David Cutcliffe’s push to fill Wallace Wade Stadium is far from a new chore for Duke’s football coaches. The question of attendance—and, in particular, student attendance—is only relevant again because the Blue Devils are respectable for the first time in years.
The four student sections were jampacked for Duke’s first game, a 31-7 win over James Madison Aug. 30. The scene was so impressive—so un-Duke-Football—that Cutcliffe had a photo blown up on canvas and it now sits in his Yoh Football Center office. When he was introduced last December, he pledged to fill Wally Wade as the Rolling Stones did in 2005 and, if he only looked at the Duke half of the field that night, he might have gotten some satisfaction. The next week brought a 24-20 loss to Northwestern with another sizable crowd, but the following week, Duke’s last game, saw a paltry student section for a 41-31 win over Navy. So in the last two weeks, Cutcliffe has hit the recruiting trail for students, and he’ll sit down and sip some Coca-Cola with as many students as the Great Hall can hold Wednesday.
Maybe, though, he should take a trip to the University Archives and read up on past techniques.
Steve Spurrier was hired as Duke’s head coach in 1987, and in the spring, he sent an open letter to Duke fans, urging their support and pleading with them to fill Wallace Wade Stadium.
“We need to fill Wallace Wade Stadium every time we play at home,” Spurrier wrote. “Winning teams play in front of packed houses and fans can be instrumental in helping the home team achieve victory. You can make a difference!… Again, we are asking, not begging or demanding, just asking you to become a part of Duke football. We truly believe you’ll be glad you did.”
It took Spurrier’s Blue Devils another two seasons to sell out the stadium, but they did attract 30,800 fans for a 48-14 win over Georgia Tech in Spurrier’s first season. Duke finished with a 5-6 record that year en route to a 7-3-1 mark in Spurrier’s second year and an 8-4 mark in his third and final year on the job.
And those are numbers Cutcliffe would love to boast, too.
—by Ben Cohen