Sure, the University of Denver has been jolted before by star athletes that leave early. But most of these departures have been managed pretty well. It’s been a few weeks since it was announced that junior Kortne Ford had signed with the Colorado Rapids. While circumstances vary widely on why student athletes depart college programs early, Ford’s exit was engineered to the benefit everyone.
When Denver’s star center back Kortne Ford announced his intention to leave the University of Denver on January 6th, it was a well-calculated decision and planned exit that proved to be a win-win-win situation for DU, the Colorado Rapids, and most importantly, Ford.
Ford, a 6-foot-2 junior from Greeley, came up through the Rapids Youth Academy playing on their U-16 and U-18 teams. He was a three-year starter for the Pioneers, helping them to back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons in 2015 and 2016 and a berth in the College Cup semifinal just this year.
Ford explained his decision to the Denver Post and elaborated on what led him to that decision.
It was clear to DU head coach Jamie Franks that Ford had the skills to go to the next level. He told the Denver Post, “I’m biased, but I haven’t seen a better center back come out of college soccer here in five or six years. That’s what we thought he could be and he’s lived up to the expectations.” And Ford made no secret of his desire to pursue a professional career in soccer and someday make the US National team.
Ford was actually pondering a departure from DU following his sophomore season. However, after working with the Denver staff and the Rapids, he felt that he had room for further development and the Denver soccer program could meet that need. “The coach (Jamie Franks) had a lot to do with it (the decision to wait to turn professional)”. Clearly, there was collaboration between head coach Jamie Franks, the Rapids, and Ford as he entered his third year in the program. This allowed the Denver staff to focus on Ford’s development while also preparing for his ultimate departure.
Ford is also an excellent student and remaining in Denver with the Colorado Rapids allows him to finish his degree in Marketing by scheduling classes at night. Both Franks and Ford emphasize that he will remain closely connected to the DU soccer program and use university facilities – even as a Colorado Rapids player.
While the Pioneers are losing a star, the handling of Ford’s development and signing demonstrates that the Pioneer program under Franks, his coaching staff and trainers are capable of developing top tier soccer players at the University. More importantly, collaboration between the Ford and the coaching staff allowed for an orderly transition by a student-athlete. giving head coach Jamie Franks and his staff adequate time for developing replacements, recruiting and planning to fill Ford’s spot. And of course, Ford got the benefit of one more year of training, playing and skill development.
Again, there are a variety of factors that drive early departures and how they are managed. A fall sport like soccer with an early departure allows the team adequate time to respond to the loss of that athlete during the school year, unlike many of the winter and spring sports when decisions are not made until the end of the school year or summer. Ford’s situation demonstrates the ideal way for any school and player to manage an early exit.