Knowles had been the head coach at Cornell since the 2004 season and had compiled an overall record of 26-34. His hiring has yet to be announced by Duke, but is expected to be within a few days.
It's a reunion of sorts for Knowles and Cutcliffe who teamed up at Ole Miss when Cutcliffe was the head coach of the Rebels and Knowles the linebackers and recruiting coordinator.
When he arrives in Durham Knowles will need to get to work quickly - especially along the defensive line where Duke will lose likely NFL draftee Vince Oghobaase, fifth year senior starter Ayanga Okpokowuruk, along with nose guard Kinney Rucker. Among the linebackers Knowles will need to replace starting middle linebacker Vincent Rey. In the secondary he's going to lose starter Leon Wright and starting safety Catron Gainey.
"It boiled down to finances, job security and the opportunity to work with what I think is a great coach and an unbelievable staff," Knowles said. "Duke's a great University, but it still took a lot of deliberation."