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Why Grass Matters

Pretty clearly, when the opposing coach and your own coach say your field is
terrible, it can't be good. And while it is embarrassing, it sums up
pretty neatly the problems Duke has had with football: we don't expect much out
of them and when they meet our expectations, we get upset.

Well, Duh.

But in failure there is the recognition of potential excellence. Joe Alleva
has made a commitment to football. Carl Franks is working hard to turn things
around and is by all accounts a crackerjack coach and a fine human being.
The facilities, long a sore spot, are being upgraded.

Then there's the field.

This is one of those situations that points out our (meaning Duke fans)
complicity in the weakness of Duke football. Are we suggesting that you
should get out there and sod the field? No. But think about this:

If the basketball team took the floor with either a) a cracked backboard, b)
an obvious flaw in the floor, or c) a leak which endangered players, we'd all be
buzzing and talking about how that's not acceptable. And it's not.

We expect the basketball team to pursue excellence, and we expect the
supporting personnel to make sure that everything is functioning smoothly.

We have not had the same expectations for football, and that has to
change. It's like we expect Coach Franks (or whoever) to deal with higher
academic standards and lesser facilities and still go out there and take on
Clemson and UVa and FSU and hold our own. And when they fall short, we
just turn away and say "well basketball season is just around the

That attitude, that acceptance of failure, has got to change. One of
the great moments in Duke basketball history was when Coach K came back from his
back injury. Within two minutes, in the first game, he got T'd up. The reason?
He was not going to accept his team not pursuing excellence. That
technical spoke volumes about the man, the team, and what is expected.

We're not suggesting that the groundskeepers be fired. We really don't know
their circumstances well enough to suggest anything of the sort. But what
is perfectly fair to say is this: set the standards for the field sky high and
give them the resources to meet those standards. If they can't do it, then maybe
they need to be replaced.

This is grass we're talking about, and grass is one element which
should be easily manageable. We may not be able to compete with the elite
powers on the field, but we can sure as hell make our grass as nice as
theirs. And until we, as fans, boosters, and alums, start demanding
excellence even in areas like this, until excellence is an overall mindset,
football will continue to struggle.

We shouldn't wait for results to demand excellence. It's Duke.
From the pass to the grass, we should insist on excellence.