Duke AD looks ahead after Blue Devils came ‘close’ in 17-18

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke took a step forward during the recently completed academic year. Athletic director Kevin White thinks the Blue Devils can do even better.

Duke finished 11th in the final standings for the Director’s Cup, awarded annually to the school with the best performance in all sports. That’s a significant improvement from the school’s No. 32 finish in 2016-17, and it could have been even better.

Duke had seven teams that White described as ”knocking on the door to win a national championship” – including in men’s basketball, the school’s flagship program – but none did.

”We were close. Could have been better, quite frankly,” White said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”But we aspire to be a single-digit Director’s Cup program. And when I’m saying that, we think we can be as good as anybody in the country. We’ve got a phenomenal brand, a great university, wonderful kids, great coaches and a highly aspirational place. That’s kind of what the expectation is, and the expectation is put on all of us by ourselves, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

The Blue Devils’ highest-profile near-miss came in men’s basketball, which was a rimmed-out shot against Kansas from reaching the Final Four for the third time since 2010. The men’s lacrosse team reached the NCAA championship game but lost to Yale, and the baseball team made its first super regional but fell one victory shy of its first College World Series appearance since 1961.

As for the upcoming 2018-19 season, White said he ”can’t get my head around next year yet” but that while several key programs could face a rebuilding season, ”I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.” The men’s basketball team figures to enter the season as a national title contender once again with another recruiting class full of potential one-and-done players and the football team returns 16 starters from the group that won the Quick Lane Bowl.

The various construction projects on the campus in Durham are drawing to a close, with renovations at Wallace Wade Stadium and the new plaza linking it to Cameron Indoor Stadium completed.

White says the department is considering improvements to the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms at Cameron ”in the not-too-distant future,” though the specifics aren’t quite ready. He added that some ”pretty modest projects, in terms of dollar volume” are scheduled for tennis and field hockey facilities.

The next big goal for the department, White said, is endowment, and he said the school is ”thinking about, strategically, how to go out into the marketplace and make that happen.” He declined to say what the fundraising goal might be.

”We really want to make a hard run at endowment, so our next campaign – and even before we ramp up to campaign, we really want to turn our attention to growing our endowment pretty dramatically,” he said. ”We need long-term stability. … We are endeavoring to play at the highest level, and that takes resources. … That’s what our next 3-4-5 years need to be all about here.”

(This version deletes an incorrect reference to women’s golf and golfer Leona Maguire.)

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