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Football Update!

As the football search continues, some developments: Joe Alleva has hired a headhunter, Chuck Neinas, who has helped match numerous schools and coaches. And while the Durham paper suggests that the odds might be fading, Alleva took Duke president Dick Brodhead and VP Tallman Trask to the Washington area, presumably to meet with Johnson. One of the funnier Web tricks that's now de rigueur is to look at a flight tracking site to see when jets loaned or leased to schools are used to go talk to prospective coaches. Time was this was a discreet practice: not anymore.

Also, Rod Broadway interviewed Tuesday, which in and of itself was a positive thing for Duke. He did a brilliant job at NCCU and his first season at Grambling was also highly impressive. As Barry Jacobs says in his latest column, the fact that black coaches rarely even get an interview cuts off a huge talent pool for folks who are looking for quality coaches.

For some time, we've thought Duke, long unwilling to pay competitive money for a football coach, would do well to look in this pool because no one else is, and in Duke's situation, that could be a huge break. But since Duke is apparently willing to pay top dollar, that theory may be moot.

When we said this, we got a few letters which suggested we were only interested in an affirmative action hire: not so. You'd have to be completely daft to hire a coach solely because of his race.

We do think that with a large program and a number of teams, it's inexplicable that Duke has never hired an African-American head coach in any sport, or any high-level administrator in the athletic department.

We're excited that Duke is talking to Paul Johnson, who has done an absolute star turn at Navy. He'd be great in Durham.

But if he doesn't take the job, Broadway would be great in Durham and for Durham for a number of reasons. He's a unique figure in many ways.

The bottom line: he's a winner. He did a great job at N.C. Central and Grambling, which is the flagship football school among historically black colleges and universities. The fact that a Carolina grad can be talked about, and enthusiastically, as Duke's football coach, just underscores his uniqueness. Our guess is that he'd also prove to be a highly effective recruiter.

The fact that he was retained as an assistant by more than one Duke coach speaks to the respect he's earned, and also to the intimate knowledge he has of how and why Duke has failed in football, which is not something most coaches will fully understand.

And while it's not a reason to hire a coach, his ties to Central would be a great public salve to the wounds of the recent past between Duke and Central.

Long before the lacrosse case, we talked about the fences which were built around West Campus in the Keohane era, and how they had the unfortunate effect of making a psychic boundary between Duke and Durham physical. But in fairness to Duke, fences are not generally put up randomly, and Duke has had to deal with what has at times been a serious crime epidemic, and in that context, walling the campus off from Durham is an unfortunate step but not an irrational response.

But it has had repercussions, and Duke needs to figure out ways to deal with Durham and ways to, at least metaphorically, pull down those barriers. We think Broadway would be a tremendous hire, and the fact that his hire would tend to damage the wall between Duke and Durham would be a tremendous bonus.

But all that aside, the bottom line is the bottom line, and if Duke hired him and he had four years at 1-10, then very few people at Duke or in Durham would argue with his firing. And he probably wouldn't be the only one looking for a job.