Duke football needed 2,640 days to win 10 games between September 2000 and November 2007. David Cutcliffe accomplished the same feat in 92 days in 2013.
Duke fans know how bad it was. Does the rest of college football?
Does the rest of college football remember the Blue Devils had three winless seasons in seven years (2000-06) — plus another one in 1996? They had 10 coaches between 1978-2008, only two of whom won more than six games in a season, and once had a 1,023-day winless stretch.
Then on Dec. 14, 2007, Duke "moved in a different direction," hiring former Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe to replace Ted Roof, who went 4-42 in four seasons.
"When I announced my decision to move in a different direction with our football program," said then-athletics director Joe Alleva in announcing Cutcliffe's hire. "I clearly stated our criteria. We were looking for a leader who has head coaching experience . . . has directed a winning football program . . . has an outstanding offensive mind."
Nearly a decade later, hiring Cutcliffe was the best decision in the history of Duke football. And in the first part of 10-conference series, David Cutcliffe is HERO Sports' most underrated coach in the ACC.
"We are talking about a place that requires rigorous academic standards for admission — and they won't cut corners, especially for football," says Sean Labar, HERO Sports ACC writer. "Basketball is always first, and shoot, lacrosse might be second. Football is at the bottom of the totem pole and the fan base is weak. Still, Cutcliffe has this program relevant for the first time ever. It's astonishing."
In 2007, Cutcliffe was a 53-year-old former Alabama high school football coach who rose the ranks on Philip Fulmer's Tennessee staff. He went from part-time assistant coach in 1982 to assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 1995, before being hired by Ole Miss to replace Tommy Tuberville in December 1998.
MORE: Panthers' LB Ben Boulware Leads UDFAs Who Could Make Week 1 Rosters
He won 39 games in his first five seasons (39-22) with the Rebels, the highest five-year total by a coach since John Vaught won 41 games between 1960-64, but was fired after a four-win 2004 season. Reportedly, Cutcliffe refused to make changes to his coaching staff per a request from athletics director Pete Boone.
Dec. 1, 2004, the day of Cutcliffe's dismissal, should be a holy day in Durham, N.C. Two weeks earlier, they were slaughtered by rival North Carolina in the season finale, and still had three seasons ahead of them that produced two total wins. Though times were lean and future was bleak, that day set up the arrival of Cutcliffe.
After an offseason stint at Notre Dame, year off following triple-bypass surgery and two years back on Fulmer's staff, the offensive guru landed at Duke on Dec. 14, 2007. In nine seasons, his record (52-61) and winning percentage (.460) remain modest — at best — but are legendary by Duke standards.
He won as many games in his first season (four) as the previous four seasons combined, won eight or more games in three-straight seasons and reached back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history. Cutcliffe also delivered the first-ever 10-win season, first appearance in the AP top-25 since 1994 and three-straight seasons with top-25 appearances for the first time since 1960-62.
The list is endless — and quite frankly pointless. What David Cutcliffe has accomplished in a decade at Duke cannot be quantified. He has transformed the most miserable program in college football into a respectable, competitive one. And on May 1, the 62-year-old was rewarded with a contract extension that should keep him at Duke until June 2021, though we're betting they intend to keep him as long as he wishes.
"There's a reason Peyton Manning trained with him every offseason," adds Labar. "There's a reason Eli Manning still heads to Durham every summer. Daniel Jones — the current Blue Devils' signal-caller — might be the most underrated QB heading into the 2017 season.
"If he can continue to get the most out of his quarterbacks while filling in the rest of the roster with high character, smart, overlooked three-star prospects, the Blue Devils will at least put up a fight in the competitive ACC. The challenges are immense, so Cutcliffe can't be judged the same as other ACC coaches."
Judge David Cutcliffe however you want, as long we all give him more credit.