David Cutcliffe addressed the media Monday only minutes after the announcement that Duke’s men’s basketball game against Gardner-Webb had been canceled, two days after Duke and Georgia Tech had unexpected days off due to COVID-19.
So, it’s no surprise that the pandemic monopolized the conversation.
For the record, there was no chance Duke and Tech could have played last weekend. Not enough time for that or enough time for Duke to find a non-ACC team to fill the Duke void.
And Cutcliffe certainly didn’t sound like a man having second thoughts about canceling the Wake game instead of playing it on December 19.
“As I looked at this, we’re out of school, we’re at a point where . . . I just didn’t think it was a healthy thing to do, to have two weeks again, after sitting three weeks, that it would be the right thing to do for our staff, to our squad. I told our players when we started this year that their well-being, their safety would be at the forefront of everything we did. I think that made it pretty clear that the best decision we could make was to forgo playing on December 19th.”
Duke asked about playing Wake on the 12th but got a no.
Cutcliffe still says having this season, as truncated and difficult as it has been, was still the right thing to do.
“We’ve played a lot of football. There have been a lot of weekends that a lot of college-football fans have been happy, players have been happy, coaches have been happy. I’m certain administrators feel the same way. It’s been a huge positive. We all knew going in that it would not be seamless. But it’s been pretty remarkable that all of these young people have done so well and been so disciplined in their way of living that we’ve been able to play so many college-football games.”
Back to Georgia Tech. Duke hasn’t played since November 7 but Tech hasn’t played since October 31.
Is this an analog to opening week, with two rusty, nervous teams? Or a late-season match between two rested, healthy, hungry teams ready to play? Or a weird hybrid?
“I think there’s going to be a little bit of both without doubt. It’s such an unusual circumstance. You don’t know how much they’ve adjusted or changed. I think we’ve both tried to continue to work and grow as programs. It’s a little different than an opening game in the fact that we’ve practiced a lot of football, played a lot of football to this point. It will be a little bit more like a bowl game. . . . It will have more of a feel of that than anything else.”
Cutcliffe teased us last week with hints of position changes and he says that the extra week off makes that more likely. No specifics, of course.
“I really feel good about us having the ability to go to Atlanta and play this week. We feel like we’ve gotten better during this break and our guys are ready to go play some football.”
Duke is 2-6 and can finish no better than 4-6. In 2020 4-6 might get a bowl invite, assuming COVID-19 doesn’t bury those in a wave of positive tests. Cutcliffe was asked if Duke would accept a bowl bid under those circumstances and didn’t rule out the possibility.
“It would depend on how much of a delay there would be because again it goes back to the safety of the players. Obviously we would be thrilled but I’m not even sure that’s a possibility. Anything’s possible in 2020, let me back up. But I would have to talk to our people.”
He also did not rule out the possibility that some of this year’s seniors would come back for the extra season granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic, adding that discussions would become more serious after the conclusion of the season.