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Cutcliffe embraces rebuilding opportunity at Duke

DURHAM, N.C. -- David Cutcliffe molded quarterback after
quarterback into Heisman Trophy contenders and prized NFL draft
picks.

Now comes an even tougher construction project: Transforming
downtrodden Duke into a winner.

The Tennessee offensive coordinator and mentor to the Manning
family of quarterbacks was introduced as the Blue Devils' head
coach Saturday.

And while the coach with deep Southeastern Conference ties
promised no quick fixes, he pledged to propel the Duke program back
to relevance.

"There are no magic dusts, there are no ways that are easy to
get this done," Cutcliffe said. "But we'll be on a fast track to
get it done."

Cutcliffe, an Alabama graduate who is serving his second stint
on Tennessee's staff, spent six seasons as Mississippi's head
coach, churning out productive quarterbacks at both schools -- from
Heath Shuler to Peyton and Eli Manning -- and his reputation for
producing talent has given his new players reason for optimism.

"You can just see on the field what [the Mannings] have done
over the past, it's absolutely amazing and I really look forward to
working with him," Duke quarterback Zack Asack said.

Cutcliffe went 44-29 and led Ole Miss in five bowl games from
1999-2004, and will remain with Tennessee for its Outback Bowl
appearance next month against Wisconsin while also embracing the
challenge of reversing the fortunes of a football program that has
struggled mightily while most of Duke's other teams have
flourished.

"You look at what [men's basketball coach] Mike Krzyzewski has
done here, you look at the other sports here, it all comes together
when you put those strategic plans in place," Cutcliffe said. "I
believe we have 100 percent commitment from the administration to
make that happen."

The Blue Devils have suffered through 13 consecutive losing
seasons, haven't reached a bowl game since 1994 and fired Ted Roof
following a 1-11 finish -- the school's third straight year with at
least 10 losses.

"It wasn't about just making a change of one person or a
personnel change," Duke p president Richard Brodhead said. "That
was really a moment for Duke University to recommit itself to the
proposition of excitement in football and winning seasons in
football. We went to look not just for a coach, we went to look for
the change agent and the leader who could produce that change."

Athletic director Joe Alleva declined to discuss the specifics
of Cutcliffe's contract, as is customary at the private university.
He hired headhunter Chuck Neinas to assist him and the other six
members of the search committee, which spent nearly three weeks
interviewing six candidates before settling on the 53-year-old
Cutcliffe, who met the AD's main criteria as an offensive-minded
leader with previous head coaching experience at the sport's
highest level.

"We've hit them all right on the head," Alleva said. "I think
I found someone who can score some points."

Cutcliffe has longed for another head coaching opportunity ever
since Ole Miss fired him following a 4-7 finish in 2004, a year
after winning the Cotton Bowl and the first season of the post-Eli
Manning era in Oxford.

He said Duke called last Tuesday to offer him an interview, and
he was so enthusiastic he drove nearly all night from Knoxville to
Durham, arriving at his hotel room at 2:30 a.m., sneaking into
Wallace Wade Stadium the next morning and walking the campus before
meeting with Alleva.

"I was looking for a sign, am I in the right place doing the
right thing?" Cutcliffe said. "I didn't find a penny, I didn't
find a nickel, something to tell me I'm in the right place. I
didn't find any trash. I was at a place that just spelled pride.
The buildings, the ground, you felt like you were on hallowed
grounds."