Let me be clear. I'm no Duke fan.
That's not a proclamation. It's a disclaimer.
It's a necessary disclaimer because it seems as though there are two camps when it comes to Duke basketball: Duke fans and Duke haters. There's no middle ground.
So I feel compelled to begin with the qualifier that I am not a Duke fan, per se. I have no connection to the school. I'm not a bandwagon fan. In fact, because I like to maintain some measure of objectivity, I don't consider myself a fan of any college sports program other than my alma mater, Georgia State.
So with that thorough disclaimer
I don't get the Duke hate.
Yeah, Christian Laettner could be a little tough to like, although that commercial with him in a hammock made of championship nets -- "resting on my laurels" -- is pretty funny. But he has been gone from Duke for 23 years.
What is there to hate about Duke?
I still cling to the silly notion that college athletics is about -- or at least should be about -- more than winning.
It should be about doing things the right way.
It should be about developing young adults.
It should be about not just going to class but actually valuing the education and the opportunity to learn.
It should be about recruiting ethically.
I have long had a very cynical view of college basketball recruiting. Improper benefits. Lies disguised as promises.
When is the last time you have heard of a recruiting scandal at Duke?
To me, what's far worse than improper enticements is compromising academic integrity. Scholarship athletes have more resources than the general student population. They have free tutoring. They have smart counseling to keep them on track. (As a parent of two college students, don't even get me started on indifferent counselors.)
If the student-athletes can't pass with all of that help, there's no shame. Maybe they're just not ready for a major university. That is one of the roles of junior colleges, a very noble role at that. What they don't need is being lead into sham classes or having other students do their work for a small fee.
When is the last time you heard of that happening at Duke?
Not that Duke stands alone as the paragon of higher learning. There are many fine colleges and universities in the country.
But none of them have won five national championships in the last 25 seasons. They reached the national championship game four other times under Mike Krzyzewski.
It seems hypocritical to praise the success of Duke football under David Cutcliff because the Blue Devils are going to bowl games and yet hate Duke basketball because they win national championships.
Krzyzewski has secured his standing as the second-best men's college basketball coach since John Wooden, and quite possibly the second-best ever. He has already won 1,018
games at Army and Duke, and who knows how long he will keep coaching. He could finish with 1,100 or even 1,200 wins. There's one thing you can be sure of, though. Whatever the final win total is, it won't be reduced because the NCAA vacates any of the victories.
This might not be Coach K's last national championship.
So Duke haters can just keep hating all they want. I'm just going to keep admiring a first-class program and appreciating the opportunity to witness greatness on display.
-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org