Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe will become the new football coach at Duke and he will be introduced Saturday at a 5 p.m. news conference in Durham, N.C., the News Sentinel has learned.
A source in the Duke Athletic department said Friday an offer has been extended and accepted.
The fast-changing developments wrapped up a bizarre day in which Cutcliffe denied being offered the job Friday morning, a day after the News Sentinel reported that he was expected to leave the Vols.
Cutcliffe is expected to remain at UT through the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., against Wisconsin on Jan. 1. Cutcliffe will reportedly make between $1.2 and $1.5 million per season at Duke. He was scheduled to earn $340,000 this year. He would have earned $375,000 in the final year of a three-contract he signed in July that runs through June of 2010.
As he walked to the practice field on Friday afternoon, Cutcliffe still maintained that he hadn’t reached an agreement with Duke. UT’s practice ended at 6, with news leaking shortly thereafter that Cutcliffe had accepted the job.
“When you’ve got good people, people are going to want them,” UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. “That’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the normal progression in any profession.”
Cutcliffe, who was coach at Ole Miss from 1999-2004, declined to speak specifically about the Duke job Friday, but the 53-year-old expressed his desire to lead a program again.
“If you’re ambitious, you’re always interested in that opportunity,” said Cutcliffe, who joined UT’s staff in 1982 and left for Ole Miss before the 1998 championship game against Florida State. “I liked it (being a head coach), and to say I didn’t like it would be a lie. We all kind of have the desire to run a program. That’s kind of why I got into it.
“Once I got into it, I decided that’s what I wanted. That really hasn’t changed. I’m still fairly young in this business. I just feel like there’s a lot left out there to be done.”
Cutcliffe’s success at Ole Miss was a strong reason why he was offered the Duke job. Ole Miss, like Duke, is perceived to have inferior financial support and facilities compared to its conference counterparts.
During his six seasons with the Rebels, Cutcliffe compiled a 44-29 record and coached Ole Miss to four bowl victories and one loss.
Since his return to UT following the 2005 season, Cutcliffe has been credited with resurrecting senior quarterback Erik Ainge’s career and instilling more discipline on and off the field.
Meanwhile, the search will begin for UT’s third offensive coordinator in just over two years. At least two staff members, offensive line coach Greg Adkins and receivers coach Trooper Taylor, are expected to receive consideration. Neither has been a coordinator.
Adkins has coached at UT since 2003. Sophomore offensive guard Anthony Parker said Adkins would provide a smooth transition.
“I don’t think it would be too much of a let off,” Parker said. “He’s been around long enough now where they (Adkins and Cutcliffe) would probably be close to similar as far as what we would get done here. I don’t think it would change at all.”
Parker went on to say that Adkins is ready for such a move.
“Is he hungry for it? Most definitely,” Parker exclaimed. “That’s what you coach for, to move up the ladder. If he gets that opportunity, I’d like to see what he could do.”
As for Taylor, he is scheduled to interview for the offensive coordinator position at Baylor early next week.
“Since I’ve been here, his knowledge of the game is just about as good as anybody’s, especially on offense,” tailback Arian Foster said. “He knows what he’s doing. I have complete trust in what he would call.”
Fulmer could also elect to hire from outside the current staff. He has even recently expressed interest in a spread-option attack, although a complete shift to that offense seems unlikely.
UT running backs coach Kurt Roper and tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Matt Luke could follow Cutcliffe to Duke. They were members of Cutcliffe’s staff at Ole Miss and joined UT’s staff when Cutcliffe returned to Knoxville.
Luke and Roper signed two-year contracts in July. Those deals included a clause that would penalize an assistant six months’ base pay if he left UT for anything other than a coordinator or head coach position.
Luke earns $130,000 annually. Roper earns $150,000. Both are under contract until June of 2009.
Neither Roper nor Luke could be reached for comment Friday night.
Duke fired Ted Roof this month after the Blue Devils finished the season 1-11. In parts of five full seasons, he was 6-45 and 3-33 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
In a season chockfull of strange twists, Friday was almost typical.
“We’re pretty good at putting things from the outside away for the moment and just practicing and going to work,” Foster said.
Drew Edwards contributed to this report.