Cutcliffe's loyalty rewards Duke, ACC


Duke is a more appealing head coaching job than Tennessee.

At least to David Cutcliffe it is, and on Friday morning, that’s all that mattered to the Blue Devils.

Cutcliffe went against the grain and in a shocking move withdrew his name from Tennessee’s head coaching search. Tennessee has more money to offer than Duke. Cutcliffe has a longer history with Tennessee. His daughter goes to school at Tennessee. He still has ties to players there, and he has family in the state. And it’s easier to recruit and win there.

Of course Cutcliffe was interested.

“I was torn,” he said.

Yet Cutcliffe’s bags remained unpacked in Durham.

It says as much about the man as it does about the coach who boosted Duke to nine wins in two seasons and the most success the program has seen since 1994.

This is not what you expect from most college coaches anymore, men who are six-win millionaires and still looking for the next pay raise. Many of them have as much loyalty and commitment as the 17-year-old players they recruit who switch schools three times.

But Cutcliffe’s decision proved he’s got bigger priorities than a name brand.

“You follow your heart in big decisions,” he said. “I have a lot of ties and a lot of people that I’m very close to, and a lot of respect for the University of Tennessee, but my heart is here. We’ve worked very hard these two years to change the culture, to change the team physically. You feel like the job’s not done, and in this era, it bothers me, what we do as coaches, moving here and there … this is mid-January. Nothing about that felt right to me as a person.”

That’s all you need to know about Cutcliffe as a person.

Cutcliffe is so close to his staff he knows their parents, and their children almost as well as he does his own family. He would have wanted to move them all to Tennessee with him if he could. Those assistants left other promising, lucrative jobs and joined Cutcliffe at Duke on trust. Defensive coordinator Marion Hobby was with the New Orleans Saints. Former defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre had been with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets. Associate head coach Ron Middleton left Alabama. Offensive coordinators Matt Luke and Kurt Roper left Tennessee.

On Friday, Cutcliffe returned that loyalty -- not only to his staff, but to Duke and the entire ACC.