DURHAM – Duke looks to Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko to straighten his football schedule after a two-year slump and a winless Atlantic Coast Conference record.
The school announced Elko’s hiring on Friday night, ending a nearly two-week process to hire David Cutcliffe’s replacement. The school announced on November 28 that Cutcliffe would not return after the league’s first winless mark in his 14 seasons. Yahoo Sports first reported that Duke had made a deal with Elko.
Elko, 44, has spent the past four seasons as a defensive coordinator and safety coach at Texas A&M, but he has also worked as a coordinator at Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Bowling Green for the past decade. This will be his first head coaching job at the university.
In a statement, athletic director Nina King said Elko had “an innovative football spirit and a natural ability to connect with the players and coaches around him.”
“The university has excelled in everything it has tried to do, whether academically or athletically,” Elko said in a statement. “I can’t wait to get to work. “
Elko’s stoppage in Winston-Salem with the Demon Deacons has given him challenges similar to those he will face in Durham, from working at an elite private college to player development to participating in the ACC. instead of repeatedly reloading with five- star perspectives.
Wake Forest, led by coach Dave Clawson, won the Atlantic Division of the league and played in the CCA Championship game last weekend.
Elko led this year’s Aggies to third in the FBS in scoring defense (15.9 points per game) and 20th in total defense (327.5 yards). His defensive experience could be especially valuable in helping Duke stabilize after a few wobbly years, which included surrendering 46.6 points per game against ACC opponents in 2021.
Duke was last of 130 FBS teams in total defense (518 yards per game) and 127th in scoring defense (39.8 points).
But defensive issues were only part of what has turned into a steep and rapid decline over the past two plus seasons. This brought Duke back to the bottom of the ACC after Cutcliffe transformed the schedule from one of the worst performers in the country into a regular bowl contender and even an ACC Division champion in 2013.
Duke has won 77 games in Cutcliffe’s 14 seasons with six appearances in a bowl and three playoff wins, the program’s first since 1961. But the Blue Devils have struggled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Duke having lost 23 of 29 games – including 21 of 23 in the ACC – dating to the middle of the 2019 season. That includes 13 consecutive league games since his victory over Syracuse in October 2020.
Nonetheless, Elko will inherit a program with better infrastructure than when Cutcliffe arrived in December 2007. This includes renovations to Wallace Wade Stadium to remove the track and add the Blue Devil tower of suites, a space for meeting and media areas, as well as the construction of an indoor training room.
This is King’s second major hire in his first year as Director of Athletics. Shortly after King’s predecessor, Kevin White, retired, Duke announced that Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski would retire after the 2021-22 season, the Associate head coach and former Blue Devils player Jon Scheyer, named his successor.