Signing day barely makes a ripple in Durham

DURHAM, N.C. -- The question was asked more than a dozen times to Duke students sitting outside Cameron Indoor Stadium, otherwise known as Krzyzewskiville, on Wednesday afternoon.

Did you know it was national signing day for college football?

"National signing what?" asked Johnny Blades, a senior from Silver Spring, Md. "I guess it didn't occur to me until you said it."

"No, I had no idea," said Zach Weisberg, another Duke student from Virginia Beach, Va. "I had no clue."

An informal survey of more than a dozen Duke students found only four knew it was college football's national signing day. None of the students knew who Duke's top football signee was going to be, and few actually seemed to care as they sat in line for seats for Wednesday night's basketball game against No. 5 North Carolina.

"I knew it was signing day," said Evan Hunter, a Duke freshman from New Orleans. "I was just looking at LSU's recruiting class earlier today. It was seventh in the country. The SEC had six of the top 10 recruiting classes."

And Duke? Nowhere close to the top 25, it seemed. The Blue Devils' class of 22 signees was ranked 89th among 119 Division I-A teams in the country by Scouts Inc.

"Really, there are teams who did worse than Duke?" asked Lindsay McMahon, a senior from St. Louis.

Quarterback Mike Cappetto, from Troy, Mich., and cornerback Randez James, from San Antonio, Texas, were among the most highly regarded players signed by Duke. Danny Parker, a highly-regarded tight end, and Garrett Utt, whose father played for the Indianapolis Colts, also signed with the Blue Devils.

The Blue Devils signed players from 13 states, and inked a set of twin brothers from Greenwich, Conn.

"We were 89th?" asked Weisberg. "We're getting up there."

On a campus preoccupied by basketball, football's national signing day barely makes a ripple. Especially at Duke, which has had only one winning season since former coach Steve Spurrier left in 1989 for the University of Florida, his alma mater. The Blue Devils have gone 42-148, including an abysmal 18-116 in ACC games, during the last 17 seasons.

Spurrier had led Duke to three straight winning seasons from 1987 to 1989 and won the '89 ACC championship.

"I've got no answers for those guys," said Spurrier, now coach at South Carolina. "They need to do what Wake Forest did and get eight or nine guys in school every year who only meet the requirements. Duke has higher admissions standards over the rest of the schools.

"Vince Lombardi once said winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. They're just in a losing habit, and I think if they find a way to get out of it, they could win four, five, six or seven games a year. That's what they should be shooting for. We didn't have Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech in the league when I was there. What Wake Forest did last season was unbelievable."

Ted Roof, who just finished his third full season as Duke's coach, said the Blue Devils had assembled much of their recruiting class before the 2006 season began. It was a good thing. Duke went 0-12 and lost to I-AA Richmond in its opener.

"We've got a great university to sell and we've got an opportunity to sell something great -- a chance at building a program," Roof said. "It's a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity."

Roof said he wasn't surprised many Duke students weren't interested in football recruiting.

"We've got to earn some of that," Roof said. "Once we win some games, it will come here. Look what [Krzyzewski] has done with basketball. It can happen here in football, too."

Just not during McMahon's undergraduate days. She and seniors Alex Reinhart and Ben Tyson from Wisconsin had been sitting in line outside Cameron Indoor Stadium for more than 12 hours. They sipped hot chocolate and Irish liquor to keep warm Tuesday night.

"I'm a huge college football fan," Tyson said. "There are people here who care."

Students like Ben Fredland, a senior from LaCrosse, Wis., who considers himself a college football fan.

"This is a student body that cares about college sports," Fredland said. "We'd love to have a good football team. I follow my hometown team -- the Badgers. I could tell you who Wisconsin's top two recruits are. Heck, I could tell you the top five sophomores Duke is recruiting in basketball. It's a shame we can't feel that same way about our school's football team."

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.