After 'solid' year, Duke AD sees bigger things in 2016-17
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke had a solid year across its athletic department in 2015-16. Athletic director Kevin White sees even bigger things in the coming year.
In an interview with The Associated Press, White called the just-completed academic year ''a decent year with some historic moments and some brilliant moments'' but added that ''at the same time, it wasn't a great year, and we've been better and we can be better.''
Duke ranks 16th in the most recent standings for the Director's Cup, awarded annually to the school with the best performance in all sports. The Blue Devils were 20th last year and ninth the year before that.
While saying ''some programs had great year,'' White said that across the department as a whole, ''I don't think any of us within athletics are terribly satisfied.''
White praised men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski for taking an injury-riddled team to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, and reaffirmed comments made earlier this spring that he expects the 69-year-old coach to continue coaching at least through the remaining five years of his contract.
Krzyzewski is bringing in perhaps the nation's best recruiting class to an already strong group of returning players, and will enter this season as a favorite to win his sixth national title.
''People have checked in on Mike with me since the day I arrived'' in 2008, White said, adding that in a meeting with Krzyzewski the Hall of Fame coach ''asked me what I thought. `You're going to be here a while, so if I get the chance, I'm going to tell somebody.' That's what I did. … He's never been in a stronger position and it's all been earned over 36 years.''
The women's program had a rougher year, falling out of the Top 25 for the first time since 1999, missing its first NCAA Tournament in 22 years and losing key player Azura Stevens to transfer. After the school's human resources department conducted a review of the program last month, White said Joanne P. McCallie will remain the coach.
White declined to discuss further details of the investigation, saying that the ''kids are working their butts off, they're really galvanized, Joanne's doing well (and) I want us to keep chugging in a positive direction.''
A few of Duke's programs thrived during this past year, with two of them accomplishing things for the first time since 1961: The football team won a bowl game and the baseball team made the NCAA Tournament.
And Duke produced an individual national champion in women's golf, with freshman Virginia Elena Carter claiming an eight-stroke victory last month in Oregon.
''I love the fact that we're having really high-end success in a whole bunch of sports. … That's what this thing's supposed to be,'' White said. ''We're really in the leadership development business, and the medium happens to be sport over here in the athletic precinct,'' he added. ''Every young person's experience over here really truly matters a great deal. I don't think you can have an optimum experience unless you have some success.''
The football program's positive momentum comes as the school prepares to publicly unveil the latest phase of its reconstruction of Wallace Wade Stadium and the athletic campus.
Duke is building a glitzy tower at the stadium that will include luxury suites and seating, expanding the entrance to venerable Cameron Indoor Stadium and linking the basketball arena with the football stadium via a plaza that replaces the old Cameron traffic circle.
The new amenities at the football stadium should be ready by the Sept. 3 opener against North Carolina Central.
''It's going to have a great feel, the way they're going to interconnect with one another,'' White said.
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