By Phil Houk of Irish 101 and Fighting Irish Preview
The last time ND and Duke played was in 2016, when Duke, led By NFL Bound QB Daniel Jones, and a head coach by the name of David Cutcliffe overcame a 381 yard 2 touchdown day from DeShone Kizer to prevail in a shootout 38-35.
The victorious Coach that day, David Cutcliffe, had taken an interesting route to the head of the Duke program. That route included a short stop in South Bend.
After tutoring a guy by the name of Peyton Manning as the offensive coordinator during a 16 season tenure at Tennessee, from 1982-1998, Cutcliffe spent 6 mostly successful seasons as the head coach at Old Miss. There he coached the “other” Manning brother, Eli.
But Cutcliffe was out at Ole Miss after a 4-7 season in 2004.
And that is where Notre Dame enters the picture. In January of 2005 entering his first season at Notre Dame, Charlie Weis hired Cutcliffe to be his offensive coordinator.
Unfortunately, fate stepped in and two months later Cutcliff suffered a heart attack and endured a difficult recovery. In June of that year he resigned from ND, not knowing if he would ever be healthy enough to coach again.
After a year off, Cutcliffe did return to coaching. First he was hired by Phil Fulmer back at Tennesee. Then in 2008, he was hired to head up Duke, a program that had seen only three winning seasons in the previous 25.
Now after 12 seasons there, Cutcliffe has achieved respectability for the Blue Devil program.
The Blue Devils during his tenure have been to six bowl games and In 2013, Cutcliffe was voted National Coach of the Year.
During his career, David Cutcliffe has coached 8 quarterbacks that have gone on to play in the NFL…. including Peyton and Eli Manning.
And it is interesting to speculate how things might have been different for Notre Dame, if Cutcliffe had been able to stay at ND.
Long time Notre Dame reporter Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated, thinks that Cutcliff would have had a, “positive impact on the running game”, an area that was lacking under Charlie Weis. Other observers think it might have been difficult for the two coaches’ sometimes brilliant minds, to agree on how to run an offense. But Cutcliffe, according to Prister, “from a character standpoint, would have been top notch.”