Duke football coach David Cutcliffe will not return for 15th season

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David Cutcliffe’s 14-year tenure as Duke’s football coach, which saw him raise a moribund program into a regular bowl participant before a regression over the last three seasons, is over.

Duke athletics director Nina King and the 67-year-old Cutcliffe met Sunday and they reached a mutual agreement for a separation. A team meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. for the players to be informed of the coaching change.

Cutcliffe took Duke to its lone ACC championship game appearance in 2013 but oversaw the 13-game ACC losing streak the Blue Devils will carry into next season.

“After some detailed and amiable discussions with Nina King, we’ve mutually decided that it is the right time for change in the leadership of Duke Football,” Cutcliffe said in a statement from Duke. “Karen and I have loved our time in Durham. Duke University will always hold a special place in our hearts. To our current and former players please know how much joy you’ve brought to our lives. To all of our coaches and staff, many who have been with us for 14 years, you will always have our love and respect.”

Cutcliffe leaves Duke with a 77-97 record, a record damaged by a three-season slide that led to his departure even though he was signed through the 2022 season. Duke completed a 3-9 season on Saturday, losing 47-10 to Miami for its first winless ACC season since 2007.

From 2019 through this season, Duke went 10-25 with a 4-22 ACC record. He finishes with a 35-79 record in ACC play.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe leaves the field following the Blue Devils’ 47-10 loss to Miami on Saturday, November 27, 2021 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe leaves the field following the Blue Devils’ 47-10 loss to Miami on Saturday, November 27, 2021 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.

Named Duke’s coach on Dec. 15, 2007, Cutcliffe took over a program considered the nation’s worst. Duke had won just 10 games from 2000-07.

It took Cutcliffe until his fifth season but he took the Blue Devils to the Belk Bowl in 2012, the school’s first bowl appearance since the 1994 season.

The following season, Duke went 10-4 to win the ACC Coastal Division championship and receive the No. 23 ranking in the final Associated Press top 25 poll. It’s the only 10-win season in Duke’s football history and Cutcliffe garnered both ACC and national coach of the year honors.

The Blue Devils played in six bowl games during a seven-season stretch from 2012-2018. When Duke beat Indiana, 44-41 in overtime to win the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl in New York, it was the program’s first bowl victory since the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

Duke won bowl games in 2017 (Quick Lane) and 2018 (Independence) with current New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones leading those teams.

Taken No. 6 overall by the Giants in the 2019 NFL Draft, Jones was one of two first-round picks Duke produced during Cutcliffe’s tenure. Offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson, taken by Detroit in 2015, was Duke’s first first-round pick in the spring NFL Draft since 1987.

But despite seeing four players selected in last spring’s NFL Draft, the most Blue Devils picked in a single draft since 1972, the team’s inability to be competitive in ACC play caused Duke’s administration to begin looking for a new coach.

In recent weeks, Cutcliffe was adamant that he had no plans to retire, saying just last Monday, “I don’t know if I look worn out or look all that bad, but I got a lot of fire in me. I’m a young football coach. I love doing what I’m doing.”

Duke is the second school to employ Cutcliffe as a head coach. An assistant coach at Tennessee from 1982-98, he was named the Broyles Award winner as the nation’s top assistant in 1998.

Cutcliffe first became a college head coach at Mississippi on Dec. 2, 1998. He coached six full seasons with the Rebels, compiling a 44-29 record and winning the SEC coach of the year award in 2003. The school fired him in 2004 following his first losing season.

After returning to coach offense at Tennessee for two seasons, Cutcliffe became Duke’s coach in December 2007.

His 14 seasons at Duke are second only to Bill Murray’s 15 years (1951-65) in terms of consecutive seasons as head coach with the Blue Devils. Wallace Wade coached Duke 16 seasons, but did it in two different stints -- 1931-41 and 1946-50.

“I want to thank (former Duke president) Dick Brodhead for the opportunity to come here,” Cutcliffe said. “I’m very thankful for Kevin White and Nina and their leadership. I can’t say enough about all the faithful alumni and friends that gave us an opportunity to build and win here. I’m not sure just yet what the future will look like, but I am looking forward to some family time to reflect a bit on the past and see what the future holds.”

This is a developing story and will be updated

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