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Time For Duke Fans To Step It Up

A lot of you, either figuratively or literally, weren't around last time Duke
hired a new basketball coach. Believe us, it wasn't an ideal situation:
this young unknown shows up, with no reputation, no significant accomplishments
as a head coach, and in fact, coming off a losing season at Army. The
stage was set for disaster and mutiny.

Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard had solid seasons, but neither one seemed
totally thrilled at the time, although our impressions were through the
media. And after they left, things really hit the fan: missed recruits,
10-17 records, and an absolute refusal to play zone.

The local press raked Krzyzewski over the coals, implying he was stupidly
stubborn and doomed, and what's more, it served him right.

The next year, his fourth season, things turned around, and no one ever
looked back.

The reason we mention it is because if either Coach K or Tom Butters had
listened to the critics, where would we be?

Duke is in a similar situation now with Ted Roof. We're not saying he's
going to be as good as Krzyzewski has been, but he's in a similar spot, and if
Duke fans want a shot at a brighter football future, we had better pay

Despite the 0-4 record, things are definitely different. Duke has played
Navy, UConn, Virginia Tech, and Maryland. Navy and UConn are both programs
on the rise, and Duke, despite overwhelming youth, could have won both
games. And in the second two games, despite injuries and even more young
players being forced into action, Duke played hard and was in both games at the

Let's be clear: no one wants to see 0-4. But let's also be clear: this
team is playing with a lot of heart and character. They aren't giving up,
and they are playing with a lot of mental toughness despite being outmatched.

Now, no one on the team is whining. They are doing the best they can in a
tough situation.

Sometimes, though, supreme effort doesn't translate into wonderful results,
at least not right away. This is what happened to the basketball team. In
relative terms, though, basketball is easy to fix, because you only have
thirteen players, and one or two great players can do it. That's not the
case in football, where you need a ton of players and depth is an issue, and
where freshmen have no real shot against upperclassmen.

Our point is pretty basic: Ted Roof has the makings of a first-rate
coach. In a year or two, things will look a lot different. Duke will have
enough to compete for the entire game, instead of a quarter or two, and will
start winning more. At that point, people will start looking at Ted Roof,
as they once came calling on Steve Spurrier. And if he's still looking
around and not getting people in the seats, and people aren't showing up at pep
rallies, and his team is playing with guts and passion, well, what's to keep him

And as a second part of that, Duke fans, and particularly Duke students,
can't just wait for things to get better. You have to be part of the
process. And while this may shock you considering the source, as much as we love
where Duke is in basketball, being at the top isn't as much fun as the ride
up. There was a time when Duke looked up a long way to see UNC,
Georgetown, Michigan, Vegas, N.C. State, Maryland, you name it. Watching
it develop, and seeing it come together, and then going into games and knowing
what your guys are likely to do, and seeing Phil Henderson dunk on Alonzo
Mourning, or Johnny Dawkins blocking David Rivers, or Bobby Hurley gunning down
Vegas - well, seeing it happen, being part of something about to explode, that's
an amazing thing.

We honestly think Duke football, under Ted Roof, has a chance to improve
dramatically. There's no inherent reason why similar schools, like Notre
Dame, Stanford, Northwestern, and most of all Miami, should see stretches of
remarkable success and Duke can't.

But in order to get to that point, some things have to happen. The university
is doing its part, committing financially to football, building the Yoh Center,
offering a bit more flexibility for admissions, and letting Roof hire some
excellent assistants. Coach Roof is doing his part, too, getting his
players to play on a higher level and with more passion, and recruiting at a
higher level as well.

But the next part is up to Duke fans, and Duke students most of all: Wade
needs a new identity, a sense of passion and excitement. As encouraging as
everything around football is right now - and while 0-4 is not, the character of
the team certainly is - a lot of responsibility for success falls on the fans in
general and the students in particular.

Understand that there is a vision in place. Understand that Duke
football is in a position to improve dramatically over the next few
seasons. Understand that in football, a high level of passion can overcome
gaps in talent. And understand that for the vision to come true - of a
rock-solid Duke football program where a high graduation rate and bowl
appearances go hand in hand - all Duke fans have to assume some responsibility.

The players can play for themselves, but that's lonely. We remember UNC
basketball players not too long ago blowing off the fans and saying they had to
play for themselves. That's no good, and you can't build on it the way you
can on a stadium full of screaming fans.

Our hope is that Duke people, and especially students, can at least picture a
future where Duke is a factor on the football field. Once you understand
that it is possible - and it is - and you start to see signs of improvement -
which we are seeing, despite the record - then it builds on itself, and you are
part of the magic.

Please, we implore all Duke football fans - this is a different Duke football
world. For the first time in a long time, Duke has a real chance at
building something. It won't happen overnight, and won't bear a lot of fruit
this season, but these young players are going to get better fast, and better
players are on the way.

The way we see it, once we all get Duke to a reasonable level, then we can
start dreaming about taking it to a level beyond just respect. But in
order for it to happen, it takes all of us working together. Right now,
the football team, and Coach Roof, really need support. If you are a
student, if you are a football fan, please: these guys are busting their
tails. Show them you appreciate them playing like Duke players should
play. Go and cheer for them as only Duke fans can do.