Duke’s Cutcliffe won’t be back after a mutual breakup
David Cutcliffe will not return for his 15th season as Duke coach after the school announced a “mutual agreement to split” on Sunday following the Blue Devils Conference’s unbeaten record at the Atlantic Coast.
The school’s announcement came a day after the Blue Devils (3-9, 0-8) closed out a three-win season with a 47-10 loss at home to Miami. It marked Duke’s first no-league roster in the league under Cutcliffe, who transformed the Blue Devils from one of the nation’s worst performers into a regular contender and claimed a league title in the ACC in 2013 before the program plummeted in the past two seasons.
In a statement, Catcliffe, 67, said the decision came after “some detailed and friendly discussions” with new sporting director Nina King, who took over the role earlier this year but has worked at Duke since 2008 and has taken on core administrative tasks for the football programme.
“I’m not yet sure what the future will look like, but I’m looking forward to spending time with the family to reflect a little on the past and see what the future holds,” Kitcliffe said.
Associate head coach Trooper Taylor will serve as interim coach while Duke searches for a permanent successor to Cotcliffe.
The Blues were on the loose when in December 2007 they switched to Cutcliffe, a former Mississippi coach and offensive coordinator at Tennessee State who taught both Peyton and Eli Manning at the college level. The Blue Devils had just completed 13 years with four wins or fewer each season, including Ted Roof who went 2-33 over the three seasons leading up to Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils had gone 19-117 with just eight ACC wins over the course of 12 seasons.
By Cutcliffe’s fifth year, Duke reached his first ball game since 1994. A year later, the Blue Devils completed an impressive ascent to a 10-win season that included an AP Top 25 rating, an ACC Coastal Division title and a berth in a league championship game.
That 2013 season began a three-year period that saw Duke go 27-13, including 15-9 in ACC play, and was part of a six-ball series in seven seasons – most recently the Independence Bowl victory over Temple in 2018 being succeeded by quarterback Daniel Jones, who later became the number 6 pick overall in the NFL Draft.
Duke won 77 games in 14 seasons for Cutcliffe with six bowl games and three post-season wins, the program’s first since 1961.
“We are very grateful for David’s leadership over the past 14 seasons,” King said in a statement. “He has elevated our program to unprecedented heights, both on and off the field, while upholding the University’s core values and we could not be more appreciative of his guidance to every student-athlete who has played with Duke during his tenure.”
The Blue Devils lost momentum after a 4-2 start to the 2019 season and failed to reach six pot eligibility wins. Then things fell apart amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as Duke made 39 spins — at least 14 more than any other team in the Bowl Subdivision — during the 2-9 season in 2020.
This year, Duke started 3-1, but lost all eight of his ACC matches. Seven of those came in with at least 25 points, a rare example under Cutcliffe of the Blue Devils consistently not being able to play competitively. The Blue Devils have lost 23 of 29 games, including 21 of 23 in the league.
However, Cutcliffe has spoken about making sure the Blue Devils are running towards their problems and not far from them and brushed off a question about his future earlier this month.
“I don’t think about job security,” Ketcliffe said. “How can I do that and do justice to the players I’m coaching now?”
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