Following his debut 9-4 season after taking over for David Cutcliffe at Duke, Mike Elko became a hot coaching name around the country. Blue Devil’s fans had to fear that this day was coming for Elko, who revitalized the football program in Durham.
After committing and then swiftly uncommitting to Mark Stoops as its head coach, Texas A&M landed on Mike Elko as Jimbo Fisher’s successor. The pockets of the A&M boosters are deeper than the expectations in College Station are high. So, Elko couldn’t turn the Aggies down.
Now, Duke will be looking to hire a new head coach after hiring Elko just two years ago. When your team has just fired a coach who was struggling, the coaching search is full of hope, but when your savior has been ripped from your campus, the spin on the coaching carousel is filled with much more trepidation.
Can Duke hire a coach who will keep the Blue Devils on their upward trajectory, or will it all come crashing down? These are some cautionary tales; the worst head coaching hires in Duke football history.
Steve Sloan backed up Joe Namath at Alabama, and quarterbacked Bear Bryant’s team to a Sugar Bowl win to end the 1963 season, then went on to win back-to-back national championships as the starting QB.
He was certainly accomplished enough to receive his first head coaching gig after just two seasons as an offensive coordinator, first at Florida State, then at Georgia Tech. Vanderbilt hired him as the head coach in 1973 and led the Commodores to the Peach Bowl in 1974.
Sloan’s rise continued as he jumped to Texas Tech for three seasons, then to Ole Miss. He bumped his head against the ceiling as a head coach in the SEC, managing a 20-34-1 record over five years in Oxford, so he took a step back.
That step back landed him at Duke in 1983 where a decline turned into a collapse and the end of his coaching career. Sloan led the Blue Devils for four seasons and went 13-31. Duke wisely moved on to Steve Spurrier after the 1986 season.