New Athletic Director Kevin White met with the media on Monday and came off as a breath of much needed fresh air for Duke Athletics. If he were a politician, one might say he said all the right things, not only addressing many long standing issues, but going into detail about fund raising and college athletics in general.
He left no doubt that he will bring new ideas to the table and that he already loves Duke University and what it stands for. White admitted to not having all the answers to the media questions, stating that he was still familiarizing himself more with many of the programs faculty and coaching.
It’s safe to say that he is familiarizing himself with the community as well and that he would also be acclimating his family to the area. In fact, his wife and daughter are driving down today and they along with their two Labs, will settle in to an apartment near campus until they can shop for a home.
Yes, Kevin White was very personable even sharing his concerns about his daughter, a rising senior adjusting to a new school and having to leave her long time friends in Indiana. He took the time to introduce himself to all of the media and showed a genuine interest in the questions with quick and solid answers all while occasionally nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie from the prior buffet.
While down to earth, White certainly showed the ability to see the big picture and seems to be man of action. The media wasted no time asking about the dormant football program that new Coach David Cutcliffe will try to resurrect. “Everybody has got to get behind the program, especially when it’s down, said White. He continued, “David can’t do it by himself. He’s hired an outstanding staff and he was a tremendous hire. It will take the whole university to rally around David to make this happen.”
Naturally the conversation then segued into Wallace Wade Stadium. In terms of Wallace Wade … we need to do a lot in Wallace Wade. White quipped, “This facility is antiquated at best and we have got to come in here and do a pretty significant makeover. Not a face lift, but a make over.”
When asked if Duke Football had already outgrown the Yoh Center, he paused and then responded, “I think our needs are out here in Wallace Wade.” FWIW, the media was seated at a table in the Yoh Center in which Wade was the backdrop. “I think we need to get some experts in here, so that they could kind of give us a sense of what it could be.” White even talked of price point breaks and expressed the need to look at a lot of “what ifs”. “We need to make it fan friendly. The whole environment needs to be reshaped and re cultured.”
White did mention that a new Field House was first on the horizon and talked of elongating the practice field. He also expressed the need for a great game day experience. Some of those close to him at his former school Notre Dame, say that he is a hands on guy with concern to game day atmosphere.
He then stated that Duke need an athletic master facility plan which would address the next seven to ten years. “It’s really important that we show people exactly what we are trying to do,” said White in reference to benefactors. White was then asked about a capital investment plan and responded, “When institutions get to the point where they feel that they need to make a significant investment, they typically go about the business of creating one and I think we are just at that point.”
Oddly, White wasn’t asked of Coach K until five minutes left in the thirty minute session. “”What Mike K has created here is unparalleled at this point and has a mystique. As a department we need to leverage that and I know Mike is very interested in helping the other programs.” He also mentioned the basketball facilities, saying, “We will find ways to maintain the mystique of Cameron Indoor Stadium, the cathedral of college basketball, but at the same time move forward into the 21st century.”
The keyword for me during his interview was “Excellence,” which was used in reference to a common theme among those he has already met in his short time at Duke. ”There is a real strong theme of excellence. Everybody wants to excel and compete at the highest level.”
Synopsis – White seemed well versed in the need for change in football and mentioned the baseball team and Coombs Field as well. There is little doubt he will put emphasis on these two sports and maintain the behemoth men’s basketball program. White seems to have a lot of contacts in college athletics and hands on experience in many important areas which will certainly help him on the job. In a nutshell, White was again, very personable, articulate and more importantly approachable.