Cutcliffe Pleased To Host Alabama

"Bear Bryant was the best college football coach who ever lived, and Alabama is the finest program in the history of college football, in my opinion," said David Cutcliffe. "It will be great for our Duke football program to play Alabama in Durham this season. It will be a daunting task, that's for sure, but what a way to challenge the young people on our team.

"I really think that Alabama can be better than last year, when they won the national championship, so that's saying something. Nick (Saban) does a tremendous job in all aspects, he is one of the best coaches in America. Nick and I went against each other when I was at Ole Miss and he was at LSU. It's not the first time we'll be across the field from each other."

David Cutcliffe absolutely loves The University of Alabama. But on Saturday, as head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, he will do everything he can to help his team upset the mighty Crimson Tide.

Alabama and Duke will kick off at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 central) with national television coverage by ABC.

The game will be played in Wallace Wade Stadium on the Duke campus. Wallace Wade was the head coach of Alabama from 1923 to 1930, and he won three national championships in Tuscaloosa. He resigned from Alabama and went to Duke, where he took Duke to two Rose Bowl games and national prominence. So that is a great historical connection for the upcoming game this season.

"The first thing that comes to my mind about the Alabama game is the Coach Wade connection," said Cutcliffe. " The history of the two programs, I like that. I like the fact that Wallace Wade basically preceded Coach Bryant and recruited Coach Bryant. Coach Bryant played in a Wallace Wade influenced program at Alabama. I know he learned a lot of basic principles and philosophy from Coach Wade. "

Another connection to this year's Alabama-Duke game is that David Cutcliffe is an Alabama native and a 1976 UA graduate. He was born and raised in Birmingham, and attended Banks High School in Birmingham. His mother, Frances, who is now 89 years old, lives in Oneonta, Alabama.

David was a huge fan of the Crimson Tide while growing up. He was a very good football player at Banks High, but knew he wanted to be a coach from the time he was 14 years old. His high school coach was George "Shorty" White, who later became an assistant to Bear Bryant in Tuscaloosa.

"Coach White had a great influence on me and a lot of young men in the state of Alabama," said Cutcliffe.

Shorty White will be a guest of Cutcliffe at the Alabama-Duke game. There was never any question where David would go to college. The University of Alabama is where he always wanted to go. Bear Bryant coached there, after all. He became a student assistant, learning football from Bear Bryant, Ken Donahue, Jack Rutledge, and others on the Alabama staff. He watched tape of games and practices with Coach Donahue early in the mornings before attending classes.

"Quite frankly, I spent more time studying football than academics," said Cutcliffe. "I just knew my life's work would be football. The influence of Coach Bryant was just enormous. I really studied how he did things, how he managed his staff and squad. What an opportunity I had. Learning from the football minds at Alabama laid a great foundation for me. It gave me a jump start on my coaching career. I still have a notebook full of things I wrote down while at Alabama, and I refer to those notes to this day. A piece of advice I would give to young people is to take whatever circumstances you are in and try to improve yourself and grow from those experiences. That's what I did during my college years in Tuscaloosa."

Cutcliffe went on to become a longtime assistant coach at Tennessee, where he was offensive coordinator and became known as one of the outstanding tutors of quarterbacks in the country. He also was head coach at Ole Miss, where he led them to five bowl games, including a Cotton Bowl victory.

The fact that the game will be played at Wallace Wade Stadium speaks to how serious Duke is about building a competitive football program. "This game belongs in Durham," Cutcliffe said. "Our players deserve to take part in a game like this. We are an ACC program, a big-time college program. Alabama approached us twice about moving the game to a larger, neutral site, such as the Georgia Dome in Atlanta or Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium." Moving the game would have made Duke more money, but according to "Coach Cut," as he is affectionately called, "that would have been short-term thinking. I think if we are going to change the culture of our program, there was no way I was interested in playing Alabama anywhere this year but Wallace Wade Stadium.

"We will have the defending national champion here. I have had a great rival relationship with Nick Saban, a great respect for what he's done. Boy, we had tremendous games when I was at Ole Miss and he was at LSU."

As for the Alabama game, Cutcliffe said, "We're not as physical as Alabama, but you'll see speed from us and aggression on defense. It should be a game from both teams of good, pure football. We have a chance if we stay healthy and can carry the game into the fourth quarter.

"I appreciate Mal Moore (Alabama athletics director) and Coach Saban bringing Alabama to Durham. It should be a good game, and also there is the history between Alabama and Duke, the Wallace Wade connection, along with my ties to both universities.

"I have a bust of Wallace Wade in my office, which looks down on the field at Wallace Wade Stadium. I know Coach Wade would enjoy this game, looking at the two football programs he built, so I think I'm going to position that bust of Coach Wade so that he can get a real good view of the game when we play Alabama. "

Lewis Bowling, a contributing writer for 'BAMA Magazine, is the author of the book "Wallace Wade: Championship Years at Alabama and Duke," which can be ordered at, at local bookstores, or by calling (919) 489-7486.

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