Kevin White is hoping for big things from all of the Blue Devils' teams during the coming year.DURHAM, N.C. — Duke athletic director
"My sense is that 2012-13 has a chance to be just a banner year for us, as I look at it from top to bottom," White said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'd like to think we can take it up another level or two, we can ratchet it up, and I think next year's got a chance to be one of those spectacular years for us."
Overall, the just-completed year was a solid one for the Blue Devils. Two athletes — fencer Becca Ward and indoor heptathlete Curtis Beach — claimed individual NCAA championships. Four coaches — including women's basketball's Joanne P. McCallie — were named Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year in their respective sports.
But at a school that takes its sports seriously and expects virtually all of its teams to contend for championships, a common theme emerged. The Blue Devils fell short in the postseason and came up shy of meeting its annually lofty standards. According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Education's gender equity database, Duke spent $67 million on sports in 2010-11 — fourth-most in the ACC.
"We were close in a lot of sports, in terms of going deep, and didn't quite do that in the postseason," said White, who considers himself "a pretty tough grader on this.
"We've had a representative year and we were in the neighborhood for high success in almost every sport, but we didn't ring the bell as I think we've been doing here as of late."
That includes men's basketball, the school's highest-profile team and its top money-earner. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's powerhouse program generated nearly $29 million in revenue in 2010-11, according to the federal database.
In March, Duke fell victim to one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history when 15th-seed Lehigh pulled a stunner in their opener.
But White isn't making too much of that loss, not with Krzyzewski — the winningest men's basketball coach in Division I history who has four NCAA titles on his resume — meshing another highly regarded recruiting class with a strong group of returnees.
"We had a great year. We had a phenomenal year. It just didn't end well," White said. "We've got the best coach in the country in any sport, any level, and maybe on the planet — any sport, any level — and we will be back pretty quickly, and we will be pretty strong."
White also sees the long-lagging football program taking another step forward in coach David Cutcliffe's fifth season on the sideline.
In an era in which more than half of the teams in the Bowl Subdivision make it to the postseason, Duke hasn't been to a bowl since 1994 — the longest drought in the nation. But the Blue Devils have become increasingly more respectable under Cutcliffe, and generated nearly $15 million in revenue in 2010-11, and this team could be his best.
"In the sport of football, where we've had this tremendous dry spell, (a bowl game) would have an immeasurable impact," White said. "In this particular time, and-or within this moment, it's doable. We have put ourselves in a very strong position to make a run. We'll see. I've never been as excited as I am for a football season to start. ... Just the way we get started in football, and the rest of the Olympic sports in the fall, can really set a tone, and I'm actually looking for that to occur. I'm expecting that to occur."
Several of Duke's other teams also seem loaded.
The women's basketball team has virtually everyone back from a group that made its third straight NCAA regional final appearance. The men's lacrosse team is coming off its sixth straight Final Four.
White said the school is considering plans to "create badly needed hospitality space" attached to Cameron Indoor Stadium, and wants to create a plaza linking the basketball arena, Wallace Wade Stadium, the Yoh football facility and the multipurpose Murray Building, home to many of Duke's Olympic sports. He declined to discuss specifics, but said "when we kind of get comfortable with more detail, we'll do a splash."
He also said the search for a baseball coach is progressing with the focus on five candidates to replace Sean McNally, who resigned last month after seven mostly subpar seasons. Some interviews are scheduled this week, and White says he wants "a programmatic game-changer and a Duke fit."