|Duke hopes Cutcliffe can bring potent offense to Blue Devils|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 15 December 2007 02:25|
The mentor to one of football's most famous quarterbacking families will be introduced Saturday as Duke's head coach. Then, he'll begin the daunting task of reversing the Blue Devils' struggles.
Cutcliffe, the former Mississippi coach who spent the past two seasons as Tennessee's offensive coordinator, was hired by Duke on Friday night, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the formal announcement hadn't yet been made.
The decision to hire Cutcliffe apparently was reached during an evening meeting of Duke's search committee. The 53-year-old coach acknowledged earlier in the day he had interviewed for the position, but denied receiving an offer.
The Blue Devils spent nearly three weeks looking for a coach with experience in the Bowl Subdivision and a knack for designing potent offenses - and as the search progressed, Cutcliffe emerged as a natural fit. The man known by his players as ``Coach Cut'' developed Peyton Manning during his first stint with the Volunteers, then coached Eli Manning at Ole Miss.
Now he'll embrace the challenge of building the Blue Devils into winners after the team lost all but just 22 games during the past 13 seasons.
The Blue Devils have endured three losing streaks of 15 or more games during the past 13 seasons, have lost at least 10 games in three straight seasons and fired Ted Roof last month after a 1-11 finish and a 6-45 overall mark during four-plus seasons.
Earlier Friday night, Duke athletic director Joe Alleva declined to say whether anyone had been offered the job, but as he left his office at Cameron Indoor Stadium at about 7:30 p.m. he expressed confidence that a hire was coming soon.
``By the end of the weekend, we'll be done,'' Alleva said.
Cutcliffe has been on Phillip Fulmer's Tennessee staff for the past two seasons, orchestrating the offense and working with the Volunteers' quarterbacks, but has longed to become a head coach again.
``We all kind of have a desire to run a program - that's kind of why I got into it,'' Cutcliffe said at Tennessee's media day in advance of the Vols' Outback Bowl appearance. ``That really hasn't changed. I'm still fairly young ... but I just feel like there's a lot left out there to be done.''
It was not immediately clear if Cutcliffe would remain for the bowl game.
One of the first Tennessee players Cutcliffe groomed into an NFL quarterback, Heath Shuler, praised the hiring of his former position coach because of his skills as a tactician. Shuler, now a Congressman representing western North Carolina, blossomed under Cutcliffe and was picked third overall by the Washington Redskins in 1994.
``He always talked to me about having a plan, and I took it in reference to football for so long - have a plan if the defense does this - but the real message he was sending to me was, have a plan for life,'' Shuler said. ``There's no doubt that David Cutcliffe has a plan when it comes to being the head coach at Duke.''
Cutcliffe was 44-29 in six seasons at Mississippi, but in less than a year went from Cotton Bowl champion to the unemployment line.
The only coach in Ole Miss history to win at least seven games in each of his first five seasons, Cutcliffe guided the Rebels to four bowl berths, and clearly, his Eli Manning-led 2003 team was his best.
Ole Miss won 10 games, claimed a share of the SEC West title and beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl that season. But in 2004 the Rebels had trouble replacing the first-round draft pick, and they slipped to a 4-7 finish. Days after the season ended, Ole Miss administrators urged him to make changes to his staff, and when he refused, he was fired.
He joined Charlie Weis' first staff at Notre Dame in 2005, but resigned before the season started because he was taking longer than expected to recover from triple bypass surgery. Coincidentally, he was replaced by Peter Vaas, who left South Bend before this season to run the Duke offense.
In 2006, Cutcliffe rejoined Fulmer, his longtime friend and mentor, at Tennessee, and designing the Vols' offense for the past two seasons while hoping for another chance at a head coaching job. Now, he has that opportunity at Duke.
Associated Press Writers Beth Rucker in Knoxville, Tenn., and Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.