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Q&A with Fred Goldsmith

Fred Goldsmith, 60, coached Duke from 1994 through 1998 and took Duke to the Hall of Fame bowl in his initial season. He is currently the head coach at Franklin High School in Hyattsville, N.C.

Interview by Robbie Samuel

Now that it has been almost six years, how do you feel about your tenure at Duke?

My transition to the ACC wasn’t that tough because the conference wasn’t all that strong [in 1994]. I thought I could recruit just based on the strength of Duke University. But the University of Virginia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina all lowered their academic standards for their football players. The money poured into [other ACC schools] was unbelievable. I didn’t realize the commitment these guys were making. That caught up to me. At the time we could have asked for more; I didn’t realize how much to ask for.


How do you currently feel about the timing of your firing from Duke?

I felt like I’d given Duke a lot. I felt like I was terminated one year early. They guys we recruited after [The Hall-of-Fame Bowl 1994 season] were going to be red-shirt seniors. If [my coaching staff] had still been there, I still feel like that would have been a good year. It really hurt that team to switch coaching staffs at that time. Six or seven guys on that team went on to play in the NFL. Things always run in cycles at Duke.


How does coaching high school football compare to the college experience?

The boys are smaller, but everything else is the same. These kids are playing just because they want to play. The games are just as important, if not more than in college. Most of these players are not going past the high school level-this is all they got. At this stage in my career, I [coach] for fun. Before I did coached to make a living. But my competitive nature is still there. I still put the same intensity into it.

I look back over my career and I remember Air Force beating Notre Dame when I was an assistant [at Air Force]. I remember big wins with Duke over Clemson, UVA, Georgia Tech; they all were big thrills. I look back at some of the wins over Franklin’s rivals, and there just as big as those college games.


How do you feel about Duke’s current football team?

I wish Duke well. They’re finally making some moves that will help them win. Duke’s destiny is in Duke’s hands. Paying assistants better, building better facilities, relaxing academics.these are all things that will help Duke win. I talked to [current Duke football head coach Ted] Roof recently. He’s what they need. He’s paid his dues and worked his way up. I wished him luck. One of the regrets I had when I came to Duke in 1994 was to not keep him on as an assistant. (Roof was the outside linebackers coach at Duke from 1990-93 for Barry Wilson.)


What do you think Duke could do to improve its football team?

When talking about academics and football success, people always say, “Look at Stanford.” But in California, the average SAT score is astronomically higher than it is in the Southeast, so you have to travel to recruit. You need to be able to recruit closer to home to have a good football program. You also have to have people that truly understand things about big time football, so the head coach isn’t asking for little things all the time. Places like State and UNC have people working for them that are used to being around big-time football. There’s got to be Assistant [athletic directors] that really know what they’re doing. When I was at Duke, Mike Craig was the only guy who had been around big time football.


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