As we said yesterday, expect a decent amount of linking to Heather Dinich, ESPN’s ACC blogger whose posts tend to fill our inboxes with Google Alerts and keeps our Google Reader on alert. (Hint: Embrace Google products, thank us later.) Today, she ranks the ACC’s coaches, putting David Cutcliffe fourth of 12 coaches. Not bad for a man fired from his last head coaching job (albeit for petty reasons and not necessarily linked to on-field success) who has yet to win a game at Duke. Her description:
While he has yet to prove anything in the ACC, Cutcliffe’s experience in the SEC speaks for itself. He led Ole Miss to four bowl games in six seasons and finished with a .603 winning percentage there. Cutcliffe also built an impressive resume during his time at Tennessee.
The reason we’ve linked to this poll, of all posts? First, the fact that Cutcliffe is deemed a better coach than most ACC coaches is noteworthy, given that Ted Roof surely would have finished dead last in this poll, as his teams did in conference standings. Second, Cutcliffe was ranked considerably higher than first-year Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, the only other newcomer on the list, the former Navy man who Duke actively pursued before he decided to take his triple-option offense to Atlanta. Remember: As highly as Cutcliffe is revered now, he would never have been offered the job had Johnson thought higher of Duke.
And last, it’s worth questioning how much Cutcliffe’s public relations and confident words contributed to this relative honor. Yes, Cutcliffe’s resume is impressive enough to warrant Dinich’s praise. (Did you know he tutored the Manning brothers?) But now he’s at Duke, not Ole Miss. He’s at a program with little football tradition past 1938, whose biggest accomplishments in the last 70 years were hosting the Rose Bowl in 1942 (previous error edited out) and launching Steve Spurrier to stardom. Cutcliffe’s categorical refusal to acquiesce to past mediocrity is refreshing, both for outside perception and internal demeanor, and it, along with recruiting coups and other factors, has something to do with Duke’s newfound respect in the media–even if it’s not yet respect, at least Duke Football isn’t always the punchline of a joke.
–by Ben Cohen