Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 39 of 55

40 SEPT. 26, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI DAVID CUTCLIFFE'S EXTRAORDINARY WORK In the coaching world, job perfor‑ mance is judged primarily on wins and losses. However, that approach does not necessarily always reflect just how effective one has been. An example from the past is Notre Dame's Ara Parseghian at North‑ western from 1956‑63, where he was "only" 36‑35‑1. Considering what he inherited and the constraints he was working under, his results there were perhaps even more impressive than his 95‑17‑4 ledger at Notre Dame, with two consensus national titles, from 1964‑74. Duke's David Cutcliffe is a more re‑ cent example. On paper and to some‑ one with no knowledge of college football, Cutcliffe's 49‑54 record at Duke from 2008‑15 looks unremark‑ able and would be grounds for dis‑ missal at a lot of schools. Upon closer inspection, it has earned the 61‑year‑old huge plaudits as one of the nation's finest leaders. When various outlets rank the best 128 coaches in the Football Bowl Sub‑ division, Cutcliffe's name routinely appears among the top 15 or 20. This summer, Athlon ranked him No. 15 (Notre Dame's Brian Kelly was No. 10), FOX Sports had him at No. 16 (Kelly was No. 10 again) and USA Today listed him at No. 18 (Kelly was No. 13). Meanwhile, CBS Sports had Cut‑ cliffe No. 15 among Power Five con‑ ference teams, while Kelly was No. 12. When Cutcliffe was hired by the Blue Devils in 2008, Duke football had experienced one of the worst stretches in college football history ever by a major conference team. In the 13 sea‑ sons from 1995‑2007, Duke was 22‑125 — a .1496 winning percentage, includ‑ ing 0‑11 seasons in 2000 and 2001, and 0‑12 in 2006. The Blue Devils never came close to finishing above .500. Cutcliffe inherited the rubble and was only 15‑33 his first four years, which would have led to getting the axe at 99 percent of the other major Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Duke was a special case, though, and enough progress was seen to justify continuing his building process. • By Cutcliffe's fifth season in 2012, Duke finished the regular season 6‑6 to earn a bowl bid, where it lost. • In 2013, Duke incredibly won the Coastal Division of the ACC and played eventual national champion Florida State in the league playoff. Its 10‑4 record led to a No. 23 placement in the Associated Press poll, the first time the Blue Devils finished ranked since 1961. • After a 9‑4 encore in 2014, Duke dropped to 8‑5 last year — but for the first time since the 1960 season, the Duke Blue Devils won a bowl game, a 44‑41 overtime victory versus Indi‑ ana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. In the 51 seasons from 1961‑2011, Duke received only two bowl invi‑ tations (1989 with Steve Spurrier as head coach and 1994), but it has now gone to four straight under Cutcliffe. It is the epitome of making a silk purse from a sow's ear, which is why Cutcliffe has become such an esteemed figure. He also was 44‑29 at the University of Mississippi from 1999‑2004, highlighted by a Cotton Bowl win in 2003 with quarterback Eli Manning during a 10‑3 campaign in which the Rebels won a share of the SEC West title. Cutcliffe had coached Eli's older brother, Peyton, as a Tennessee assistant in 1994‑97. The firing of Cutcliffe at Ole Miss in 2004 resulted in him accepting a job as first‑year head coach Charlie Weis' quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame in 2005. However, heart surgery for Cutcliffe that spring prompted him to step down from the post before resurfacing at Tennessee in 2006‑07 as an assistant and then taking the Duke job. GAME PREVIEW: DUKE Top STorylineS Head coach David Cutcliffe has led Duke to 27 wins over the past three seasons. PHOTO COURTESY DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Sept. 26, 2016