David Cutcliffe Decision Deals Devilish Blow To Duke

Mike KlineAnalyst IJanuary 14, 2010

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 07:  Head Coach David Cutcliffe of the Duke Blue Devils watches on against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

You can't fault a man for chasing his dream, but David Cutcliffe's apparent decision to leave Duke for Tennessee leaves the Blue Devils in worse shape than Lane Kiffin left the Volunteers.

First off, on a positive note, you have to admire what Cutcliffe has done in Durham. In two years he has improved every facet of a program that was once the laughing stock of college football.

But when it came down to it, his heart was still in Knoxville and Durham had little chance.

While I'm not shocked, I am disappointed, given all the talk from Cutcliffe about how he was committed to Duke and continuing to improve the program. Often praised for his loyalty, it appears he was never fully committed or loyal to Duke.

I even wrote an article on Wednesday proclaiming I didn't believe he would pull a Kiffin and leave if offered the Tennessee job. I guess I gave him too much credit.

It was the perfect storm. First, Kiffin leaves Tennessee for his dream job and then the Vols call in an old friend to save the day.

But that isn't quite what happened.

Cutcliffe for the second time in as many years wasn't even Tennessee's first choice. They wanted Texas' Will Muschamp, but when he turned the Vols down they went to Cutcliffe.

Last year, I could see him being hurt by the snub, this year I would have been insulted. But his inevitable decision shows his loyalties really are still with the Volunteers.

Can you blame him though?

Tennessee, besides being his dream job, is in a better conference, probably the best. He can recruit a higher quality of player, as Tennessee's academic requirements are nothing compared to Duke's, and he has a realistic chance of winning championships, and not just conference championships.

While Duke may have been able to pull off a Wake Forest-esque year eventually, it was never going to be a perennial contender.

So, in the end, his decision makes sense.

That being said, he leaves Duke is an unbelievably bad spot. Far worse than the one Kiffin had Tennessee in just a couple of days ago.

Duke has little to no chance of landing an equivalent or better coach as is the case now with Tennessee.

There isn't likely a marquee name who will touch the program with a 10-foot pole—even with the work put in by Cutcliffe. All for the same reasons that Tennessee is a better job, Duke will find it hard to find a coach.

So that means Duke athletic director Kevin White will probably have to land another in the long line of unproven assistants who all have been fired after three or four years of failure.

So, for the Blue Devils, it is back to square one; thanks, Coach.

White appears to be a capable AD, but lets be real. As Duke fans know all too well, Basketball is the life blood of the athletic department. Any football success is just gravy.

In the end, fans will still get fat from the potatoes, but they won't be as fat without the gravy.

Cutcliffe's decision is expected tomorrow, giving Duke less than two weeks to get a new coach in place for national signing day.

Unlike Kiffin, who at least left some assistants to try and hold down the fort, Cutcliffe is expected to take everyone with him, which leaves Duke high and dry.

Chances are, the kind of mass exodus the Volunteer recruiting class has had could pale in comparison to what Duke might expect. Not that the players are of the same quality, but they are of high quality for a program like Duke.

Cutcliffe was the big draw for fans and recruits. All those quarterback recruits—gone. All those wide receiver or big-time, four-star recruits who liked Cutcliffe's system—gone.

So, tell me whose position is worse now?

Duke fans would have followed him as far as he would have taken them. I guess they'll be catching the next Greyhound Bus whenever it rolls around.

Farewell Coach Cut, and best of luck at the Rocky Top, but if the people there show you the same hospitality they did your good friend Philip Fulmer, don't expect any sympathy from me.