MIAMI — It’s -30- for Monty Franks.
The longtime instructor and sports information director at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College as well as Miami News-Record sportswriter, retired June 30.
“Monty has been the face of NEO athletics for decades,” News-Record sports editor Jim Ellis said. “Who knows how many miles he has traveled over the years to document the various sports at the college? And who knows how many lives he has touched over the years?
“He’s been an important part of the News-Record in spirit and in many other ways: he’s done a good job of keeping those in the newsroom and other MNR departments in line. He has been a good sounding board.
“Wow, we are really going to miss him around here, not just a co-worker, but more importantly, as a great friend.”
News-Record managing editor Dorothy Ballard echoes those thoughts.
"We are a unique sort, those of us who commit our working lives to journalism – sensitive, curious, and driven, and Monty Franks is among the best of us," Ballard said. "When you get the opportunity to work with someone as seasoned and passionate as Monty, it changes how you see and do your job. I have been made better and this region has been served by one incredible person. From his time teaching our craft at NEO to his decades in the newspaper industry bringing us compelling sports reporting — there is no way to adequately distill the full impact of someone like Franks. It has been an enormous privilege having him as a
colleague and I am even luckier to count him as a friend."
A 1969 NEO graduate, Franks was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
His byline has appeared on thousands of stories chronicling the highs — and lows — of the Golden Norse and Lady Norse.
“We wouldn’t have the nationally renowned athletic program without the things Monty did when he was SID,” said former NEO athletic director Dale Patterson.
Like Franks, Patterson ended a long affiliation with the school on June 30 with his retirement.
“They throw the word ‘legend’ out there, but Monty is a true legend,” Patterson said. “Very few people that I run into that were here when Monty was here, the first thing they ask is ‘how is Monty?’ or ‘is Monty still around?’
“Everybody loved Monty and everybody respected Monty.”
“Monty Franks is one of the most unique and admirable people I have ever met,” said Larry Gipson, who guided the NEO men’s basketball team to a national championship in 1989. “He is a great example of what the human spirit can accomplish. He was a great colleague and is a great friend.”
Franks — a diehard fan of the St. Louis Cardinals — cut his teeth at Miami High School, graduating in 1967, and continued his education at NEO, graduating in 1969.
While at NEO, Franks was equipment manager for several of the athletic teams, including the 1967 and 1969 National Junior College Athletic Association national champion football teams.
Bill Yocum was a classmate/teammate of Franks, and then they worked together during Yocum’s time as a football assistant and head wrestling coach at NEO from 1997 to 1981.
Yocum is being inducted into the NEO athletic hall in September.
“Monty Franks is a true Norseman,” Yocum said. “He is the definition of ‘what it means to be a Norseman.‘ He exemplifies the grit and toughness of a Norseman. He possesses the fighting spirit of every Norse that has taken the field, run the court, or crossed the foul line.
“He picks up the oar and rows for his fellow Norseman when one goes down. He is the greatest teammate of all time, for all ages.”
Franks was editor of The Northeastern student newspaper at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, where he was a graduate assistant in the sports information department.
He also wrote for the Tahlequah Pictorial Press newspaper.
Veteran educator Ken Collins has known Franks at all three of his education stops, MHS, NEO and NSU, starting in 1965.
“He was an excellent student and writer who loved sports and sports writing,” Collins said. “He has always had a zest for life, an abundance of energy, and an outstanding personality. I was so proud of him when he joined the faculty at NEO, where he was a very popular instructor for many years.
“Monty has touched a lot of lives during his career.”
After a year as student newspaper and yearbook advisor and journalism instructor at Claremore Junior College, Franks became public information director, journalism instructor and Norse Wind advisor at NEO in 1974.
Franks was honored as the Outstanding Junior College Sports Information Director by the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) in 1978 and 1979.
His football media guides were selected best all-around by the NJCAA from 1977 through 1980.
Franks retired from NEO in 2002, but continued to write for the News-Record, covering NEO athletics and high school football.
“I saw right away how the players took to Monty, not out of pity, but, he was just a work-a-bee and did everything he could to help the players have clean and right fitting gear,” said Chuck Bowman, who coached the Norsemen to the ’87 and ’89 championships. “He always had a smile on his face. And, I knew there were many times he was not feeling good or even hurting.
“I can remember (assistant coach) Bob Maxwell taking kidding a bit too far with Monty, but, Monty loved Coach Maxwell for it. He knew where it was coming from. My life has been strengthened by Monty's attitude and approach to tough times.”
Before going on to win the Heisman Trophy at the University of Oklahoma, Steve Owens, was a multi-state standout and classmate of Franks at MHS. Owens went on to win the Heisman Trophy at the University of Oklahoma in 1969.
“Monty has had a tremendous career,” Owens said. “He has been so respected by everybody. I think in my books, he is a true hall of famer. What he has accomplished in his life, with all his challenges, he’s a hero.”
Owens calls Franks “a brother.”
“The Owens family always looked at him as a brother, a part of the family,” Steve Owens said. “That is the way we treated him, part of the Owens clan.
“Over the course of 50 years, our friendship has been solid; I have a great respect for Monty,” Owens said.
Steve Watson, who quarterbacked the Norse to the 1969 national championship, said Franks “was the one constant in an ever changing landscape of players and coaches.”
“For me, his dedication, his love for NEO, love for the players and coaches defines him as a person,” said Watson, a member of the first NEO hall class in 2012. “Monty was constant, steady, loyal and a man who dealt with his own disability in a noble way, never letting his personal challenges keep him from pursuing his dreams, carving out his own path.
“Monty Franks is NEO; he is the true Norseman. Monty embodies all that is good in sports: persistence, doggedness, toughness, loyalty. He is the teammate you always want with you. Good teams need the ‘Monty Franks.’
“Monty touched the lives of hundreds, made all of us grateful that we came to NEO. His lighthearted spirit, his joyful approach to life, inspired us all.”
“It’s hard to imagine NEO without Monty Franks,” said longtime friend and Miami businessman Bill Osborn. “Monty has mentored many young adults to successful careers. I don’t think you can talk about your experience at NEO without several stories that center around Monty.
“His loyalty to Miami and NEO is irreplaceable.”