David Cutcliffe announced on Monday the addition of Jim Knowles to the Blue Devil staff. Knowles, the head coach at Cornell for the past six seasons and a member of Cutcliffe's staff at Ole Miss in 2003, will serve as Defensive Coordinator/Safeties.DURHAM, N.C. - Duke head football coach
"We are thrilled to have Coach Knowles rejoin our staff," Cutcliffe said. "Jim played a big role in the success of our 2003 team at Ole Miss, so I know what we're getting in terms of his personality, work ethic and football knowledge. His understanding of defensive football is at the head of the class and our players will enjoy playing under his leadership. His experience as a head coach certainly will pay dividends within our program, and on top of his coaching abilities, we know he'll be a great fit on our staff because we're so familiar with each other."
"In our profession, it's about the people," Knowles said. "Coach Cutcliffe is one of the most respected coaches in our profession. I've worked for him in the past and he's a fantastic head coach to work for. Coach Cut is an amazing family guy who treats the entire staff with great respect. Cornell will always have a special place in my heart. But there is a time and a place for everything, and I felt like I was ready for a new challenge."
Cutcliffe also announced the promotions of Marion Hobby to Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator (formerly Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line) and Jim Collins to Assistant Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers (formerly Assistant Coach/Linebackers).
A 1987 graduate of Cornell, Knowles spent nine years (1988-96) as an assistant coach at his alma mater, helping the Big Red to Ivy League championships in 1988 and 1990. In his first stint at Cornell, he coached defensive line (1988), running backs (1989-94) and linebackers (1995-96) while coordinating the staff's recruiting efforts (1995-96). He was named Cornell's 25th head football coach in January, 2004, and guided the Big Red to an overall ledger of 26-34 with a 16-26 record in Ivy League play.
In his first season at the helm of the Big Red program, Knowles turned a 1-9 squad that lost seven games by at least two touchdowns into a 4-6 unit that went 4-3 in conference play and lost all six contests by 10 points or less. Cornell's 2004 squad became the first team in Ivy League history to go from zero conference wins to a winning league slate in just one season. Under Knowles, Cornell posted three consecutive seasons (2005-06-07) at .500 or better for the first time since 1990-91-92 and, in 2007, enjoyed a stretch of scoring 30 or more points in four straight games for the first time since 1921 while home attendance nearly doubled from the 2006 campaign.
"This is a very emotional decision," Knowles said. "Cornell has been a major factor in my life from the time I was recruited out of high school from an inner city environment. Cornell opened up my world and changed my life. I started my coaching career here and to be able to come back and be the head coach was a dream come true. We didn't get as many wins as I would have liked, but I know the program is in really great shape. We accomplished a lot of the objectives that I wanted to in terms of connecting the players to the alumni and getting the alumni back involved in the program. And fund raising has tripled since I've been here. There are a lot of great feelings about Cornell football and I will continue to be a big fan and help the program in any way I can. I'll always have the head coaching experience now. That really opens your eyes to a lot of things and I'll be a better assistant coach because of it."
In his lone season at Ole Miss, Knowles aided the Rebels to a 10-3 record, a share of the SEC Western Division championship and a 31-28 victory over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. Coaching the linebackers while serving as recruiting coordinator, Knowles helped the Ole Miss defense rank 14th in the nation in rushing defense while the Rebels held eight opponents -- including eventual national champion LSU -- to 21 or fewer points.
Five current Duke aides -- Hobby, Matt Luke, Ron Middleton, Kurt Roper and Zac Roper -- served with Knowles on Cutcliffe's staff at Ole Miss in 2003.
"I worked with much of the Duke staff at Ole Miss and we were very successful," Knowles said. "I'm looking forward to being with those guys again. I remember how enjoyable it was to go to work. You have a good time and you're able to challenge each other professionally with schemes on offense, defense and special teams. It is all about trust and selflessness when you have a great staff and that's what those guys have."
Knowles spent six seasons (1997-02) on the staff at Western Michigan University, serving the last two campaigns as defensive coordinator. In 2002, the Broncos led the Mid-American Conference and ranked 28th nationally in total defense and featured Jason Babin, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year and the school's first NFL first round draft pick. In 2001, Western Michigan paced the conference and ranked 17th nationally in pass defense. Knowles' tenure with the Broncos also included three shutouts during the 2000 season -- the school's highest total since 1971 -- and the development of two-time All-MAC pick Dan Falcon (1997-98) and Ryan Bauer, who led the league in sacks in 1997.
A native of Philadelphia, Pa., Knowles was a three-year letterman and All-Ivy League selection as a defensive end at Cornell before graduating in 1987 with a bachelor's degree from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He and his wife, Nancy, have three children - Halle, Luke and Jack.