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Football Comes to Duke

There will be something quite unusual going on at Duke this weekend. It won’t be just the football game, obviously. Duke does play a few of those. One doesn’t achieve all of those 0-11’s without showing up to lose a few games. There will, however, be something a little different about this one. It will be an event that happens about as often as a Tar Heel utters, “You know, I sure admire Coach K.” What will make this the Hailey’s Comet of football Saturdays at Duke is that there will actually be people in the stands.

They won’t be Duke fans, mind you. Nope, the Devils’ faithful haven’t suddenly come down with a severe case of football fever. The Duke students won’t be giving up their places in line over in Krzyzewskiville, where they are waiting for next March’s Carolina-Duke game, to come charging into Wallace Wade Stadium. Those alums who shell out $100k each year for Cameron season tickets and ACC tournament ducats won’t be laying out forty bucks to pack the place. Football is not THAT big of a deal at Duke.

Nevertheless, Wade Stadium will be about as full as it has been since the LBJ Administration, back when Bill Murray had Duke football standing for something other than crushing defeat. It would have been anyway, but there do seem to be a few Devils leaping from the bandwagon after last week’s debacle at East Carolina. It will still be a healthy crowd and the reason for that oddity is that Virginia Tech will be in town. The Hokie Nation is on the way.

Virginia Tech fans by the thousand will be descending on West Durham this Saturday. Methodist Flats will be awash in a sea of maroon. Duke will be getting a taste of the football big time and not just from Frank Beamer’s team. Tech’s legendary fan base will be there in droves, pumping an extra $500k or so into Duke’s coffers and a few million tourist dollars into Durham’s economy. Somebody explain to me again why the ACC originally wanted Syracuse, whose marginal value to the ACC’s television contracts [football amount: $0] would have been much less than that added by Tech fans? That is, if they indeed did want the Orange and weren’t just appeasing the Dwarf Dyke of Miami.

The Mid-Atlantic region of the ACC got a healthy dose of big-time football last Sunday. Of course, both sides were contributing to that, as both teams were pretty good and the NC State fans seemed to have had a pretty good idea of how to fill and rock their stadium. That will not be the case this weekend. Only one set of fans will be supplying whatever atmosphere there is inside Wade and it ain’t gonna be the Duke ones [another difference: the only F-bombs thrown at Tech fans will come from Coach K when he finds a car flying a maroon flag in his parking place at Cameron]. ACC expansion created one heck of a game and atmosphere last Sunday. This week we get to see why expansion was necessary in the first place.

Duke University wasn’t altogether thrilled about expansion. Outside of the Athletic Department bean counters and Durham hotel and restaurant operators, the Dukies probably aren’t wild about the Hokies showing up en masse this weekend. The reaction will likely be similar to that expressed by Mrs, Drysdale when the Clampetts pulled in next door. Yeah, well, we simple mountain folk are just here to watch some football.

People showing up at Duke to watch some football doesn’t happen too often. Democratic presidential candidates carry North Carolina [the state, not the ‘U of’] with a greater frequency. That a bunch of Hokies will be hitting town seems to have created a few problems. There is parking, for instance. Duke has very little football parking, mainly because they haven’t needed any. Going 20-92 over the last decade including THREE, count them, three 0-11 seasons will do that to a program. Duke has more in common with Rutgers than just a lot of students from New Jersey.

They have been scrambling at Duke to find places to stash the Hokies. AD ‘Lackey’ Joe Alleva convened departmental meetings, all beginning with the question, “Where in the hell do we park all of those Tech fans?” In response to an e-mail about RV parking, a concept about as alien to Wallace Wade as it is around the Superdome these days, the young lady in charge of football parking at Duke included in her answer, ‘As I am sure you are aware that we don’t have a football winning tradition so the crowd we are expecting for this game is unbelievable.’ No shit?

Parking for recreational vehicles seem to be something they don’t deal with at Duke too often. I doubt many Wall Street lawyers or investment bankers own them. Of course, they don’t come to many Duke football games, period. Those red-necked Hokies do, however and after checking the ticket sales, the Duke brain trust decided they had better find some place to put them. I suggested on the lawn in front of the Duke Chapel, but that didn’t seem to go over too well.

After scratching their head and eye-balling a campus map, Lackey Joe and his minions settled on Lot H, as far away from the stadium as you can get while remaining on campus. It’s a wonder they didn’t ask State about using Trinity Road.

It could be worse. It’s on the campus and Duke’s is a relatively small one. It will be closer to the stadium than it was at Carolina, another place where they don’t seem to have a surfeit of RVs on Gameday. One thing you can say about Meesie over in Blue Heaven is that he made the buses run on time. Considering that Duke marches in lockstep with Carolina in most athletic matters, the stadium shuttles likely will at Duke, too. We will be there.

Around the rest of the ACC, Carolina finally gets around to kicking off their season at Georgia Tech. It will be a near-impossible game for the Heels to win, given that the Jackets will enjoy the enormous advantage of having already played a game and a pretty good one, too.

John Bunting called his team’s disadvantage “unfair” and he is right. Blame Turner Construction, John. Their inability to finish on time this year’s expansion of Tech’s Lane Stadium dictated a last-minute schedule change from the Heels opening at State last weekend. Look on the bright side, Big John: you will be opening at home next week only 0-1 instead of 0-2. With the losses halved, there might be a few hundred more people actually in Kenan discussing how soon ‘Ol Roy’s recruiting class will make an impact rather than doing it in a bar on Franklin Street.

Wake Forest will be at Nebraska. Wake fans had better hope that Jim Grobe’s Deacs were looking ahead to the ‘Huskers when they produced that dud against Vanderbilt. That just might have been the case. This could be worth checking out during commercials of the Texas-Ohio State game.

Clemson travels to Maryland to determine who spends a week or so with NC State in the basement of the Atlantic Division. If anybody cares, Fredo hosts Army before things get a bit more interesting on Chestnut Hill. Florida State will be holding a scrimmage Saturday night; rumor has it Citadel will also be on the field at Bobby Doak Campbell Stadium. NC State, Miami and the Hoos all have the weekend off. The Canes sure need it.

As for the Tech-Duke game, it might just be a little closer than those 50-point spreads being so confidently predicted by Tech message board loons. This is a classic trap game for Tech. They are coming off a very tough contest with State, facing a lightly-regarded opponent. There were a number of Hokies dinged during that bare-knuckles brawl at State. Tech is on a short week. It might take them a while to get their heads into this game.

Duke will be making their last football stand before writing off yet another season. The Devils flat embarrassed themselves last Saturday at ECU. Geez, even when Duke lost 26 straight they could still beat the woeful Pirates. Ted Roof likely is conducting some very intense practices this week. Whatever his team has in the tank, the Tech team will see it Saturday.

So will thousands of Tech fans. For one game, at least, there will be some football excitement at Duke. The opposing fans will provide it, but it will be there. The Dukies should really pay attention to how a football school does it, especially a football school that has already beaten them in basketball, too. They just might learn something when football comes to Duke.

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The A-Line sends it sincere wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Virginia Tech basketball player Allen Calloway. He has been diagnosed with alveolar soft part sarcoma, a very rare cancer in his leg. Allen and I share not only Virginia Tech but are also both graduates of Tunstall High School. This fellow Trojan is wishing you the best, big guy.

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