Late-night drive sold 'Cut' on Duke

Saying he was impressed by the Duke administration's commitment to football, Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe vowed to bring a winner to a basketball school that has won just 23 games in 12 years.

Cutcliffe was introduced Saturday as Duke's head coach at a 5 p.m. press conference in Durham, N.C.

Cutcliffe said he was contacted Tuesday by Duke athletic director Joe Alleva and drove to the campus late that night, arriving at about 2:30 a.m. He then walked around the campus, met with Alleva at 8 a.m. Wednesday and began the process of becoming a head coach at a second college program.

Cutcliffe was 44-29 in six years at Ole Miss, went 4-1 in bowl games and defeated Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida and Auburn. But he was fired after his first and only losing season.

He said he learned from his experience at Ole Miss.

``I knew I was prepared as a head coach when I went to Ole Miss,'' said Cutcliffe, who spent two stints on Tennessee's staff (1982-98, 2006-07). ``I'm 100 times more prepared this time around than what I was. There is no teacher like experience.

``I learned some things through good times and bad times when I was there. … I can not wait to get started. My energy level is as high as it's ever been.''

Cutcliffe called plays his first few years at Ole Miss but relinquished those duties the last year or two. He said he hasn't decided if he will call plays at Duke.

As he assembles his staff, it is believed he will hire two UT assistants that he brought to the Vols when he was hired after the 2005 season – Kurt Roper and Matt Luke. Both will be given raises over what they made at Tennessee, a source said.

Cutcliffe said he happened to watch tape of Duke playing against Alabama in 2005 and was impressed by the Blue Devils' effort.

He said he felt the administration was sincere about ``changing the culture of Duke football.'' Duke has won 6 games in the past five seasons.

During Cutcliffe's visit to Duke, he wanted to meet the school's basketball coach, Mike Kzyzweski, who was playing racquetball.

``I felt I would learn something about Duke athletics,'' Cutcliffe said. ``In five minutes, I was ready to sign a basketball scholarship to Duke University. …

``It hit me from every direction I was in the right place at the right time. … I knew I was surrounded by winners.

``I know they (football players) are winners off field and they will become winners on the field when they're ready to pay the price.''

Cutcliffe said he will look for players that can run.

``If you can run, we'll find you at Duke University and recruit you,'' Cutcliffe said. ``If you don't have feet, you can't play this game. He might be 1½ inches shorter or 15 pounds lighter than prescribed, but if he can run, we'll find a place.''

Cutcliffe said he would offer no excuses or regrets.

``I don't like coaches who, after they lose, say, `Now we've got to go back and work hard,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I don't know what the hell they've been doing. It's time to work hard from the get-go.''

Cutcliffe brought up the fact he had open heart surgery in March of 2005. He said his health and energy level are fine.

``I feel like I have a new lease, a new opportunity,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I make the most of every day. My health is great. Even if it wasn't, how good does it feel to be at Duke with these medical facilities? I thought it was a great fit.''

Cutcliffe said he will emphasize the kicking game, seek balance on offense but ``throw the heck out of it,'' and take calculated risks on defense.

``I believe in my plan.''

Cutcliffe said he wants guys who will compete in the classroom, as well as on the field.

Cutcliffe said he will coach Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. He said he already has watched all of Wisconsin's tape and has a game plan in place, as well as all the practice scripts.

He said he has already begun calling recruits on behalf of Duke.

``I don't think I'm short-changing Tennessee, and I certainly will not short-change Duke in any form or fashion,'' he said.

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