Duke Football: No longer a punch line

Published 2:48 pm Thursday, July 2, 2009

This may be one of the hardest columns I have ever had to write.

That includes a piece I was forced to write a few years ago after a lost bet in which I attempted to convince readers that Jim McMahon was a better quarterback that Dan Marino. What kind of column could be harder to write than that you may wonder?

For this Tar Heel, any nice thing said, written or implied by me or any other self respecting Carolina fan regarding Dook athletics is blasphemy.

Having said that however, in the constant quest for near mediocre journalism I cannot continue to ignore that changes that are happening on and around the gridiron near Krzyzewskiville.

Duke Football. When paired outside of Durham, those are two words most likely to be the punch line of a joke. Heck, even in Durham they have more often than not been considered a joke, an afterthought at best.

Thanks to David Cutcliffe and his staff, those days are the past. The future of the Blue Devils football program is looking quite promising and for opponents in the ACC, a little scary.

Don’t get me wrong, Duke is not the new Virginia Tech, Boston College, Florida State or Miami. They are in fact still the bottom dwellers of the ACC.

While they have lived near the bottom rung of the conference ladder for decades, they are making the necessary improvements to climb their way back to divisional respectability.

The biggest sign of improvement and potential coming out of the Blue Devils program is improved recruiting. There is only so much a coach can do with what equates to Division 1 leftovers. That is essentially what Duke has been recruiting for the last two decades since Steve Spurrier left town.

Since being hired late in 2007, Coach Cutcliffe has focused quite a bit of his attention on recruiting and it is beginning to payoff. In 2008, Duke signed 17 new players including two four-star players and five three-star players. Last year, Duke signed 27 players. Only 1 was a four-star recruit, however 10 were considered three-star players.

Duke currently has eight commitments. One is considered a four-star recruit and six others have garnered three stars. This is a major improvement over previous years and if the trend continues I expect Duke to become a contender in the ACC race. Many of you may have an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude and given the history of football in Durham I don’t necessarily blame you.

Just don’t act surprised when Duke pulls off some major upsets in the next few years and please remember that this is where you heard it first.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go wash my hands now. Writing this has given me that “not so fresh feeling.”

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at dave@gate811.net.