If you haven't heard, Joe Alleva has taken the job at LSU, thus ending a 32 year run at Duke which saw, on the bright side, multiple national championships in various sports, and on the negative side, the total collapse of football and the lacrosse hoax.
Alleva had also gone after the Miami job when it was open, and perhaps it's understandable that he might be ready for a change.
In many ways, he had become a lightning rod at Duke. Some of the criticism was perfectly valid, and some was probably unfair. If he deserved criticism for the state of the football program - and we think he does - he deserves credit for the continued competitive state of programs like golf, tennis, and lacrosse, sports in which Duke's men and women's teams compete annually for national titles.
Duke has continued to raise money for athletics and dramatically expanded facilities under his watch. If you hadn't been on campus in quite some time, you'd be shocked to see the new buildings which have gone up. Koskinen Stadium, the Yoh football building, the new IM building, the Schwartz-Butters building, the brand spanking new practice facility for basketball - like the programs previously mentioned, these are real and credible accomplishments. And, one might add, Duke has done a fairly good job in dealing with Title IX requirements.
There are, in other words, solid reasons why LSU was interested in Alleva (we should also add that they are under the gun, and whoever their A.D. was to be needed to be in San Antonio for the Final Four, because if you miss the coaches convention which coincides with the Final Four, you complicate your hiring process for a new coach immensely).Yet he will have a mixed bag as a legacy at Duke. The primary reasons for this are the football hires and allowing the program to drift into disastrous waters, and the handling of the lacrosse situation.
Football can and should be largely laid at Alleva's feet. He made the decision to hire Carl Franks, a Duke grad and a good man but not someone ready to be a head coach. He also made the decision to hire Ted Roof, which wasn't as horrible a hire, but Roof had to compete with significant handicaps, many of which have been either corrected or are being corrected now. Too late for Roof, of course.
Third time around, of course, he hired David Cutcliffe, who has managed to bring some swagger to the job, and some excitement as well. Time will tell if he leaves Durham muttering, as too many of his predecessors have, of the impossibility of his job. Certainly we hope not. A great hire would be a great legacy, but only time can validate the buzz this hire has brought.
A couple of other notes before we forget:
- The baseball situation, where Alleva's hire, Bill Hiller, was let go after steroid use was discovered, and after some players said they felt pressured to use them by their coach.
- The boating DWI, where Alleva and his son had a fairly serious accident in a powerboat, where Alleva ended up with 42 stitches and his son ended up with the DWI.
- The handling of Gail Goestenkors departure and the subsequent search, where Alleva made some unfortunate comments which may have affected Goestenkors' decision.
The accident, in isolation, would have been embarrassing but not a huge problem necessarily, but coming during the lacrosse case, with the intense media coverage and the furious debates over alcohol on campus, it was, basically, a dung bomb. Very, very unfortunate, to say the least.
Most of this stuff will be forgotten relatively soon, with the exception of football hires and possibly the Coach G stuff. If women's basketball continues to thrive, then no one will worry too much about that, either.
The lacrosse case is a different matter.
As one of the three former defendants said at one point, when he dies, this will be in his obituary. That's going to be true of Alleva as well: his handling of this case, whether it's fair or not, will be the most remembered part of his career, barring something more sensational, in a good or bad way, at LSU.
If LSU wins ten football titles in a row, it'll still be there.
We have no desire to back up and run over Alleva over this. For one thing, we've heard from more than one person that he doesnt' express himself very well publicly, and that that has undermined his image as well. We'll accept that as likely.
However, the phrase that will follow him around, for the rest of his life, his Albatross if you will, is what he said to former lacrosse coach Pressler when he said "it's not about the truth anymore."
We can understand (we think) what he was trying to say, but if you get to the point where the truth is no longer relevant to the process at hand, you might as well toss the rope over the tree branch yourself.
Alleva's legacy will sort itself out over time. We didn't agree with everything he did, but we do think he tried hard and he sincerely cared about Duke. Whatever anyone thought, he's leaving, and generally speaking, graciousness is the best thing when possible.
The much more interesting question is about his successor.
If we had to pick a guy who would be ideal, with our limited knowledge of potential candidates, we'd probably pick Ron Wellman. He's pretty happy at Wake, though, and presumably wouldn't be that hyped about a move to Durham. He's done an incredible job at Wake, though, and it can't hurt to ask.
Barring that unlikely scenario, our wish list would include the following qualities:
- A creative thinker
- Someone with immense energy
- A proven administrator who can delegate effectively
- A solid fundraiser
- Someone with experience at a similar university (i.e., Notre Dame, Stanford, etc)
- Someone young and a rising star in the profession
- Someone willing to commit for the long haul
We have absolutely no idea who could come closest to those qualities, but given his track record in hiring, and his visionary approach to his school's athletics, the first guy we'd call for advice would be Ron Wellman.