According to Duke University Archivist William King, Wade was attracted to Duke’s overall athletic and educational atmosphere:

Why did Wade leave Alabama for Duke? He steadfastly refused to answer that question until an interview with a sports historian late in his life. It was not the challenge of reviving another dormant football program. Nor was it for the money. He welcomed the opportunity to direct a total athletic program including intramural activities for all students. His philosophy regarding athletics and academics fit perfectly with that of the Duke administration. But having experienced the difference between programs at private and state universities since he was an assistant coach at Vanderbilt before going to Alabama, above all, Wade wanted the greater freedom from interference he believed a private university provided. His surprise decision was an excellent match for Wade, for Duke and for football.