DURHAM, N.C. – After spending an afternoon at the park one day as a child, first-year Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe’s father was preparing to load up the family and head home. But just as Cutcliffe and his five siblings were heading to the car, his father called them back.
“It came time to leave and he called us all up and he told us to look around and tell him what we saw,” said Cutcliffe. “We didn’t see much because we were kids, but we pointed out all the trash that was left after everybody had gone.”
That’s when Cutcliffe’s father taught the children a lesson that the Duke coach still carries with him today.
“He had us pick it all up," Cutcliffe remembered. "We complained and moaned and groaned, but when we finished, he put us all up on one of those big concrete picnic tables and let us look at the park. It looked great. Then he told us, ‘Remember that when a Cutcliffe goes somewhere, you leave it better than when you found it.’”
That lesson is one of the fundamental messages Cutcliffe is instilling in the student-athletes on the Duke football team.
“That’s how you build a program; leave the place better than how you found it in every way,” Cutcliffe said. “Part of that is taking pride in your facility.”
The Blue Devils did just that early Tuesday morning when the team met at 6:30 a.m., to take part in a campus cleanup project that began at Wallace Wade Stadium and extended through Duke’s entire West Campus. Over 70 members of the football team and several coaches, each with a garbage bag in hand, spent nearly two hours clearing the area of garbage.
“When people think community service, a lot of them think outward, but it’s pretty neat that we can do it here on our own campus,” senior wide receiver Ryan Wood said. “I think it’s a testament to the mentality that Coach Cutcliffe has. In one of our first team meetings, he came in and told us about who he is as a person, and one of the things he remembers was his father really instilling in him to leave a place better than you found it. And what better place to do that than the place where we live and play everyday?”
Wood and his teammates split into eight groups that were assigned to specific areas of the campus. Wood and his unit spent their morning in the bleachers and on the concourse of Wallace Wade Stadium, while others worked in the practice fields, parking lots and the grass courtyards near the student dormitories.
“It started off kind of slow because most of the open areas are kind of clean,” said Michael Tauiliili, a senior linebacker. “My group was in charge of the concourse area, but when we got into the corner (of Wallace Wade Stadium), we found a bunch of cans and cups deep in the crevices.”
All of the cans, cups and other materials added up. With over sixty bags of garbage, the Blue Devils easily filled a dumpster with all of the debris and left the campus much better off than it was two hours earlier.
“These guys did a phenomenal job," Cutcliffe said. "If you want to take a tour afterwards, you’re not going to find this place looking any better than how it looks right now.”