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NEWS: New Mexico Coach Joe Franklin to Become Louisville's Next Director of Track & XC

Earlier today, Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated first reported that New Mexico head coach, Joe Franklin, was going to be named as the next Director of Track & Field and Cross Country at the University of Louisville. It would be only a few hours later that the Louisville Athletic Department confirmed the hiring with their own press release.

Back in April, it was announced that Dale Cowper, the former Director at Louisville, would be stepping away from the program at the conclusion of the 2023 outdoor track season.

It was also announced earlier this spring that Eric Heins, the former distance coach for the Cardinals who also led the Northern Arizona men to their first national title in 2016, was leaving Louisville to become the next distance coach at Indiana.

Joe Franklin is one of the most accomplished women's distance coaches in all of the NCAA, producing juggernaut cross country squads, multiple national champions and countless All-Americans.

Under Franklin's direction, the Lady Lobos secured two cross country national titles as a team (2015 and 2017) as well as two runner-up team finishes on the national stage (2018 and 2022). They have also secured seven podium team finishes on the grass in the last nine years.

Individually, multiple all-time collegiate distance stars have come through the Albuquerque-based program. That list includes former collegiate standouts such as Weini Kelati, Ednah Kurgat and Courtney Frerichs.

The list of upper-tier All-American runners who have donned a New Mexico singlet in the past 16 years are simply too long to list. However, for greater perspective on the Lobos' often-great depth, consider that the New Mexico women had five individual All-Americans at the NCAA XC Championships last fall.

Franklin will now be joining a Louisville program whose national presence in the distance events has largely eroded over the last five to eight years. And while there have certainly been individual distance standouts who have emerged as nationally competitive names, the collective identity of this roster is almost void of any significant distance presence, at least as currently constructed.

The last time that the Louisville women qualified for the cross country national meet was 2016 where they finished last. The men last qualified for that meet as a team in 2015 where they earned a strong 7th place finish.

While Louisville's roster isn't currently the distance-friendly program that New Mexico was built to be, one coach I spoke to said, "[Franklin] will have distance going soon there."

The New Mexico women are set to enter the 2023 cross country season with a mass number returners from last year's runner-up podium squad. Per TFRRS, the Lobos will return all five of their All-Americans as well as their seventh runner. It should be noted, however, that one of those women has already been in the transfer portal for the last couple of months.

While the New Mexico men haven't had nearly the same success as the women's team (largely due to significant scholarship limitations), they did recently add distance running megastar, Habtom Samuel Keleta, to their 2023-24 roster.

The 19-year old holds personal bests of 13:13 (5k) and 27:28 (10k).

With Franklin's departure, is it possible that his top women follow him to Louisville, Kentucky later this summer? If so, how many roster spots and scholarships will be immediately available?

It's not entirely clear what will happen next, but a program that was once an ACC distance running afterthought has suddenly become one of the more interesting programs in the NCAA as we dive deeper into this offseason.


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