Jul 30, 2009
When David Cutcliffe arrived in Durham two years ago, Duke had only 11 North Carolina prep players on its roster and even fewer in-state inroads on which to try and build a program.
Since then, it’s been clear that the new regime has had one goal in mind – let people know there are three division one football schools in the Triangle, not two.
While it has been, and likely always will be, a struggle, it is clear that progress is being made – on and off the field.
Four wins in 2008, while a modest amount for most, represented a breakout year at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Winning battles for in-state recruits against Butch Davis at North Carolina and Tom O’Brien at N.C. State?
That’s more like a coup.
Davis and O’Brien are spectacular coaches that have their programs on the rise and both will one day have their teams in the nation’s top-10 - but neither had the reclamation project on their hands that Cutcliffe inherited upon his arrival in the Old North State.
So how has the soon to be 55-year old head coach managed to wedge Duke back into the Triangle football conversation? By having events like the one that took place Thursday night at the Tobacco Road Café in Raleigh.
For two hours, in one sports bar, Duke was king – right in the middle of N.C. State country.
Cutcliffe, a man who knows and speaks honestly about the magnitude of the challenge he has in front of him, joked that he was happy to see Duke fans coming “out of the woodwork.”
Let’s be honest - O’Brien is not likely to be threatened by the Blue Devils’ brief appearance in his territory. After all, if the former Boston College head man wanted to have an event there, they’d probably have to blockade the entire street to accommodate all of the people.
But, the mere fact that Duke football can pack out a place like that 30 minutes away from campus, or the thought to even try, is a clear sign things aren’t as they recently were in the Duke football realm.
For the Duke fans that were in downtown Raleigh Thursday night, and those anywhere else for that matter, that’s a very good thing.
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