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Davidson Athletics

Jeff Frank, one of the most successful coaches in Davidson sports and the head coach for the men’s tennis program for 34 years, passed away on Saturday evening, May 30, after battling an extended illness.

Frank was 64 years old and upon his retirement from Davidson, spent the winters in Key West, Fla., while returning to Davidson during the summer seasons. A memorial service is being planned.

The school's all-time winningest coach in any sport, Frank concluded his coaching career with a 541-319-1 record. His Wildcat teams posted winning records in 29 of his 33 seasons, and he led the ‘Cats to at least 10 victories each year.

“Davidson mourns the loss of an icon,” said athletic director Jim Murphy. “Coach Frank was the face of Davidson Tennis for 34 years and touched the lives of hundreds of students. Throughout his career, Jeff helped mold the Davidson athletics culture we're so proud of today and he will be sorely missed.”
"We are all greatly saddened by the news that Jeff Frank has passed away," said David A Benjamin, ITA Executive Director.  "An outstanding coach and great mentor to decades of Davidson varsity players, Jeff served for many years as a member of the ITA Board of Directors and as Chair of the ITA Committee on NCAA Legislative Issues. He had an instrumental role in helping to shape a variety of significant issues that impacted on the well being of our ITA student-athletes.  Jeff was a wise and thoughtful individual with a great sense of irony and humor -- he will be sorely missed."

Frank was a huge contributor to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), having served as Co-Chair on the NCAA Legislation Committee from 2002-05, an Ex-Officio member of the 2004-05 ITA Board of Directors, a member of the Men's Division I Operating Committee in 1997-98 as well as a member of the ITA Promotions Committee in 1998-99.

In 2006, Frank was honored with the Distinguished Service Award given out by the Southern Conference based upon their overall contribution to their institutions. Only former wrestling coach Charlie Parker (40 years) had a longer tenure as a head coach at Davidson.

The 1966 graduate of Davidson was a four-year member of the tennis squad and coached the freshman team before moving on to the University of Florida as a graduate assistant from the fall of 1966 through December of 1969. The Gators won two SEC championships during Frank's time at Florida, plus were ranked fifth nationally in 1969. After three years coaching at the Westminster School in Atlanta, he returned to his alma mater to assist Harry Fogleman in the fall of 1972. Shortly thereafter, Fogleman passed away and Frank took over as the interim coach.

Frank, quickly made his mark, leading that 1973 squad to a stellar 23-2 mark and a Southern Conference championship while earning the league's Coach of the Year award for the first of four times. The athletes on the team petitioned the school president, Sam Spencer, to hire Frank permanently for the head coaching job before the league tournament, which Spencer did with pleasure.

Nine times Davidson reached 20 victories in a season under Frank's watch, including four straight from 1985-88. His 1976 squad posted a 20-6-1 record and was the SoCon regular-season champions. Led by Jon Pastel in 1997, Davidson once again took home the regular-season crown.

Frank coached three Southern Conference Players of the Year, 18 SoCon individual champions and eight doubles champions before the tournament changed to a team format in 2000. When Davidson rejoined the league in 1993, Frank had seven singles and four doubles teams named all-conference.

His most accomplished player was Pastel, who was ranked as high as 30th nationally, a four-time all-conference performer and two-time SoCon Player of the Year. Frank cited coaching Pastel in the NCAA Tournament as one of his most memorable experiences at Davidson. Pastel was recently inducted in Davidson Hall of Fame in 2009.

Not only did Frank earn the SoCon Coach of the Year four times, he also honored with the Big South Coach of the Year award both seasons Davidson was a member of the league (1991 and 1992). In the Big South, Frank had two all-conference performers in singles play and one all-conference doubles team.

Frank also served as the coach for the USTA junior team at the Italian junior championships in 1981-83. In 1996, Frank was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame, which he called “the highlight of his career. I could not have achieved it without great players over the years, who share the honor with me.”

A memorial service will be held at Davidson College. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Jeff Frank’s name to the Davidson Athletic Foundation will be used to continue his tennis legacy. Click on the link or send checks to Davidson Athletic Foundation, Box 7172, Davidson, NC 28035-7172.