Cutcliffe 'Imprinted' By Third Saturday In October
By Dan Harralson
It is the third Saturday in October — well, the fourth Saturday in October of late — but nonetheless, it's Alabama/Tennessee week. The two most storied programs in the SEC share just as much class as they do wins and losses, championships, and iconic coaches. The crimson and the orange fulfill the fall colors of the game's annual stage.
The all-time series is composed of long winning streaks on both sides. Usually, one team is at the height of its program while the other is searching to return to the top. Since Bear Bryant retired after the 1982 season, Alabama led a streak of nine wins (1986-1994), Tennessee then took over with seven (1995-2001), and currently Nick Saban has orchestrated a six-game winning streak heading into Saturday's 96th meeting.
David Cutcliffe knows this game intimately, having had the privilege of working under hall-of-fame coaches on both sides. Cutcliffe was born in Birmingham and went to Alabama before he started his coaching career under Bryant. He joined Bryant's staff as a student assistant in the 1970s, and worked under two more hall-of-famers, Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee.
"I'm very fortunate," Cutcliffe said at the Atlantic Coast Conference on Sept 26, 2012. "I absolutely learned different things from three different people. You start with great organization, great training, communication, consistency, attention to detail those were the things that were absolutely the same. It was amazing to watch those men day after day, they were so consistent, persevering through anything, it really left a strong imprint on me."
Cutcliffe stayed on as the Vols offensive coordinator through the 1998 national championship season before taking over his first head coaching opportunity at Ole Miss. Cutcliffe currently uses his Bryant, Majors and Fulmer coaching tactics as the Duke head coach.
"I think the thing that I learned the most is to be yourself," Cutcliffe continued. "I saw all three people be successful and have hall-of-fame careers because they were sincere in being themselves. I think that lesson was extremely important. You can push people, you can be challenged, which all three were, but you better truly care for the players."
Cutcliffe hit the nail right on the head. Successful coaches sincerely do care for the players. Take Alabama coach Nick Saban. Many media outlets and fans do not care for Saban because they see only one side of him. However, having seen Saban away from press row and the game field on numerous occasions, he is one of the nicest and most caring individuals. That is what makes him a successful championship coach.
However, it still comes down to knowledge and applying it through coaching tactics. Cutcliffe's bread and butter has been coaching and developing quarterbacks.
"I think that's a big part of it because those relationships are so real. That's kind of my management style it's more of building a relationship and I certainly think that's helped us through the years."