Barry Jacobs, who published an account of ACC sports when the conference celebrated its 50th anniversary, has penned an op-ed for the Independent Weekly about the prospects of Ted Roof, John Bunting and Jim Grobe.

And as with most things Jacobs writes, it’s well worth the read:

Absurdly, the meter routinely runs hottest for Duke coach Ted Roof, in his third full season as captain of a dingy attempting a transoceanic voyage.

The Blue Devils entered this season with 18 wins over the previous decade, nine victories during the 21st century. They have yet to win in six tries this year, including shutouts in three of their first four games. This fecklessness is nothing new. Since the advent of two-platoon football in the mid-1960s, Duke has enjoyed eight winning seasons. Two came during three late-’80s seasons when Steve Spurrier, something of a genius at his craft, was head coach.

Duke was considered Maryland’s equal as a football power when the ACC was founded. Much as schools today move to Division I in order to improve their national stature, so the private school had used football to enhance its profile 75 years ago.

“The definitive event in the shaping of our modern athletic program occurred in 1931 with the arrival of Wallace Wade as head football coach and director of athletics,” according to a 1969 report by the Academic Council Ad Hoc Committee on Duke Athletics. “It may even be doubted that, at the time, there was a conscious intention to bring Duke into ‘big-time’ athletics, though this was the clear result of the appointment. As much or more than any other person, Mr. Wade was responsible for putting Duke ‘on the map’ in terms of its national visibility.”

Wade, a Hall of Famer, established his reputation at the University of Alabama, then led 16 Duke teams to 110 wins against only 36 losses and seven ties. That’s 19 more victories than the combined total achieved by the seven Duke coaches since 1979.

Clearly the Devils were not competitive in football even before the ACC, and over the objections of Duke and North Carolina, voted to expand to a dozen teams starting last season. Now the ACC is richly populated with schools that glorify football, some of them to dubious effect in the classroom and community.

The ACC traded propriety for profit on the playing field as well. Miami has attempted to rehabilitate its image as an outlaw program, but resurrected that past when its players eagerly participated last weekend in an ugly on-field brawl with Florida International. Thirty-one players were suspended for a game, 13 from Miami. Virginia Tech regularly countenances without punishment unsportsmanlike acts such as the gratuitous stomp by quarterback Marcus Vick on a Louisville opponent’s leg during January’s Gator Bowl, or defender Aaron Rouse’s vicious, concussive late hit to the head of Duke’s quarterback earlier this year. In neither case did Hokie coach Frank Beamer, avidly sought at North Carolina before it settled upon Bunting, so much as bench the offender for a single play.

Discussions of the football future at Duke and North Carolina are defined in comparison to such programs. Mention dropping to a lower level of play, or accepting second-class status within the ACC, and fans, sportswriters and athletic administrators bristle.

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