By Dave Glenn and staff, ACC Sports Journal
September 30, 2002
DURHAM — Duke football coach Carl Franks might want to be careful. He’s 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 — the office of the men’s 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’s something we at the Sports Journal have been writing about for years — often to adamant denials from many Duke fans and coy no-comments from administrators — and it’s absolutely true: There has been a double standard for Coach K and Coach Football, whoever Coach Football may be.
“I watch who they recruit,” Franks said of the Duke men’s basketball program. “Why can’t we recruit ’em?”
Because, that’s 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’t quite up to Duke’s standards, he sought — and usually received — cooperation from the admissions office. And there’s 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’t 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’s basketball dynasty? What a crock.
The myth persisted for many years, oddly, despite the fact that the NCAA released (through 1997) annual reports — based on information provided by the member schools themselves — on the detailed academic backgrounds (average core GPA, average SAT/ACT) of incoming men’s 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.
“A lot of our alumni thought we were recruiting with the same standards as the basketball team. I don’t think that’s fair,” Franks said. “As soon as I saw that was the general perception, I wanted to do something about it, because that makes us look like we’re not very good recruiters around here.”
He did do something about it, too. With cooperation from the athletic director, school president and admissions director, Franks now can recruit most — but by no means all — 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’ willingness to bring the men’s basketball team into the discussion doesn’t throw slime on Coach K’s regime, but it does shed some uncomplimentary, if accurate, light on his program: The Blue Devils’ most famous leader has been allowed to sign (some) student-athletes other coaches on campus could not.
Franks doesn’t stop there, either. He also mentions the ratio of academic advisors for men’s basketball compared to football, noting that Coach K’s players get one advisor all to themselves, while for years the other sports shared from a pool of advisors. Franks wasn’t trying to undercut the men’s 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.
“We have one now,” he said, “but if you look at the ratio (compared to men’s basketball), we’re still a little behind. ... I just know we graduate a lot of players and don’t win a lot of football games.”