Saturday, May 31, 2008

White Out (/In)

First reported by WNDU's news, and confirmed today by Raleigh-Durham's counterpart WRAL (as well as ESPN.com and the infallible Wikipedia), Kevin White has officially been hired by Duke to replace Joe Alleva, now the AD at LSU. Though Domers may not have been thrilled with White during his time at Notre Dame, and are not exactly displeased at his departure, White is an excellent hire for Duke.

First, similarities between Duke and Notre Dame are obvious; beyond the facial similarities of reputable athletic programs and high academic standards (as well as an enjoyment of an unparalleled national hatred), both schools excel in the "non-major" sports - that is, everything save football and men's basketball. Say what you want about White's (mis-) management of the football program since the turn of the millenium, but there is no doubt that he has been beneficial for the minor sports at Our Lady's University (see, e.g., national championships in fencing, soccer, women's basketball, etc.). While many in the mainstream may not care, these fringe sports play a large role in the aggregate athletic prominence of both universities, especially when their flagship sports struggle, and White boosted many of these programs during his time at Notre Dame, and will be expected to continue the success of the similar programs (soccer, lacrosse, women's basketball, etc.) at Duke.

Hires in White's tenure were hit-or-miss at best; this is the guy who managed to bring in C'Dubs and (thus far) a pair of BCS games, but the same guy who made the banner hires of Ty Willingham and, lest we forget, the great George O'Leary. Speculation abounds in the Durham area as to the timeline for the departure of Coach Krzyzqewradsfski, and, upon Coach K's retirement, White will no doubt play the familiar role in the hiring of a new coach for one of the most storied programs in the sport.

I would be surprised, however, if White has much influence on Duke's basketball program. It has always been Krzyzewski's show to run, and White will likely defer to the experience of those who understand how to run a truly top-flight basketball program.

White was brought in by Duke primarily to bring the football program back from the national basement (1-11 record last year, 0-8 ACC), and bring them back to their mid-1950's success. Duke has plans in place to improve the football program, from refurbishment of their ~33,000-seat stadium to increased recruiting efforts. White seems a perfect hire for Duke for this reason, and will probably fit in better in Durham, where football expectations are considerably lower and there is more room for improvement, than he did when faced with the high standards and fickle temperaments of those residing in the Bend. Above all, White should look on the bright side: a 3-win football season next year would be considered quite a success here at Duke.

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