Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Duke doubling its pleasure in Final Four(s)

The Associated Press

        DURHAM, N.C. — Duke Athletic Director Joe Alleva spent most of Tuesday trying to solve a wonderful dilemma.

        He had to figure out how to get from the NCAA women's semifinals in California on Friday, in which Duke plays Georgia, to the men's semifinals in Florida the next day, when Duke plays Michigan State.

        Most universities consider themselves lucky to make the NCAA Tournament at all. Now, Duke has two teams in the Final Four.

        The Duke women stunned top-ranked Tennessee 69-63 on Monday night to earn their first Final Four berth. A day earlier, the top-ranked Duke men's team beat Temple 85-64 to reach its fifth Final Four this decade.

        How rare is it? So rare that Georgia is the only other school to have both a men's and women's basketball team reach their respective NCAA Final Fours in the same season, accomplishing the feat in 1983.

        Before that, Indiana did it in 1973, when the NCAA ran the men's tournament and the AIAW oversaw the women's championship.

        For Alleva, it created a coast-to-coast conundrum, because he was unable to make connections between San Jose, Calif., and St. Petersburg, Fla., using commercial airlines.

        Late in the day, he finally secured a private charter to take him, university president Nan Keohane and faculty representative Kathleen Smith on the ambitious journey.

        “I guess I'm going to have to do a lot of sleeping on planes and get some books,” Alleva said. “But there was no doubt we were going to do this. You don't get this unique an opportunity very often.

        “It's double the frenzy.”

        On Tuesday morning, the Blue Devils' ticket office opened 15 phone lines and still was unable to field every call, assistant ticket manager Bobby Sorrell said.

        The school received 3,500 tickets for the men's event and 700 for the women's event.

        “It's mission impossible around here, because we have about the smallest athletic department in the country and here we are, with two teams in the Final Four,” Sorrell said. “That's OK. I'd take this prob lem every year.”

        Duke's notoriously rowdy student body remained subdued, however. Neither victory ignited the traditionally raucous celebrations that feature towering bonfires at the center of campus.

        And there was a very practical reason.

        “We're saving our energy and conserving wood,” said Charles Ellis, a senior from River Vale, N.J. “The best is yet to come.”

        Some students say the women's trip through the NCAA Tournament has been more exciting than the men's because expectations were lower.

        “It's kind of like the women are David and the men are Goliath,” said Michael Dobbyn, a senior from Canton, Mass.

        “Everyone follows the men, and going to men's games is amazing,” Ellis said. “It adds so much to the semester. The women have almost kind of sneaked up on us. All of a sudden, it's like "Wow! They beat Tennessee and now they're in the Final Four, too.'”

        But wait a minute. What if the women win and the men lose?

        “People here get emotionally involved with the men's team, whereas the women's team is just starting to peak everyone's interest,” Dobbyn said.

        “If the men don't win it and the women do, it would be pretty somber around here, and that's too bad,” he said. “But the prevailing attitude would be disappointment for the men not winning it rather than excitement for the women winning it.”