DURHAM, N.C. – Duke Blue Devils football coach David Cutcliffe continues to point out how a culture change was necessary and has resulted in an improved quality of football and success that his program has experienced since he assumed leadership of it on Dec. 15, 2007.
It has been a continual work in progress, but since Cutcliffe arrived on campus, not only has the team’s performance and results improved, but so has the support that the campus and surrounding Durham-area communities have provided in helping to be a part of that change.
They’re looking at Blue Devils football through a different lens now.
The Blue Devils competed in their first bowl game in 18 years last December, losing a closely contested battle to the Cincinnati Bearcats 48-34 in the 2012 Belk Bowl, while finishing with a 6-7 overall record and 3-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play.
Although not finishing with a winning record, Duke’s six victories was the most earned since 1994.
Even while completing an impressive season in Duke terms, as a member of the competitive ACC, highly skeptical media members didn’t think that they would be as good or better this season, and selected the Blue Devils to finish in seventh or last place in the Coastal Division in the preseason media poll taken at the 2013 ACC Kickoff held in Greensboro, N.C.
Even as the competitive level of the ACC is increasing with the addition of new members Syracuse and Pitt, formerly of the old Big East conference, Cutcliffe believes that it will only help his program to improve.
“You see and you sense it,” Cutcliffe said.
“I think with the ACC, the expansion is really greater for football than really any sport. I think we’re just sitting right on an opportunity to do something special as a conference. I think Duke football is right in line with that and that’s the track that we’re all on.”
Duke is taking its football seriously, putting up more wins than it has in 18 years and showing that it is capable of competing for bowl games opportunities and titles.
“It starts with the Duke administration, athletics administration, the fans, and then certainly the young men and coaching staff that’s worked so hard to try to elevate the level of football we play,” Cutcliffe said after greeting hundreds of fans at the team’s Meet the Blue Devils event last Saturday.
“A culture change would never occur just because you want it to or because you say it. It only changes if your football squad changes. I think definitively the quality of football has changed here at Duke.”
In line with that change, has also been the quality of players that Duke has recruited and the coaching staff that works hard to put them in situations for success to be possible.
Running back Josh Snead is excited about the lofty heights that the Blue Devils don’t just wish to reach, but expect to reach.
He’s excited about being a part of the ground game which has become a more significant part of the Duke offense in recent years.
“It’s a huge difference from the past which was pass-heavy,” Snead said.
The redshirt junior was quick to point out that the leadership and versatility of quarterback Anthony Boone will allow the Blue Devils to keep opposing defenses thinking about what Duke will do on each snap of the ball.
“He’s very multi-dimensional,” Snead continued.
“He (Boone) can run the ball, pass the ball. We’ve got great running backs, great wide receivers. We’ve got a lot of weapons on offense. You never know who’s going to get the ball. It’s gonna’ be an awesome year. Hopefully go back to a bowl game and an ACC championship.”
There are definitely lofty goals and lofty heights for Blue Devils football to reach this season.
While many observers off campus still haven’t been swayed by the success that Cutcliffe, his staff and the players have experienced to date, they will continue to work hard with the sole intention of adding football hardware to go along with the school’s already-loaded mantelpiece of awards in other sports.
Duke football is different now.
It expects success rather than just hopes for it.