Duke’s Cutcliffe wins as Dodd Trophy begins new era

David Cutcliffe (third from the right), added the Bobby Dodd to his Walter Camp Foundation, Maxwell and ACC coach of the year awards.

Dave Tulis/AP

ATLANTA — The Bobby Dodd coaching tree is among the game’s most impressive, boasting names both legendary — Frank Broyles, Bobby Bowden and Bill Walsh — and contemporary — Bret Bielema, Steve Spurrier and Charlie Strong.

It’s only fitting then, that as the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award’s past and future met with Monday’s announcement that the Chick-fil-A Bowl is taking over day-to-day management of the award, the Dodd legacy was on full display.

David Cutcliffe took the podium as he was announced as this year’s winner, another accolade stemming from an unprecedented season for No. 20 Duke.

"I wouldn’t be standing here if our players weren’t playing hard and executing and being the type of young men they are," Cutcliffe said.

Cutcliffe himself is a link to Dodd, having been hired at Tennessee in 1982 by Johnny Majors, a protégé of Frank Broyles, who was Dodd’s offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech.

He was joined on stage by a collection of eight past Dodd Trophy winners, Bill Curry, Fisher DeBerry, Vince Dooley, Ralph Friedgen, Fred Goldsmith, Jim Grobe, Ken Hatfield and Dick Sheridan, all taking part in the announcement and the unveiling of the Dodd Trophy’s new logo.

"Coach Dodd was a man of values and as he became a coach, he became a coach of values," Cutcliffe said. "That’s what I know (the past winners in attendance) believed in and what we’ve been taught."

Monday was the start of a new era for the award, which beginning with 2014 season, will be run by the Chick-fil-A Bowl with the idea of reinforcing its position as the most prestigious national coaching award.

"We definitely have an exciting new vision for The Dodd Trophy and its future and this enhanced partnership is the first critical step in the process," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO. "Our combined efforts in managing this property will leave no doubt that The Dodd Trophy is the Heisman for coaches."

To create that Heisman-like atmosphere around the award, the winner of which had since 2002 been announced during halftime of the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl, a number of changes are being implemented.

First and foremost is an annual dinner bringing past winners to Atlanta during the Chick-fil-A Bowl week, along with a fan vote added to the existing voting committee and a makeover in the Dodd Trophy’s Web site and social media presence.

"College football is a sport driven by the passion and loyalty of its fans, and it makes all the sense in the world that the fans should have a voice in this process," Stokan said. "We want to make sure they can express that passion and connect with The Dodd Trophy in a meaningful ways."

Since its inception in 1976, the Dodd Trophy weighs a team’s performance in the classroom and in the community along with its play, ideals that will continue to be a part of the selection process, because they were part of Dodd’s coaching philosophy.

"I think first and foremost the way he treated his players and the respect he had, not only for the game of football, but for the mission of the student athlete," said Grobe, the 2006 winner, of Dodd’s impact. "Things like academics, integrity, honesty, surrounded Bobby Dodd and that’s kind of who he was, he wasn’t just a football coach.

"I think that’s why this is such a prestigious award to win, because they’re not just looking at you as how many wins you’ve got. It’s about more than wins and losses."

When it comes to the trophy and the name behind it, Curry has a perspective no one else can match. Not only did he win it in 1989 while at Alabama, he played for Dodd at Georgia Tech from 1962-64.

"Coach Dodd’s legacy is sacred, not only to those of us who played for him, but for those who understood the basic principles that coach Dodd stood for," Curry said.

The former Georgia Tech center recounted testing Dodd’s demands that players attend class, skipping an 8 a.m. Chemistry lecture that his coach found out about, resulting in "me running up and down the stadium steps until I could not stand up," Curry said. "I never cut another class because my football coached loved me enough to not let me destroy myself."

In Cutcliffe, voters honored a coach who has produced a season of firsts for the Blue Devils, with their only 10-win season and ACC Coastal Division title, along with their highest ranking at No. 22 in 29 years. He’ll look to extend that success on Tuesday as Duke faces No. 20 Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

His win coupled with that of Fred Goldsmith in 1994 made Duke the fifth school with two different Dodd Trophy winners, joining Air Force, Michigan, Georgia Tech and TCU. Cutcliffe is the ninth ACC coach to win the award, following Clemson’s Dabo Swinney in 2011. Kansas State’s Bill Snyder won last season.

The Dodd Trophy was just the latest for Cutcliffe, who had already been named the Walter Camp Foundation, Maxwell and ACC coach of the year awards. But, with his peers on hand, Cutcliffe noted winning this award was special.

"I am honored. I am humbled," Cutcliffe said. "This is the most meaningful thing that’s happened to me. … I will feel obligated to uphold everything about coach Dodd and (the past winners) as we move forward in this profession."