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Samuel Peterson

Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski became the all-timeleader in Division I coaching wins Nov. 15. While sports fanseverywhere should applaud the success of Coach K, whose program hasbeen based on a rock-solid foundation of character, Tulane studentsshould look to his achievements and have hope. Coach K scored everyone of his 903 victories at schools that have higher prioritiesthan athletic success.

The first 73 wins came at the helm at West Point. Even with aseverely limited recruiting pool, Kryzewski won more than 19 gamesin a season twice. This tour of duty was capped off when he led hisalma mater to the 1978 NIT. 

The wins began to pile up when Coach K took his talents toDurham, N.C. In his 21 seasons on the Blue Devil bench, he has wonfour national championships, along with an Olympic Gold medal and aplace in the Basketball Hall of Fame. In the process, Coach K hasbecome one of the most recognized faces in college basketball. Whattruly makes these achomphishments impressive is that they did notcome at a powerhouse state school. Duke is academically elite andboasts a student body of fewer than 7,000 undergraduates. Dukebasketball’s story should give Tulane students hope, even when manyof the Green Wave sports are seemingly trapped in a vicious cycleof constant rebuilding. 

Duke is not an isolated example: Another elite institution withan exceptional basketball team is Georgetown, which has amassedfive Final Four appearances and a national championship. Even withthese on- -court successes, Georgetown is currently ranked as theNo. 22nd-best university in the nation by U.S. News and WorldReport. 

Football can also prosper in academically stringentenvironments, like Notre Dame, Stanford and Southern Cal. Thesehighly reputable schools have produced many national championshipvictories and are consistently ranked high in the polls. Notre Damealso fields a basketball team that regularly challenges for the BigEast championship. The standard bearer for excellence on thegridiron and in the classroom is Stanford. The Cardinal is both oneof the best football teams in the nation and one of the finestacademic institutions. 

There are several key traits that all these schools share.Instead of downplaying their academic success, they trumpet it.Andrew Luck could have played football at nearly any school, andthe high school valedictorian picked Stanford as much for itsengineering program as its football program. The same principleholds true for Coach K’s recruiting of Grant Hill: The son of aYale alumnus chose Duke for its academic standards, not in spite ofthem. 

The most important factor is school support. Small, academicallyprestigious institutions lack the safety net that being a largestate school provides. If the administration does not support itsteam, they will wither. Once the school’s support is established,the general populous will follow suit. An example of this isStanford. After the Elway years, the football team was trapped in awoeful cycle, but in the last few years it has crafted one of thecountry’s best game-day experiences. 

There are many reasons for Tulane fans to be hopeful. First, theadministration seems to be finally willing to pay enough for atop-of-the-line head football coach. Also, there is really nowhereto go but up, considering football’s 10-game losing streak. With asolid coaching staff, perhaps Tulane will be better able to exploitthe fertile recruiting grounds of Louisiana. On the basketballfront, fans are legitimately excited for the first time in years.The team is off to an undefeated start and seems to be settingitself up nicely for postseason play. So as we pause to celebratethe accomplishments of Coach K, let us look to the future withoptimistic eyes.