Maryland football Coach Jerry Claiborne has problems: a four-game losing streak, shattered ACC title hopes and an injury list longer than last summer's gas lines.
But compared to Duke Coach Shirley (Red) Wilson, Claiborne is living in a football coach's nirvana.
Wilson, whose team faces the Terrapins here Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (Wmal-630), is a 52-year-old rookie coach at a school that has a decrepit stadium, little money for recruiting and the toughest academic standards in the ACC.
But that is only part of his problem. When Mike McGee was fired a year ago as coach after eight seasons, the move divided the team the campus and the alumni.
That division still exists. The Blue Devils, in spite of playing perhaps the easiest schedule in their history, have struggled to a 2-3-1 record, their only victories coming against weak East Carolina and Richmond. rWith an 0-2 conference record, Duke now faces the prospect of its first last-place finish ever in the ACC.
"All I've asked of people is that they give me a chance," said Wilson, who seems to smile even when he is dead serious. "I knew when I took over that there was a lot of division and I've worked hard to try and overcome that. But these things take time."
How much time Wilson is being given by Duke Athletic Director Tom Butters is something neither will discuss. Wilson, who predicted great things for this year's team when he first took the job, now says it will be 1981 -- when Duke's excellent sophomores are seniors -- before the Blue Devils will move up in the ACC.
But a number of university sources indicate that if Wilson does not show a good deal of improvement in 1980, he will not be coaching in 1981.
McGee had two years left of his contract when he was fired. It now appears that Wilson, an assistant athletic director last year, has that long to improve the team. If he can't, he will be returned to his administrative position and a "name" coach will be brought in when McGee's contract is paid off.
"I plan to be around Duke University a long time," Wilson said, hedging noticeably when the subject of his contract was brought up.
Wilson now points out that he is rebuilding, but before the season, he answered "absolutely," when asked if Duke could win seven games against a schedule which included East Carolina, Richmond and Army. In past years, Duke has played road games against such powers as Southern California, Tennessee, Michigan and Alabama.
When the losses came, Wilson began backing off his earlier statements. This week, he publicly called his junior class "horrendous," in a local paper. tHe says now that if the team loses fewer than eight games, the Blue Devils will have made "progress."
"I've been realistic about this situation here since I first took over," Wilson insisted. "But I more or less had to wear two hats at the beginning. I had to be publicly optimistic, try to build up some excitement and try to pull this team back together."
Whether Wilson has done that no one really knows. Some players swear by him. For others, the specter of McGee is still quite strong. One player told a friend this summer that Wilson had promised eight players starting spots in the defensive backfield.
There also has been talk among the players about the coaching staff being "disorganized," under Wilson. But others point out this often happens in a new coach's first year.
Wilson says he plans to "outwork, outrecruit and outfight," the other ACC schools to pull Duke out of its doldrums. He says he is confident the school can recruit successfully.
"I feel like the guy selling Cadillacs against people selling the other models," Wilson said. "This school is my product."
Some progress has been made. McGee and former athletic director Carl James, now at Maryland, fought over scheduling. McGee wanted more home games and James wanted more big-money games with the Michigans and Alabamas. McGee finally won the battle, only to lose his job before benefitting from it.
Wilson has the improved schedule, new locker room facilities and the prospect of planned stadium renovations to work with. But whether he can make Duke, a football power from the 1930s until the 1960s, respectable again, is another question.
'I don't think people really knew what McGee was up against," said Wilson. "He had almost an impossible job. Now people are starting to know the true Duke story. Sometimes it takes a coaching change for that to happen."
Maryland, meanwhile, takes a 3-4 mark (1-2 in the ACC) into the game. The Terps will not be the only local team trying eo end a losing streak Saturday. Howard (3-4), with four losses in its last five games, plays host to Hampton Institute (2-6) in Howard Stadium. Across town at Dunbar High School, the University of the District of Columbia (4-2) will take on Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-5-1).
Georgetown (4-1) celebrates homecoming with a game against St. John's of New York (2-4-1), the only team to beat the Hoyas last season. Catholic (3-2), with the No. 1 defense in Division III, also is at home against Virginia Commonwealth (2-2), a club team that should be little more than a warmup for next week's showdown with Georgetown.
Bowie State (2-5), is on the road at Central (Ohio) State (4-3-1) and Randolph-Macon (3-3) is at James Madison (1-6). Undefeated Montgomery Rockville (6-0), is also on the road at Stevens State Tech (4-2) while Gallaudet (1-5), looks to snap a four-game losing streak at Anne Arundel Community College (2-4).