h/t Ben Cohen (@bzcohen)
Following Rick Neuheisel's comments several months back to the UCLA alumni club of New York, it now appears that once again, another team's coach is letting the cat out of the bag on a potential future series with Rutgers. I saw that link, did a double take, and went about trying to confirm and flesh out the story for myself. However, that link's text is incorrect, as it paraphrases Duke HC David Cutcliffe as merely mentioning Rutgers as one of several potential games on a radio broadcast this morning. Actually, I found a link to the station's website, and just listened to the audio podcast here, and believe that his statement is much stronger. It's about 4/5 of the way through the conversation. Here's my quick transcript, but be sure to have a listen for yourself if you don't believe me.
Cutcliffe: "Well we, we're working on a lot of them. We've got a lot of them done. You know, out to the future. We're gonna be playing Stanford. We'll be playing Rutgers. Tryin' to work out something with Syracuse. We have Tulane. We have Memphis. We are working on something with UCLA. We have Baylor. Lots of good games out there that are BCS conference teams. That's one of the things that we've tried to do. We have Alabama by the way."
Which, I take to mean that a deal is finalized. Unless Coach Cutcliffe is mistaken, the two schools are going to play in some sort of football series, probably home and home, at an unspecified point in the near future. There's a clear distinction between "We'll be playing Rutgers" and "Tryin' to work out something with Syracuse", the implication being that the former is finalized, and the latter has not been. As with the UCLA story, this is the first concrete information to come out on our side, and there has yet to be an official announcement arrived out of Piscataway. Obviously, my intention by passing this information (or the UCLA series originally) along isn't to try and hamper the athletic department's time tables. It's out there now. I don't know what the internal thinking is on these matters, but if they do want to make an announcement themselves, they should make sure that the other parties don't spill the beans.
As I recall, the two schools were close to finalizing an agreement several years back (2004?), before Duke backed out. Our program was steadily improving, while they were getting worse. While a Duke/Rutgers series would undoubtedly please the vast number of New Jersey residents attending Duke (and please, stop giving our state a bad reputation down there), I think that it would be a very bad idea for Rutgers. The Duke program is undoubtedly improving under David Cutcliffe, but they still do not garner much in the way of national respect. Yes, I appreciate the irony of that coming from the Rutgers perspective. A team like Penn State is taking somewhat of a similar risk with Rutgers, but at least they will receive indirect benefits from playing Rutgers and playing games in New Jersey. Duke football could continue to improve, but it's not a sure thing in a deep ACC.
When it comes to home and home deals, RU should be playing peer, mid-level BCS conference schools (Maryland, Illinois, etc...), if not aiming upward against bigger-name schools. As the bigger name in the matchup, the target will be on RU's back. Meaning, there's little to gain, and much to lose. (Needless to say, I'm not thrilled about continuing to play Army. See last week's post on the topic, or tomorrow after it's announced for more on that.) Duke hardly needs more of a foothold into New Jersey. Call Maryland, call UNC, NC State, Clemson, etc..., but it doesn't make much sense to schedule Duke at this time. Perhaps down the line, if they can string together a few winning seasons in a row.