Friend of the Site Aaron Torres wrote a hilarious breakdown for Fox Sports on why your rooting interests in this weekend’s Final Four should be firmly against the Duke Blue Devils. You likely don’t need me to tell you that Duke basketball is viewed as the villain of the hardwood, a role the program’s played brilliantly for almost a quarter-century.
Depending on whom you ask, college football’s villain changes. The significance of rivalry to the sport means fans of Washington will tell you Oregon is football’s Duke; Clemson fans might argue it’s South Carolina.
However, there are only five true contenders that can wear college football’s black hat as expertly as Duke basketball has for more than two decades.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
There’s no question disdain for Duke basketball is rooted in envy, and no college football program has unleashed the Green Eyed Monster quite as effectively as Alabama.
The Crimson Tide won three of the five most recent national championships, and reached the inaugural College Football Playoff in pursuit of a fourth. Such a run of success is virtually unprecedented and cements the current incarnation of Alabama football in history, comparably to Duke in 1992 entering college basketball lore with the first back-to-back titles since John Wooden’s run.
Speaking of Saban, the architect of Alabama football’s return to prominence, is comparable to Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Both have four national championships total, are known for their at times gruff exterior and attract an almost cult-like following.
It’s fortunate Krzyzewski and Saban opted for careers in athletics, rather than dedicated their intelligence, strategical acumen and charisma to politics. Either could have seized dictatorial powers and sent the United States tumbling into a dystopian future.
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Both Duke basketball and Florida State football dominated their respective sporting landscapes in the 1990s, opened the new millennium with national championships, and remained strong into the 2010s. But that’s not why the two ACC programs
Duke is renowned for its vocal-to-the-point-of-obnoxiousness, fanatical sub-sect of backers, the Cameron Krazies. The Krazies’ devotion to Blue Devil basketball spawned “Krzyzewskiville,” a shanty town erected outside Cameron Indoor Stadium prior to home games. The Krazies sing, chant and behave with such singlemindedness, a Duke home game more closely resembles a reenactment of Village of the Damned than it does your typical college hoops contest.
Over the last two seasons, Florida State’s own hive-mind, lunatic fringe — #FSUTwitter — gained notoriety for relentless offensives launched against any all slights of the mighty Seminoles.
In defense of the Cameron Krazies, I must point out one of their ilk is much less likely to get threatening with you on social media if you dare criticize their team.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
You will often read Duke included among basketball’s blue bloods: the tradition-rich program by which all others are measured. This club includes Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA, all of which have history that goes back considerably further than Duke’s. While the Blue Devils’ nouveau riche status would seemingly preclude them from being considered true blue bloods, but good luck arguing that with a dyed-in-the-wool Dukie.
The opposite is true of Notre Dame football. The Fighting Irish have been persona non grata on the national stage for more than 20 years, save a 2012 campaign that ended in a thorough BCS Championship Game thrashing.
Nevertheless, Notre Dame supporters are adamant that the Irish rank among football’s blue bloods. Certainly they have an argument: Notre Dame’s 11 claimed national championships are trail only Alabama’s 15* titles among universities that still field teams at college football’s highest level.
However, Notre Dame has not claimed a national title since 1988, and instead rests on its laurels.
I suppose in the sense of touting ancient history, Notre Dame football is more akin to UCLA basketball than it is to Duke, but I digress.
* includes fictitious championships.
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
In much the same way Coach K is arguably the best college basketball coach, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer is in the conversation as college football’s best (it’s a two-man conversation, but that’s neither here nor there).
Partially due to his success, and partially the result of his sometimes abrasive demeanor, Meyer is a lightning rod. Detractors will use his lost 2011 season to discredit his impressive body work, not unlike Coach K and the 1995 campaign he had wiped from his career record.
If it’s not that their most cynical critics are clinging to, they’re instead reveling in failures. The only sports moment that inspired cheers from outside parties in the 2013-’14 athletic calendar than Duke’s first-round loss to Mercer was Urban Meyer’s forlorn pizza-eating after the Big Ten Championship Game.
— First We Feast (@firstwefeast) January 13, 2015
Both USC football and Duke basketball attract the single most annoying class of fan there is in sports: the front-runner. Each program’s longstanding tradition of winning attracts supporters who collect every piece of team apparel and accessory, save one: a degree from the school.
Every successful college sports team attracts its share of front-runners — Alabama’s “sidewalk alumni” are renowned, for example — but the mystique of Duke and USC reaches front-runners well beyond either program’s regional borders.
As for those actually affiliated with the university, USC and Duke are similar in that both are prestigious, private universities. With private schooling comes the connotation of affluence — not a bad thing, but certainly a catalyst for envy. It’s an understandable lament: why must they get everything, even championship-winning sports?
To all five of these football programs, as well as Duke basketball, accept the following from me on behalf of millions of critics nationwide: We hate ’cause we ain’t you.