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Don't Rely On Media To Explain Contract

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

December 16, 2002 DURHAM — Please forgive the pot-shotting, but the latest chapter in the Carl Franks saga is exactly why ACC fans need us. Sometimes, the mainstream media leaves such grossly misleading impressions on straight-news stories, it borders on the ridiculous.

When Duke recently announced it had given Franks a three-year contract extension through the 2006 season, every major newspaper in North Carolina — every one — used the word “despite.” As in, “Duke football coach Carl Franks has received a contract extension despite a 5-40 record.”

People, people, people. Franks didn't receive his contract extension despite his 5-40 record. He received the extension because of his 5-40 record.

In real terms, the extension was meaningless. One local TV announcer actually used the words “assuring that Franks will be the head coach at Duke through 2006” when proclaiming news of the extension. What?! Some media outlets regularly use language that implies, if not specifically states, that a new deal will keep so-and-so in Everytown through 2000-whatever. Of course, anyone who stops to think for more than a second knows better.

First, contracts don't really guarantee or assure a person's continued presence at all; coaches leave or get fired in the middle of contracts all the time. (See Brown, Mack; O'Leary, George; O'Cain, Mike; Caldwell, Jim; etc.) Second, non-guaranteed contracts mean next to nothing. (See West, Tommy, etc.) While deals that guarantee part or all of a coach's compensation often play significant roles in administrators' retain-or-fire decisions, non-guaranteed contracts do nothing of the sort. They simply spell out the terms of the agreement in case the coach is around long enough for them to matter. Get it?

Duke already had announced after the season-ending North Carolina loss that Franks was coming back for the 2003 season despite — and here is where the word fits — his 5-40 career record. The extension was merely a public relations tool, an empty promise to recruits that Franks will be around not just in 2003 but for their entire Duke career if they sign with the Blue Devils. The coach can look prospects and their parents in the eye and tell them, honestly, that he has four years remaining on his contract. Few, if any, of the listeners will be savvy enough to ask whether or not those four years are guaranteed, or even to understand why the answer to such a question matters so much.

Without the contract extension, of course, Franks would have entered the 2003 season with no future, and his recruiting would have reflected that. Alleva understood completely. That's why he issued the following statement to drive home the point that Franks will be around for the next four years — even if he won't necessarily.

“As Duke continues to rebuild the football program, we feel it is imperative to have Carl Franks as its head coach,” Alleva said. “With any rebuilding process, continuity is a key factor, and extending Coach Franks' contract ensures Duke of having the right man in place to direct the program.”

Not really. But extending Franks' contract helps encourage the perception that the right man is in place and will be for some time.

The extension gives Franks a chance on the recruiting trail, but it doesn't give him job security. With the Blue Devils returning every starter from the team that lost the season finale to North Carolina on a last-play field goal, 2003 will have to be the best season Duke has had under Franks. Not only that, but the 2003 season will have to be competitive in the ACC. Another 0-8 record in the conference, and you can rest assured Franks won't be back in 2004, contract extension or not.

That's why you also can rest assured that Franks hasn't been guaranteed much, if anything, on that extension. While Duke is about as tight-lipped on these matters as the Kremlin — as a private institution, it's not required to release such information — take our word for it: If Franks is fired after the 2003 season, it won't require Duke to pay his full compensation for three more years. If we're wrong, if Duke has guaranteed — in writing — Franks' full package through 2006 regardless of whether he's the Blue Devils' head coach or not, Duke athletic director Joe Alleva is more clueless than anyone ever has accused him of being.

In all likelihood, Alleva was smart enough to avoid such a scenario. Nevertheless, many are starting to wonder about him. This is the guy who turned his nose up at an overture from an ACC assistant coach four years ago because he was so dead-set on hiring Franks, a Duke alum who was then a no-name assistant under Steve Spurrier at Florida.

That assistant was Ralph Friedgen. You know the rest of his story.

Shav-o-Meter: Great Idea, Coach

Forgive the media for grabbing hold of a meaty story and gnawing it to the bone. That's what the media — mainstream and elsewhere, us included — does sometimes, and that's what the media is doing with Duke freshman Shavlik Randolph.

Two games into his Duke career, when he was averaging 20 points per game, Randolph was all but anointed as a combination of Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Christian Laettner and Danny Ferry by the Charlotte Observer. Two games later, after he had scored one basket in games against UCLA and Ohio State, there was a “What's Wrong With Shavlik?” story in his hometown newspaper, the Raleigh News & Observer.

When Randolph rebounded with 11 points in his fifth career game, against Michigan, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got irritated when he was asked about Randolph's overall play this season.

“This isn't a Shav-o-Meter,” Krzyzewski sputtered. “You know, like, ëhe's playing up,' or, ëhe's playing down.'”

Krzyzewski should know better. In Randolph, he has one of the most publicized freshmen ever to come not only to Duke, but anywhere in the ACC. Think about all of the great freshmen who have come into the league, and you understand just how big a deal the debut of Randolph has been.

Randolph has everything needed to be a great story, whether he plays well or not. He's the grandson of ACC legend Ronnie Shavlik, an ACC Top 50 player from N.C. State. He was offered a scholarship by the Wolfpack even before he made his first start at Broughton High School in Raleigh. He was at one time considered the No. 1 player in the national high school Class of 2002. He was the subject of the most intense three-way recruiting battle ever contested among Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.

Now that he's at Duke, the media is supposed to give him the same coverage as Duke freshman Shelden Williams or Maryland's John Gilchrist? Of course not, and Coach K should understand. At least nobody is writing about the number of sociology majors on the Blue Devils' roster, right?

Just so the Sports Journal gets its point across, we are unveiling in this edition The Coach K-Inspired Shav-o-Meter. After five games, The Coach K-Inspired Shav-o-Meter is pointing to the middle, neither up nor down, based on his first two awesome games, his next two awful ones, and then his middle-of-the-road showing against Michigan.

Thanks for the idea, Coach K. We never would have thought of it without you.

Another Amaker Game Unlikely

Speaking of the Michigan game, don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen again.

There are two reasons for that, the main one being that Krzyzewski loathes playing against teams coached by former players or assistants, and Michigan's Tommy Amaker not only is both, but is one of Coach K's favorite Duke players ever.

“I don't just like Tommy,” Krzyzewski said, “I love Tommy.”

The series was scheduled many years ago, when Michigan was good (and getting into trouble with the NCAA) and not coached by Amaker.

The other reason you won't see this game happen again soon is that, while the series expires this year, Michigan doesn't look like it will be traveling in Duke's circles in the near future. The Wolverines aren't a big draw in preseason tournaments, and they don't appear headed to the NCAA Tournament any time soon.

Trends: Great News, Bad News

The best news of the early season? This Duke team is deep not only in players who can play, but in players who can score.

With five guys averaging in double figures after five games, the Blue Devils look like a team that can weather a storm when Randolph isn't scoring or J.J. Redick isn't scoring or Chris Duhon isn't shooting.

Last year, if Jay Williams wasn't scoring, Duke was in trouble.

The worst news of the early season? Dahntay Jones' jump shot isn't any better than last season, and Duhon's jumper isn't much better than Jones'.

Despite working extra hard on his three-point range in the offseason, Jones converted just three of his first 14 (21.4 percent) attempts from beyond the arc. That was worse than his 23.1 percent from last season. Duhon had taken more three-pointers than anyone but Redick, but with just seven conversions in 22 attempts, Duhon was making 31.8 percent, down from 34 percent last season.