DURHAM, N.C. - For those who just knew David Cutcliffe had all but packed for Knoxville and accepted a job as the new coach at Tennessee, there was a surprise Friday morning - the Duke coach decided to remain with the Blue Devils.
"I hope they are not all that disappointed with not being able to get their replacement choice in here," Cutcliffe said at an afternoon news conference.
With Lane Kiffin suddenly leaving Tennessee this week and accepting a job at Southern California, the Vols were left with a coaching vacancy. Cutcliffe, whose two previous stints at the school totaled 19 seasons, surfaced as a prime candidate.
On Friday, he described his consideration of the job at Tennessee as a "big decision," saying he took into account his family and his current situation at Duke while weighing his options. He said he "didn't see this coming," and the pace of the past two days was "bam, bam, bam."
In the end, Cutcliffe said he looked at the long-term goals his staff has set for the Duke program and the progress the team has made in the past two seasons and decided it was better to stay put. He said his health did not factor in the process.
"Finish the job you start," he said. "That's one of the things my dad also said, 'If you're going to do something, do it right and finish the job.' "
Cutcliffe, who recently completed his second season at Duke, has a 9-15 record at the school.
Cutcliffe, 55, has a long history with Tennessee.
"It wasn't about what was at Tennessee or what was involved in another world," he said. "It was about what was at Duke. I wasn't looking for a job. And when you like the job you've got, you evaluate that first. And that's what I evaluated first: Can we win here? Yes. Can we build a program here? Yes. It just kept coming back yes."
Cutcliffe made his final decision in the early-morning hours Friday.
Duke players were certainly rattled by the coach's silence Thursday. He said he spoke with a few Wednesday but did not send out a message to the entire team.
"We knew his history, his situation," tight end Brett Huffman said. "This seemed like a dream job for him. If he took it, obviously we'd understand where he was coming from. On the other hand, on the more selfish side, we wanted him to stay with us. And I couldn't be more happy with his decision."
Tony Scott, father of Duke freshman running back Desmond Scott, said he also was happy with Cutcliffe's decision. However, he said he was disappointed that Cutcliffe did not communicate Thursday that he considered leaving.
"I don't know all that was going on in terms of negotiations and renegotiations between Duke and Cut and Cut and Tennessee," he said. "But it makes me feel that we don't know about the certainty or the stability of this program as we move forward.
"Before this incident I had the upmost confidence and respect for Cut, and this situation has kind of tainted my view."
Cutcliffe said he could not communicate with the entire team in this situation, though he did think of players, considering three new signees were recently enrolled for the spring semester.
He said he didn't take the decision lightly.
"Good gosh. How fair is that?" he said. "We've got guys that have dropped any other recruiting from any other institution long ago. How fair is that? . . . I felt a little dirty thinking about it."