What's It Going To Take?

The Duke coaching search moves into its second week, but what will it take for Duke to land a coach? TDD looks at what Duke is offering its top choices and what else needs to be on the table.

After speaking with multiple sources both in and around the coaching carousel provides somewhat of a picture of where the search has been heading and which candidates appear to be the most likely to be walking the sidelines in Wallace Wade Stadium next year. The one common thread with any big name coaching candidate has been that Duke isn't able to conduct unilateral interviews as most BCS conference programs do. Given the university's lack of commitment to the football program in recent years Duke must not only open the checkbook in an unprecedented way, but also prove that the school is finally ready to build a respectable program.

Before he was released head coach Ted Roof, several of his staff, and members from the Fuqua School of Business had put together a strategic football plan in hopes of laying a map towards improving not only the product on the field, but the infrastructure of the program. Some of the major items included the well documented improvements planned for Wallace Wade; the need for additional practice fields and other facilities; a need for change in scheduling practices in regards to out of conference games; additional academic support personnel; as well as several other items.

This plan, along with a willingness to pay an annual head coaching salary well into the seven figure range, serves as the cornerstone for the Duke recruiting pitch. Just as important will be the allocation of salary funds for an army of successful assistants that will not only foster better player development, but also continue to work the recruiting trail in a big way.

"With where the program has been, it's clear that something has to change to bring in the right guy," a source with knowledge of both the plan and the coaching search told TDD. "The guys they are targeting have all won at high levels, and have been around a culture of winning. They have to know that can be done here."

It's certainly debatable if the departed Roof ever got the kind of support being promised by the administration. And maybe Roof's 6-45 tenure at Duke was a necessary bridge to this point. While he certainly improved the level of talent in the program, the results of bringing in classes ranked 65th, 31st, 36th, and 64th nationally never showed up on Saturdays. That was the major factor in Roof being denied his planned fifth season at the helm. Despite the influx of talent, it hadn't developed to the point of being able to produce victories - which is where the strategic football plan comes in.

With Roof gone the next head coach will certainly not only want to see the plan, which is well put-together and thought out, he will also want to see that the plan has been put into action. This means starting the planned improvements sooner than later. There is no need for a coach to be in place in the corner suite of the Yoh Center before the improvements to Wallace Wade are made. Nor is there need of a coach, any coach, to be in place for some of the proposed programs to be implemented.

While certainly the job at Duke represents a gamble on the part of whatever coach comes in, it is certainly not without rewards. A coach who can win at Duke will be able to write his own ticket to a bigger job. That may not be music to Blue Devil fans' ears, but who among that group wouldn't relish a program successful enough to have their head coach on the annual power program wish-list?

A great example of this is just a few miles down the road in Winston Salem where Jim Grobe has taken the lowly Demon Deacon program and turned it into an annual bowl contender and conference championship level team. And while Wake fans must sweat each and every offseason when the big programs come calling, it's hardly without the reward of another successful season. Even if Grobe did leave for a Michigan type opportunity, it's likely that the next head coach would come in and still have a great chance to win because of what Grobe has built.

Most of the candidates are well documented and have been discussed via TDD's daily coaching search updates on both the free and premium message boards. The top choice being Navy head coach Paul Johnson, who did meet with Athletics Director Joe Alleva and other Duke officials on Monday afternoon to discuss the opening and begin approaching not only the salary issue, but the strategic plan. The Blue Devils will certainly have not shortage of competition to land Johnson as Southern Methodist, Georgia Tech, and Navy are hoping to have Johnson on their sidelines next season.

Some around the search believe Johnson would relish the challenge of turning Duke into an annual winning program, and he's got the track record that speaks to this ability after turning a previous 1-20 Navy team into a 43-19 program over the last five season. But Johnson, nor any other big name coach, isn't going to risk it all on a program that has not support from the university. And why should he? He's amassed a 107-39 overall record over the last 11 years and is considered the hottest coaching prospect in the country. He could certainly amplify that reputation and legacy by working the Blue Devils into bowl contention, but Alleva, Duke's President Richard Broadhead, as well as all those who control the purse strings must first prove they are committed to a winning football team.


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