WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2002
Q & A with JU Softball Coach, Jeff Franquet
Feb. 20, 2002
After discontinuing slow pitch softball in the mid-1980's, Jacksonville University will begin a new era in 2002-03, with the addition of fast-pitch softball. As the season draws near, and recruiting and field construction begin, there is much anticipation for the Inaugural season of JU Softball. In December of 2001, Jeff Franquet was named JU's first softball coach. Excited about the challenge of building a team from the ground up, Franquet sits down to tell his vision for the future of JU Softball.
What attracted you to JU?
The first thing you think when you come to JU is how beautiful the campus is. The people here are great. I haven't met a person that wasn't pleasant. I felt very welcomed coming in as the newest member of the athletic staff. They made it very easy to come in and feel a part of JU family. From the coaching aspect, I like the small campus athletic setting. The small family atmosphere played a big role in my decision to coach at JU.
What made you decide to coach at JU?
I liked the fact that I would be taking on the challenge of starting a Division I program from scratch. The city of Jacksonville is incredible. I like the environment and being close to the beach. The Jacksonville area also has a lot of potential student-athletes in the sport of softball. Last, but not least, I liked Athletic Director Hugh Durham. He made me feel like JU was where I needed to be.
What type of student-athlete figures into your plans for building future softball teams?
Fortunately, most softball players are bright, so it is actually fairly easy to recruit softball players who are also good students. The challenge is to get student-athletes who are strong in the classroom, but also on the softball field. My main focus, however, is that each student-athlete that plays for me comes to JU not just to play softball, but to earn a degree. I want my players to know that when they commit to play for me, they are making a commitment to graduate from JU while competing at a high level and playing a highly competitive softball schedule.
You have been associated with successful softball throughout both your playing and coaching career. What plans do you have to build a successful program here at JU?
I feel that I am a good recruiter of student-athletes, and I have the ability to get the kids to exceed their potential and give maximum effort on a daily basis. I ask for 100 percent everyday, which helps them improve their individual game as well as helping our team grow and improve. I believe that if we practice hard, study hard and play hard, we WILL be successful.
What is your vision for the future of JU Softball?
My immediate vision is to play at least 10 Top-25 teams in the country. In order to get better and be the best, you have to play the best. We will play national powers in our first season of competition. We will play Georgia, of the SEC, Top-25 teams such as Florida State, Notre Dame and conference opponent Florida Atlantic, along with regional powers Florida, Hofstra, North Carolina and South Florida. Ultimately, my goal is to graduate 100 percent of my players and build JU softball into a competitive program in both the Atlantic Sun Conference and on a regional level.
What is your philosophy of the game?
Softball is about catching and throwing. If you can do both you are ahead of the game. I want "gamers", players that give it 100 percent everyday. I want student-athletes who are aggressive and get after it. I want players who aren't afraid of getting dirty. We will be fundamentally sound. Offensively, we want to be aggressive. We will bunt, run and steal. Defensively, it goes back to catching and throwing. We want to work hard day in and day out. For me, the bottom line is that you have to have fun and enjoy what you are doing.
What do you think about the competition level in the A-Sun Conference?
The Atlantic Sun is an extremely competitive conference. Teams in the conference are among the best in the nation and also play the best in the nation, which helps the league maintaining a very competitive edge.
How do you think your first team will stack up against conference opponents?
We will be very competitive and expect to be in every ballgame. We will need a few breaks and capitalize on the opposition's mistakes. We will have a good mix of junior college players, who have a couple of years of college ball under their belt, and talented freshman. We want to build a reputation and tradition as a conference powerhouse within three years.