by Al Featherston, GoDuke.com
DURHAM, N.C. - When Duke defeated North Carolina 34-7 in John Gutekunst’s last college game on Nov. 20, 1965, the Blue Devils celebrated their seventh ACC championship actually a shared title with South Carolina.
Less than two months later, the conference took the title away from the Blue Devils not because of anything Duke did wrong, but because South Carolina cheated.
It was just as confusing and as controversial then as it was now.
The problem came to light in the winter of 1966, after Paul Ditezel succeeded Marvin Bass as athletic director and head football coach at South Carolina. Dietzel discovered that Bass has used two ineligible players during the 1965 season. When he reported the school’s transgressions to the ACC office, Commissioner Jim Weaver ruled that the Gamecocks would have to forfeit every ACC game in which the two ineligible players participated in which was all of them.
That created a problem, since the ACC did not play a balanced schedule that season. Duke and South Carolina played six conference games, while Clemson and N.C. State played seven. When the regular season ended, the top of the standings looked like this:
South Carolina: 4-2
N.C. State: 4-3
The Gamecocks had beaten Clemson and N.C. State, but lost to Duke on the field. So when the forfeits were factored into the standings, the new order of finish became:
N.C. State: 5-2
South Carolina: 0-6
On that basis, the ACC stripped Duke of its co-championship and declared Clemson and N.C. State co-champions.
“[We won it] on the field,” Gutekunst said. “It’s the wrong way to do it. Give Duke credit, they still honor it, even if the conference doesn’t recognize it."
In the 54-year history of the ACC, no other team has ever had to forfeit a game or has been stripped of its title due for any reason including teams found in violation of ACC and NCAA rules.