There was obvious disappointment carved on Jamie Franks’ young face. Given the circumstances, any other reality would’ve been unthinkable.
Barely 30, Franks and the Denver men’s soccer program nearly pulled off the nearly impossible accomplishment of a mid-major program going an entire season unbeaten en route to a national title. Outside favored powerhouse programs, it had simply never been done before. And Denver, which had lost just one game the season before and none to that point in 2016, was on the precipice.
Denver ultimately fell in the College Cup semifinals, an entertaining 2-1 loss to Wake Forest decided in extra time by ultimate national player of the year Ian Harkes. But the tournament served as the national emergence party for Franks, the former Rochester Rhino with the best two-year start for a first-time head coach in modern Division I history. It illuminated not just Franks’ coaching ability but the broader point in the telling; the men’s college game is teeming with quality under-the-radar coaches making outsize differences largely outside the already narrow national spotlight.
With the 2017 college season now less than three months away, these five have done a particularly impressive job of emerging as some of the most forward-thinking coaches in the college game anywhere. Whether or not any have ambitions of one day coaching in the pro ranks, each is quickly climbing the ladder to becoming household names in the tight-knit world of college soccer.