“I don’t know if I wanted to follow in his footsteps as a coach,” Franks stated. “I knew I wanted to be like him, and he was a math teacher and that’s what I ended up doing and everything else fell into place, but I certainly wanted to do what he was doing.”
Doc Franks was an end on some competitive teams at Masontown High School. In Franks’ sophomore season in 1952 the Gunners were 2-8, they finished 5-5 in 1953 and were 5-4-1 in Franks’ senior campaign in 1954.
“I played for my uncle John Lozar and I enjoyed playing for him.” Franks said. “He was a good coach.”
Franks graduated from Masontown in 1955 and wound up going to California State College, now California University of Pennsylvania.
“I had some terrible injuries in high school with my shoulder and nose broken several times, so I didn’t play football at Cal,” Franks explained. “I played a lot of baseball at Cal, I was a catcher, just like dad. I really enjoyed playing baseball at Cal.”
Franks was a part of some baseball teams at Cal.
“Andy Machusko was a teammate and he could hit a ball a mile,” Franks said. “We had some competitive teams. I had a pretty good average up in the .300’s. I also played in the Fayette County League at Brownsville and with the Pals Club.
“I met Bob Orlosky playing in the county league. It was good baseball. Buck Grover pitched in that league and a guy named Dinger Bell. Bruce Dal Canton pitched against us, I loved playing baseball.”
Franks was disappointed injuries curtailed his football playing career.
“Yeah, I wasn’t a real big guy, I only weighed about 160 pounds,” Franks offered. “My dad thought I had enough football and said go get an education.”
Franks graduated from Cal in 1959, and he wasn’t through with football.
“Joe Bosnic who played for my dad at Masontown, was coaching at Redstone,” Franks said. “He was coaching Don Croftcheck and Fred Mazurek in 1960 and called and asked if I wanted to be an assistant.
“So I went down there with him and Bosnic was a very good coach and I was with some good people at Redstone.”
Franks went to Albert Gallatin in 1961, but didn’t coach. He taught math at AG. He joined John Lozar’s coaching staff in 1963. Lozar passed away early in the 1965 football season.
“My brother, Gene Franks Jr handled things for the rest of the 1965 season,” Franks explained. “He was a principal and at that time you could not be a head coach and an administrator, so I fell into it and became the head coach at Albert Gallatin in 1966.”
The rest is history as Franks guided the Colonials until 1989. He compiled a record of 178-50-11, and had undefeated squads in 1971, 72, 77, 79 and 1980. The Colonials were conference champs in 1970, 72, 79 and 1980. AG won the WPIAL Class AA title in 1974.
“I had big shoes to fill,” Franks stated. “I was lucky we had good family background kids and good support. The school backed us 100 percent. We had great atmosphere and we had fantastic support.”
Franks also benefited from the fact that his father was still around and gave him outstanding support and advice.
“Let me say this, anytime I went against what he said I was sorry,” Franks stated. “He was the best helper you could ever want. He was on my back constantly, but it was a great resource to have.”
The pinnacle was the winning the WPIAL title in 1974.
“We got eliminated by Washington one year and Union one year,” Franks lamented. “Looking back it was probably my fault for not doing the right things. The Century Conference was really a tough conference.
“ I don’t think any of the unbeaten squads had an edge on the others, in 1972 we got beat by Wash High at Monessen Stadium 14-12 on a pass right before the half. That was a bitter pill.
“The 1974 team was a Cinderella team. Of all the teams I had coached I wasn’t expecting much from them. We lost to Washington during the regular season, but still went to the playoffs.
“There were 12 teams in the conference that year and we had a better record and more Gardner points. We beat Burgettstown and then Freeport. We had a great bunch of kids.”
Franks was Conference Coach of the Year in 1970, 71, 72, 73, 74 and 1979.
All good things come to an end and Franks coaching tenure ended after the 1989 season.
“They opened my job,” Franks said. “I decided if I wasn’t going to coach I wasn’t going to teach there. I went out to Penn State Fayette Campus and then went to California University of Pennsylvania and I’ve been there ever since.”
Franks, 76, still resides in Masontown with his wife of 51-years Trisha. They have a daughter Dawn and one grandchild Ben.
In 2005 Franks was inducted into the Pennsylvania Big 33 Hall of Fame. In 2007 he was presented the Michael Duda award for Athletic Achievement by the California University Alumni Association.
In 2009 Franks was inducted into the Tri County Coaches association Hall of Fame. Gene Sr. and Doc Franks are the only father/son combo in the Pennsylvania Big 33 Hall of Fame.
“Winning the Dapper Dan Award was great,” Franks stated. “Being in the Pennsylvania Big 33 Hall of Fame with my father is quite special.”