive ACC games. It has had one winning season (1994) since Steve Spurrier left for Florida in 1989, and Spurrier has been the only blip on the success chart at Duke in nearly 40 years, or ever since Bill Murray — the man who succeeded Wallace Wade — retired in the mid-1960s. Duke recently fired Carl Franks, who in four and a half years won seven games and lost 45. He was, by far, the lowest-paid coach in the ACC and almost surely among all BCS leagues, with a total compensation package under $400,000. In most cases, you get what you pay for. There are some who suspect Krzyzewski does not want a strong football program at Duke, but nothing could be further from the truth. “I want Duke to win in everything,” he said recently. But relationships between football and basketball were strained during the regrettable Franks era. In one of his many un-Duke-like moves, Franks often reminded the media that basketball got more support — read, an ability to recruit players with lower SATs — than football. That ticked off many of the folks on the fifth and sixth floors of the Schwartz-Butters building. Any support basketball has gotten from admissions over the years it has earned. As in football, which has won 11 national graduation rates awards, Duke basketball players who remain for four years almost always graduate. Even players such as Chris Carrawell and Greg Newton, who exhausted their eligibility without earning a diploma, returned after a few years to take the classes they needed to get a degree. Jason Williams graduated in three years. Shane Battier was a superb student and leader. Trajan Langdon was the epitome of the student-athlete. Nick Horvath is a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship. Admissions is now more willing to help football, which needs a lot of support. Just because Duke now has the Yoh Football Center doesn't mean that more administrative commitments aren't needed. Some are on the way.   National Coaching Search, Finally Duke is presently conducting a legitimate national search for a successor to Franks. It is the first of its kind in school history. Duke had been a sad-sack program for a generation until Spurrier proved in the late 1980s that it was possible to win in Durham. His final team tied for the ACC championship and played in a bowl. But that's when Duke AD Tom Butters made a major mistake. When Spurrier left for his alma mater at Florida, Butters made a quick stab at the legendary Bill Walsh, and, failing in that try, settled for assistant coach Barry Wilson. Wilson continued the trend started upon Murray's retirement. He lost. He was replaced by Fred Goldsmith, who won in the beginning, then lost almost as often as Franks, the man who followed him. AD Joe Alleva, having succeeded Butters, fired Goldsmith on a Monday and — in a move reviled for its quickness ever since — hired Franks, a Duke grad recommended by Spurrier, on Tuesday. Hard to believe, but football has gotten even worse. Now Duke is trying to redeem itself. Alleva will pay up to $1 million (total package) for a new coach, who will be allowed to pay his assistant coaches competitive salaries. Franks actually made a lower base than Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta this season. Gene Corrigan, a Duke grad who has been commissioner of the ACC and an AD at Virginia and Notre Dame, heads the advisory committee of five. The others are all former football players who are in the school's Hall of Fame. Corrigan knows just about everybody in the world of college athletics. He will be the liaison while Alleva determines who is interested. Interim coach Ted Roof will get an interview. So will alum Dick Biddle, the coach at undefeated Division
I-AA power Colgate. But, other than Southern Cal offensive coordinator Norm Chow, the candidates all will be head coaches. Duke hopes to get a head start in November, before other big jobs open. The new coach will get more of a commitment than Duke ever has offered. Under the right circumstances, a few junior college players even will be considered.

As far down as the program is, and with Miami and Virginia Tech in Duke's division in the expanded ACC in 2004, the road ahead will be difficult. But, at least, this time the Blue Devils really will seek out a coach who may give them a chance to compete. That, in itself, is progress. Basketball Exudes Positive News Meanwhile, Krzyzewski's basketball program rumbles along. The coach and wife Mickie recently gave $1 million to endow a scholarship in the name of Mike's brother Bill, a Chicago fireman who retired after 38 years without missing a day from work. Before he retires, Mike Krzyzewski wants Duke's Legacy Fund — which he initiated — to endow the entire basketball program, including the salaries of future coaches. If Coach K needed anything to keep the juices flowing, it was the challenge certain to be presented by Roy Williams at North Carolina. There has been immediate competition, and Krzyzewski loves challenges. His current team is young but experienced, tall and deep and robust. The big men, most notably sophomore Shavlik Randolph, have gained strength and weight and won't be pushed around, as Kansas' Nick Collison did against Duke last March. If senior point guard Chris Duhon displays any erratic behavior, on or off the court, well, he'll sit. Duke can play well with J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing. Freshman Luol Deng is considered by the coaching staff to be the best recruit since Grant Hill, who played on two NCAA winners and led his team to the championship game as a senior. What's more, Duke has stepped up the recruiting pressure. The Blue Devils have top-25 DeMarcus Nelson and top-75 David McClure coming next year, and they may get top-five Shaun Livingston. They have commitments from top-25 juniors Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts, each a likely four-year player. Duhon and the beefed-up Horvath (260) are the lone seniors. Last year's six freshmen are now improved sophomores, but none is likely to turn pro after this season. Deng may wind up on Krzyzewski's three-year path to a degree, which is vitally important to his family. Duke basketball never has been in better shape. Football obviously is still very uncertain. But the Blue Devils, who will have a new school president soon, at least are making an effort to obtain a coach who will give them a chance to succeed.