Duke Blue Devil Hatred: A Private Matter?

Mike KlineAnalyst IApril 15, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05:  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils hugs Nolan Smith #2 following Duke's 61-59 win against the Butler Bulldogs during the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It is hard to imagine a team winning a championship and at the same time establishing itself as the most hated team in the country.

Duke has managed to be that team.

You could argue the semantics of whether or not they are hated or strongly disliked, but there is no doubt the Blue Devils churn up the venom in all those who don't bleed royal blue.

That makes sense for North Carolina fans, but why does a fan from a school that never plays Duke and has never been wronged by Duke dislike them so much?

Without sounding as if the hatred for Duke is some vast media conspiracy it sure is funny that nearly every single paper on the eve of last weeks National Championship final was portraying Duke as the villains.

One prominent paper even had a headline following the Blue Devils victory that read "Say it Ain't So."

There are those that argue that Duke is beloved by the media especially ESPN and basketball icon Dick Vitale.

Forget that little Outside the Lines report a few years back that tried to expose Duke Basketball players as taking easy classes and declaring easy majors like sociology. It might have been more believable had they said P.E., which Duke doesn't offer by the way.

And after all wasn't it a CBS/NCAA Selection committee conspiracy that led Duke to get a No. 1 seed it didn't deserve on the easiest path to the tournament this season.

That kind of talk only needs an old reel to show footage of a grassy knoll to make it any more compelling. Or better yet, some audio tape recordings—Richard Nixon did attend Duke Law School.

Many will say Duke is hated because they win. Mr. Vitale will have you believe that is the case because the Blue Devils are like the New York Yankees.

My contention is they are nothing like the Yankees. For one thing, Duke relatively speaking is a Johnny-come-lately with respect to championships.

If you were going to hate a team because of the amount they win then wouldn't Kentucky and North Carolina be more despised? After all they are programs that both have more total wins and championships than Duke.

While the Blue Devils have a long history of being a good team, they didn't win their first championship until 1991.

Back then they were the darling little private school that knocked off the big bad UNLV, who had decimated them and everyone else a year before.

So what happened in less than 10 years to make them so disliked and so hated?

When you rationally think about it the answer comes to one word: private.

Duke University is a private school of fewer than 9,000 enrolled underclassmen. The tuition is a staggering $40,000 at least, so many feel you have to be rich or elite to get in.

While that isn't entirely true, it is the common perception at any private school with a strong academic background. The problem with Duke is that they still manage to have a good basketball team despite the strong academic requirements.

Now, I would be naive to believe that some of the players who come to Duke wouldn't be there if it weren't for basketball. But most of them, to the tune of nearly if not more than 90 percent, graduate.

There aren't, as ESPN and other sources might have you believe, "easy" majors. Duke professors are notorious for not wanting the students to put sports first or even miss class to celebrate a national championship.

That kind of mentality has actually been partly responsible for Duke falling off the map in sports like football that they used to be very good at.

So while many will say the Blue Devils are hated because they win, I think it may have more to do with the fact they  have a very good program that graduates players and are also a private, well respected, academic institution.

There are also those that hate Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. I'll admit he has probably lost some love because of his interactions with members of the media. He can be terse and blunt and that doesn't win him any fans.

At times he will remind you of his mentor Bobby Knight, another reason he probably isn't very well liked.

Krzyzewski is said to get all the calls and can literally phone the NCAA and determine who the referees are going to be. Again, where is Abraham Zapruder when you need him?

His success has bred that talk and it really isn't any different then what people used to say about Dean Smith, or Adolph Rupp, and neither were as despised as much as Krzyzewski.

If Duke's on and off court success, or its coach hasn't turned people against the program, the fans may have.

Sure some of the fan base are annoying or arrogant, but show me a program that has been or is currently successful and I will show you a part of that fan base that is equally annoying or arrogant.

Hating Duke has become almost fashionable. You see it when all those newspaper, radio, and TV talk shows discuss why the program is so disliked.

Duke and Butler drew the highest television rating of any championship game since 2005. Most of the viewers weren't Duke fans, but rather people who wanted to see the Blue Devils lose.

I can't help but wonder if this Duke team had been wearing another name on the front of their jerseys if they would have been better received by the masses. There was no stomping on chests, pouty faced point guard, or cocky jump shooting pretty boy on this team to hate. It was just a bunch of hard working kids who wanted to win a championship, just like every one else.

Classifying and quantifying the hatred for Duke may never fully be explained to a Duke fan’s liking, but one thing is clear, hatred for the Blue Devils is here to stay. So, Duke fans are going to have to get used to it.