SHERATON IMPERIAL CENTER/DURHAM Rarely can such a thing be said when a group of folks who ostensibly hate each other’s football teams get together.

But with the coaches from the Triangle’s four Division I football teams sharing the bill as the headliners at the annual Triangle Pigskin Preview, a good time was indeed had by all.

The event – co-sponsored by the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Raleigh Sports Council to benefit the Triangle Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame – brought together N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien and UNC’s Butch Davis and Duke’s David Cutcliffe (pictured) and N.C. Central’s Mose Rison together in one place.

And pretty near everybody who’s influential in Triangle football was there for the seventh annual event, which featured a luncheon including chicken, potatoes, green beans, tossed salad and cheesecake with chocolate sauce, etc., etc.

Veteran area broadcaster Don Shea, the emcee, wasn’t allowed to continue the program after lunch until he was wearing eye-black with a 1930s NFL leather helmet. N.C. State radio color man Johnny Evans delivered an invocation, and former UNC, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest coach Bill Dooley had remarks – including thanks to former Tar Heel running back and College Football Hall of Fame member Don McCauley, who was in the house, for saving his bacon more than once about 40 years ago.

The ladies at the sign-in table were all wearing T-shirts promoting the first “Bull City Gridiron Classic,” which will match NCCU and Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium.

That game is going to be a highlight of a season in which the Blue Devils will play every possible local Division I rival, as NCSU is on the Duke schedule for the second straight year and just the second time since 2003. That makes for four games matching two local Division I teams this season, up from the mandatory two of two seasons ago which had only the Tar Heels facing the Wolfpack and the Blue Devils.

So to review, Central is at Duke Sept. 26, Duke is at State Oct. 10, Duke is at Carolina Nov. 7 and Carolina is at State on Nov. 28.

Asked by Shea – who had an eclectic list of interesting questions prepared – which two teams would be the toughest on Duke’s schedule, Cutcliffe ignored the math but remember his diplomatic skills “N.C. State, Carolina and N.C. Central.”

Davis, who had earlier said the ACC had made a dramatic improvement in the level of expectations and will be “a lot tougher conference from top to bottom,” did mention that the Thursday night game at Virginia Tech on Oct. 29 looms big.

Rison, whose team is in just its third season in the Football Championship Subdivision – formerly known as Division I-AA -didn’t have to calculate anything when he talked about his team’s toughest challenges. Everybody who has seen the Eagles’ schedule would agree.

“We do play the Duke Blue Devils and David Cutcliffe – that will be our toughest game, no question,” Rison said. “And we do go to Boone and play them (FCS superpower Appalachian State) for their homecoming game. We’re going to have our hands full, I can tell you that!”

State has a record eight home games, prompting O’Brien to quip, “I have to give (athletic director) Lee Fowler credit. He saw this budget crunch coming.”

The openers

N.C. State (6-7 last season) hosts South Carolina in an ESPN game at 7 p.m. on Sept. 3.

UNC hosts The Citadel at 6 p.m. on Sept. 5.

Duke (4-8) hosts defending FCS National Champion Richmond at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5.

NCCU (4-7) visits Hampton at 6 p.m. on Sept. 5.

Best quotes

Cutcliffe, on the most-overused words in football: “What the hell is he doing?”

Davis, on last season’s Notre Dame game (which his team managed to win 29-24 anyway): “Father Murphy was in the instant replay booth.”

O’Brien, on the Wolfpack’s fan base: “You really don’t have to do much to raise expectations with the Wolfpack Nation.”

Rison, on playing Duke, NCCU’s first-ever full-blown FBS opponent, “All I ask of David is to be nice to me on Sept. 27 when it really counts.”

Auction time

Winning bid on a new Duke football helmet: $1,000.

Winning bid on a new UNC football helmet: $600.

Winning bid on a new NCCU football helmet: $500.

Winning bid on a new NCSU football helmet: $350.

The coaches’ suggested reading

Cutcliffe: “Success is not an Accident” by Tommy Newberry; “The Tender Bar” by J. R. Moehringer.

Davis: “The Match” by Frost Mark.

O’Brien: “The Apostle” by Brad Thor.


Cutcliffe: “Cotch,” in Alabama parlance, from when his childhood friends learned he wanted to do this for a living.”

Paul Davis Jr.: “Butch,” given to him by his mama who didn’t want him going through life being called “Little Paul” or “Junior.”

O’Brien: “Red.” Enough said.

Rison: “Mickey,” given to him by fellow coaches at Central Michigan as a salute to his fondness for McDonald’s breakfasts.

On an FBS playoff system:

Cutcliffe: would endorse a “plus-one” game. Maybe.

Davis: Ditto.

O’Brien: “I think there are a lot of people in Congress who don’t know if it’s blown up or stuffed. They need to be focused on the economy and health care instead.”

And one final note

Duke’s game at Army on Sept. 12 will be shown live at noon on CBS College Sports Network.