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With winning teams, new facilities, Duke AD sees 2015-16 as a potential 'pinnacle' year

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DURHAM, North Carolina — Duke has built many winning teams through the years. Now it's building new facilities for some of them.

The Blue Devils' on-the-field success and the improvements to venues has those around the athletic program bubbling with optimism heading into the 2015-16 academic year.

Duke is the midst of a construction project to revamp its football stadium, give a facelift to Cameron Indoor Stadium and create a plaza connecting the two facilities.

In an interview with The Associated Press, athletic director Kevin White called this year "a great year with some magical moments" and says 2015-16 could be "one of the real pinnacle years for us."

He defines that as including "multiple national championships" and "maintaining our very high level of academic performance."

Of course, the most important improvement at Cameron will take place in the rafters — where they'll soon raise their fifth national championship banner. The Blue Devils captured their second title since 2010 by beating Wisconsin in the title game in April in Indianapolis.

"Magical," White said of that championship run. "I don't know if there's a better word for it. It's been a magical run."

But Mike Krzyzewski's powerhouse program wasn't the only winner this year at Duke.

The football program was headed for its second straight ACC Coastal Division title until the final weeks of the season, and reached its third straight bowl game — the first time in school history that's happened.

The women's basketball team reached the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in six years.

That's all good — but White thinks Duke's athletic department as a whole can do even better. Especially in some non-revenue-producing sports that took a slight step back.

For example, the men's lacrosse team — which won the past two national titles — lost its NCAA Tournament opener.

Duke is 20th in the most recent standings for the Director's Cup, which goes to the school with the best performance in all sports. Last year the Blue Devils finished ninth.

"When we're off the mark, we're never off that far, and we've got a chance to kind of bounce right back, snap right back," White said. "In some of our Olympic sports we were out of kilter a little bit from what we can do, where we have been, and I think we're going to snap right back."

The most visible — and audible, for that matter — changes at Duke are taking place on its home courts and fields.

They've removed the track that used to ring the field at 86-year-old Wallace Wade Stadium, lowered the playing surface, built several rows of new seats that extend closer to the field, and erected a huge new scoreboard — all of which should be functional this season.

They've also knocked down the press box — which doubled as the school's sports medicine offices — and are building in its place a glitzy tower that will include luxury suites and seating. That is supposed to be ready in 2016.

One of the entrances at Cameron has been demolished and work is underway to build a plaza in that spot linking the venerable basketball arena with the football stadium.

Duke has already built a new track and field stadium and a press box tower that serves both that venue and the lacrosse and soccer and lacrosse stadium.

"I'm convinced what we're going to have here, and this may sound Pollyanna," White said, "... on a 10-point scale, we're going to get a 14."


Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap

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