DOVER, Del. — On July 8, Delaware State University officially named Jeff Franquet as the school’s next head softball coach.
It was a return to the Division I coaching ranks for the Lewisburg Area High School graduate, one for which Franquet had been patiently waiting the past six years.
“The last couple of years, I have passed up a few of opportunities (to return to coaching),” Franquet said. “I knew (my family) wanted to stay close to where we are and when the chance arose to get back into coaching at the Division I level, of course I jumped all over that.”
“I finished runner-up at a local school a couple of years ago and I just kept putting my name in there. When Delaware State came open and I interviewed, it felt like a natural fit because of the other stops I’ve made during my coaching career,” added Franquet.
Indeed, the Hornets were looking to shake the nest following the resignation of former head coach Amber Jackson, who retired after five seasons with the program in order to serve as a teacher in Africa.
In 2019, Jackson’s final season at the helm, Delaware State finished 10-32.
Following Jackson’s resignation, Delaware State athletic director Dr. D. Scott Gines set out to find a coach who could not only change the program’s fortunes on the field, but turn the team into a bona fide contender.
Dr. Gines’ search landed on Franquet, a coach known for taking struggling softball programs and not only turning them into contenders, but powerhouses.
“Other than when I started the softball program at Jacksonville University and was their inaugural coach, every other program where I’ve coached have been in need of a culture change and some structure,” Franquet said. “This program is right up my alley. I love taking over programs that haven’t had much success recently and get in there and get my system in place and have the kids jump on board and teach them what success is at this level.”
After a stellar international fast-pitch softball career as a player for the United States and New Zealand, Franquet continued to utilize his love for and knowledge of the game, this time as a coach.
From 2000-02, Franquet was the head coach at Central Florida Community College and all he did over the course of those three seasons is turn a four-win team into a 40-win team while he fashioned a junior college softball powerhouse.
Franquet guided CFCC to its first-ever berth in the state tournament and also coached two junior college All-Americans and two conference players of the year.
In 2003, Franquet was hired by Jacksonville University to build its softball program from the ground up.
In typical fashion, Franquet crafted a winner and led the Dolphins to an Atlantic Sun Conference tournament berth in his third and final season at the school.
“Jacksonville was a great opportunity because they had never had softball before and I handled every detail of building that program from scratch,” Franquet said. “It was fun to be there and to create something new and help get the program off the ground.”
In 2007, Franquet made another three-year stop, this time at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, N.J.
Once again, his tenure at GCU was marked by unprecedented success.
During his three seasons at GCU, Franquet recorded a 108-57 record and led the Lions to two Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament Championships in 2007 and 2009.
GCU made appearances in three straight NCAA Regional Championships and in 2009, the Lions won an NCAA East Two Regional Championship.
That season, along with his coaching staff, Franquet earned Coaching Staff of the Year honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Franquet’s most recent coaching home was Central Connecticut State University from 2010-13 and his term with the Blue Devils continued the “worst to first” trend for which he had now become known.
In 2010, Franquet transformed a nine-win team from the previous year into a squad which set the school record for wins (19) in his first season on the bench.
In fact, Franquet’s Blue Devils’ teams broke the season win record in each of the four years he served as head coach.
In 2013, Franquet and CCSU experienced historic heights during a 36-win season which saw the Blue Devils capture their first-ever Northeast Conference championship.
The 2013 season also marked Central Connecticut’s maiden voyage into the NCAA Tournament where the Blue Devils took nationally-ranked LSU to the wire before falling, 3-2.
Still, Franquet’s girls bounced back in their second game of the tournament and defeated Northwestern State, 9-1, to secure the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory.
Franquet finished his time at Central Connecticut with 115 victories, tops on the school’s all-time list.
It was another successful stop in a career full of them for Franquet.
It is a trend which Delaware State hopes will continue in 2020.
“For whatever reason — it’s in my DNA — I thrive on changing programs and turning them around right away and getting them to the highest level of success that we can possibly achieve,” Franquet said. “People ask me all the time if I just pull a magic wand and wave it and turn a program around, well it has nothing to do with luck. It was to do with getting them into that structure, that routine and once they find that structure, they start to build that confidence and the success follows.”
The softball DNA from which Franquet draws his attitude and ability was unearthed and polished on the fields of Northumberland and Union counties in the 1980s.
As he reached adolescence, his father allowed Franquet and his brother to play on a local fast-pitch softball team in Lewisburg at the age of 12.
From there, Franquet was hooked.
“At 12, 13 years old, that’s when my brother and I started to play men’s fastpitch in the local leagues,” Franquet said. “Lewisburg, Milton, Sunbury, Shamokin. All of those towns, fastpitch was huge. So we started playing with our Dad and it piqued my interest and I continued to have a passion for the game because of that.”
“I’m proud to come from Lewisburg, it’s a great town and once you come from a small town, it never leaves you,” Franquet added. “I’m a proud Lewisburg grad and that’s really where my grassroots with this game started, at 12, 13 years old playing fastpitch. Now, all these years later, I’m still coaching the game and having fun with it.”