100 year Anniversary  1969
(Authentic Reproduction)




There was a time when Duke University football was relevant and juxtaposing the words  “Duke” and “football” did not bring smirks to the faces of even the casual football fan. The balance between academic excellence and the ability to play competitive football has been a decades long exercise at the hallowed university and as recently as the early 1960’s, they did it quite well. Head Coach Bill Murray’s 93-51-9 record that was achieved from 1951 through 1965 included major bowl games against major opponents, many All American selections, and established the Blue Devils as a tough stop on anyone’s annual schedule. Even towards the end of Murray’s reign when the severe academic requirements of Duke dropped them to a break-even team mired in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference pack, expectations for success remained. Tom Harp was the man who took over for Murray, no easy task but he had a reputation for teaching and coaching that was exemplary and a resume to match. He was successful at the fabled Massillon Washington High School in Ohio and as the offensive coordinator at Army under Earl “Red” Blaik. He produced Gary Wood and Pete Gogolak as the head coach at Cornell and proved that an institute of higher education could emphasize the latter part of that description and still play rugged football. Duke remained a tough opponent and was usually respectable on any given Saturday. After Harp’s squad went 4-6 in 1968 with a serviceable defense led by All ACC middle linebacker Dick Biddle, hope was high for the 1969 season with exceptional quarterback Leo Hart and receivers Wes Chesson and Marcel Courtillet returning. The expectations of terrific offense were met as the 1969 Blue Devils played well, with Hart, who doubled as a pitcher on the baseball team, the centerpiece. He led the ACC in passing with 1642 yards even though his touchdown pass production dropped from 1968’s eleven to only five in ’69. He set five ACC records and eleven school marks and when his eligibility was over after the 1970 season, he had a boatload of Duke records. Chesson and Courtillet had the opportunity to catch Hart’s passes, putting them in the limelight, more so than ball carriers Bob Swirko and Phil Asack.


Unfortunately, the rock of the defense, Biddle, was injured in the opening game against South Carolina and lost for the season. This effectively scuttled any defensive effort and opponents averaged over 400 yards of offense per game despite the efforts of All ACC cornerback Ernie Jackson. The Blue Devils finished in the middle of the ACC jumble, 3-3-1 with an overall record of 3-6-1. Hart lasted a few seasons with the Falcons and Bills as well as spending time with the Chicago Fire of the WFL. Before utilizing their superb Duke education in the real world Hart’s favorite receivers had a chance to enjoy a bit more football. Courtillet played for Roanoke of the Atlantic Coast Football League and Chesson lasted in the NFL for four seasons, sharing time with Hart at Atlanta and then moving to the Eagles for two seasons. Coach Harp left Duke after the 1970 season and became the head man at Indiana State University. His stepson, Cam Cameron, was one of the state’s best athletes and played football and basketball for Indiana University before becoming one of the most respected offensive minds in the game, a long time NFL coordinator and the head coach for both the Indiana University Hoosiers and the Miami Dophins. Duke football since the 1960’s, has suffered a disastrous downward trend and except for two winning seasons in the late 1980’s under Steve Spurrier, there has been little good news. However, if one looks at the beautiful helmets the Blue Devils wore in 1969, not only will it bring back memories of brighter football days but they will also observe one of the more attractive helmets of the era. The white shell was adorned with an outlined Blue Devil head on the right side and the anniversary decal celebrating the 100th year of college football on the left side. Blue award stars were placed on the front of the helmet and a small devil’s pitchfork completed a simple, yet elegant and unique head piece from the last days when Duke could brag a bit about its football team as well as its basketball squad.