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Finally, Franks Tells Secret: Duke Football, Basketball Play By Different Rules

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

By Dave Glenn and staff, ACC Sports Journal
September 30, 2002

DURHAM &#151 Duke football coach Carl Franks might want to be careful. He&#146s speaking his mind, and he happens to be speaking the truth, but what he says might not be going over very well with the most powerful office on the Duke campus &#151 the office of the men&#146s basketball team.

As word of the change has spread through the media, Franks has been asked several times this fall about the admissions standards that will continue to be tweaked (read: lowered) for his football team in an effort to help it become more competitive. Every time Franks answers the question, he comes closer and closer to saying something quite dangerous. It&#146s something we at the Sports Journal have been writing about for years &#151 often to adamant denials from many Duke fans and coy no-comments from administrators &#151 and it&#146s absolutely true: There has been a double standard for Coach K and Coach Football, whoever Coach Football may be.

&#147I watch who they recruit,&#148 Franks said of the Duke men&#146s basketball program. &#147Why can&#146t we recruit &#146em?&#148

Because, that&#146s why. Because over there is Mike Krzyzewski, the most successful NCAA basketball coach of our time. And over here is Duke football, the least successful NCAA football program of our time.

Over the years, when Krzyzewski wanted to sign a player whose academics weren&#146t quite up to Duke&#146s standards, he sought &#151 and usually received &#151 cooperation from the admissions office. And there&#146s been nothing wrong with it, because for the most part Krzyzewski has been able to identify student-athletes who possess the tools to graduate from Duke, regardless of what their high school transcript and SAT scores might have suggested.

No one has said Krzyzewski has won by recruiting gifted players with no chance of graduating. No one with any credibility, anyway. Under Coach K, on average, the Devils have recruited and continue to recruit a higher-caliber student-athlete than anyone in the ACC and most in the nation.

But some people have said this: The Duke football team has been recruiting under the same guidelines, so why can&#146t that program win, too? That kind of talk floated among the alumni for years. When it got to Franks in the past year, he nearly flipped. Same standards? His football program and Coach K&#146s basketball dynasty? What a crock.

The myth persisted for many years, oddly, despite the fact that the NCAA released (through 1997) annual reports &#151 based on information provided by the member schools themselves &#151 on the detailed academic backgrounds (average core GPA, average SAT/ACT) of incoming men&#146s basketball and football players. The NCAA data clearly showed, and individual reports continue to suggest, that the average Duke football signee (3.35 core GPA, 1,068 SAT in the 1997 report) has significantly better academic credentials than the average Duke basketball signee (generally 3.1/960). In the recruiting world, those seemingly slight differences mean an awful lot.

&#147A lot of our alumni thought we were recruiting with the same standards as the basketball team. I don&#146t think that&#146s fair,&#148 Franks said. &#147As soon as I saw that was the general perception, I wanted to do something about it, because that makes us look like we&#146re not very good recruiters around here.&#148

He did do something about it, too. With cooperation from the athletic director, school president and admissions director, Franks now can recruit most &#151 but by no means all &#151 of the same players being targeted by ACC and in-state rivals North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest. In the end, Franks will be held to the same standard as Krzyzewski: Find players with the tools to graduate from Duke.

Franks&#146 willingness to bring the men&#146s basketball team into the discussion doesn&#146t throw slime on Coach K&#146s regime, but it does shed some uncomplimentary, if accurate, light on his program: The Blue Devils&#146 most famous leader has been allowed to sign (some) student-athletes other coaches on campus could not.

Franks doesn&#146t stop there, either. He also mentions the ratio of academic advisors for men&#146s basketball compared to football, noting that Coach K&#146s players get one advisor all to themselves, while for years the other sports shared from a pool of advisors. Franks wasn&#146t trying to undercut the men&#146s basketball support system by taking away their advisor. He just wanted something similar done for his team, and mission accomplished. Franks now has one advisor for his program, but still he notes the numerical inequity.

&#147We have one now,&#148 he said, &#147but if you look at the ratio (compared to men&#146s basketball), we&#146re still a little behind. ... I just know we graduate a lot of players and don&#146t win a lot of football games.&#148