Pioneers’ coach focused on beating his alma mater
Demon Deacons led by Muuss, who left DU in 2014
No. 2 Wake Forest vs. No. 6 Denver, 4 p.m. Friday in Houston, ESPNU How’s this for a matchup? Coach Jamie Franks on Friday will lead his undefeated Denver Pioneers (20-0-3) against his alma mater Wake Forest (18-2-3) in the men’s semifinals of the NCAA College Cup at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. And to make things even more interesting, the Demon Deacons are led by Denver’s former coach, Bobby Muuss — the man who recruited a then-17-yearold Franks to Wake Forest and later went 74-56-25 in his eight seasons leading DU.
“I’ve had to wrap my head around playing Wake Forest, a team that I’ve never rooted against in anything, especially not in men’s soccer,” Franks said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But that time has passed. Now I’m just focused on my student-athletes and finishing off what we’ve started here. And we’re two more wins away from that.”
Franks has appeared in the College Cup three times as a player, winning the championship in 2007 on a team that included current Colorado Rapids captain Sam Cronin.
He was also an assistant coach of Wake Forest’s 2009 team — the last time the Demon Deacons played in the semifinals.
“When he was an assistant, he always kind of had a different view of the game, which was kind of refreshing,” said Rapids center back Jared Watts, who played for Wake Forest from 2010-13. “He wasn’t a guy who would just spit out whatever the head coach was saying. He brought his own ideas.”
Franks came to Denver to serve as an assistant coach under Muuss in 2012. Three years later, at age 29, Franks became the youngest NCAA head soccer coach when he took over the Pioneers after Muuss returned to Wake Forest.
“I spent seven years of my life there and I learned a lot about myself,” Franks said of Wake Forest. “But for the last five years I’ve poured my heart and soul into the University of Denver.”
The Pioneers have posted a sparkling 35-1-6 record in two seasons since Franks took over — the one loss coming in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Denver is the first team to post back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons since Clemson in 197778. The Pioneers have done it with an organized defense that has posted 14 shutouts in 23 games.
“The system of play kind of symbolizes who we are and that’s a blue collar, hard-working approach,” Franks said. “For us, we believe that you can control three things no matter what, and that’s your positioning, your work rate and your mentality. The reason why we accomplished something that hasn’t happened in 38 years in college soccer is a testament to that.”