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Featherston's Modest Proposal For Duke's Football Search!

Duke is looking for a new football coach.

The Blue Devils haven't had a lot of luck making a successful hire in the 40 years since Bill Murray retired in the mid 1960s. Just one of the nine coaches brought in since Murray's departure have left Duke with a winning record - Steve Spurrier.

Since Spurrier's not coming back and since Paul Johnson, the school's apparent No. 1 target, has turned the Devils down, it's not easy to pinpoint a slam-dunk hire. Does Joe Alleva go after a former head coach who was fired from his last job (Steve Logan? David Cutcliffe? Karl Dorrell?) or an up-and-comer who is still at Division 1-AA (Rod Broadway? Chris Hatcher?).

I don't claim to have any inside information, but I suggest Joe Alleva think outside the box. Let me make a radical suggestion:

I think Duke should hire Wallace Wade to revive the program.

Okay, I can hear the objections - Wade died in 1986.

Granted, that's a negative - but isn't anybody Duke hires going to have some negatives? Logan has an abrasive personality and he turned off his fan base at his last job. Cutcliffe was regarded as a lousy recruiter at Ole Miss and he's coming off triple bypass heart surgery. Neither Rod Broadway nor Chris Hatcher has ever been a head coach at the 1-A level.

Wade, on the other hand, is a proven winner who won three national championships at Alabama and led Duke to two Rose Bowl appearances. He dominated recruiting in North Carolina and - for those of us frustrated by Duke's special teams problems in recent years - was regarded as the best special teams coach in his era.

And just imagine the national reaction if Duke were to hire Wade as head coach. Not only is he a Hall of Famer, but he's the only coach (in any sport) at an ACC school to appear on the cover of Time Magazine! Think of all the free national publicity that Duke would get as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox and the like debate the merits of hiring a deceased coach.

Alleva said he wants "a proven 1-A head coach" - I think Wade fits that bill. Yeah, I know Alleva also said he wanted an offensive-oriented coach. It's true that Wade usually built his teams around defense, but I should point out that his 1941 team led the nation in scoring. Many commentators have suggested that the innovative West Virginia/Florida/Boise State offensive schemes are throwbacks to the old single wing - well, why not hire a master of the single wing?

I know that there will be those who object to hiring a head coach who died 21 years ago. But in many cases, the head coach is a figurehead anyway. I've talked to products of Bear Bryant's Alabama program and they admit that in his final years, the Bear spent all his time on his tower and had little interaction with his players. Do a study of Bobby Bowden at FSU and Joe Paterno at Penn State and I think you'll see that the coordinators are running both programs.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that Paterno actually passed away a couple of years ago and is only remaining on the sideline in an attempt to pass Bowden as the winningest coach in college football history. Remember when he sprinted off the field in the middle of the game last season - I have it on good authority that the batteries powering it robotronic heart were running low.

There are advantages to having a coach who is deceased.

-- We wouldn't have to worry about Joe Alleva convincing him to come. Wade couldn't say 'no'.

-- Joe can get him cheap. Wade left Alabama in 1931 for $12,500 a year. That was good money on those days. You could pay him twice that much now and use most of the $2 million you were going to pay Paul Johnson for stadium repairs.

-- He wouldn't interfere with his coordinators.

-- He would never do or say anything to embarrass the University. He'd never be caught drunk driving or have an illicit affair with the daughter of one of the school's biggest boosters or get involved in an illegal NCAA Tournament gambling pool. He'd never commit an NCAA recruiting violation.

-- You'd never have to worry about Wade using Duke as a stepping stone to another job.

The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Wallace Wade is the best football coach Duke has ever had - even better than Spurrier.

I say bring him back. Even 21 years after his death, Wade is a better coach than any of the candidates I've heard mentioned so far.