A FEW MINUTES WITH ... Norman Francis

After 45 years at Xavier, where does your appreciation of the rivalry with Dillard stand?

It is a highlight of the year in any of the sports that we play Dillard. My best memories are the football games on Thanksgiving Day with Dillard in the ’40s and ’50s. Both of our stadiums were packed when we played.

What’s your view of the place of athletics at schools like Xavier and Dillard?

Athletics has an important part in the history of colleges and universities in the United States. We have had a storied history in athletics at Xavier, starting with nationally ranked basketball and tennis teams in the ’30s. The standard for Xavier athletics has always been the same that we held for academics. We played to win, but we were good losers if it happened. We have always been interested in fair play, being respectful of both the institution — doing what Xavier expects of us — and our fans.

What’s your own athletic background?

I played high school basketball at St. Paul’s in Lafayette, La. I was a guard. Just middle of the road. I wasn’t a star. I coached a junior team in Lafayette. I saw some great young middle school players. There was one I know who would’ve gone on to play college ball, but he went into the service and was killed in the Korean War.

So can you take Dr. Kimbrough one-on-one?

At the foul line. I’d beat my boy shooting foul shots.

Who is your favorite all-time athlete?

Without question, it’s Jackie Robinson. He carried more weight on his shoulders to play in a difficult atmosphere than any other individual ever did. I still remember him stealing home plate against Yogi Berra in the World Series, and Berra thinking he was out. Jackie Robinson made more pitchers balk than any other player. He was a great athlete but a disciplined athlete to take what he took, even from his teammates on the Dodgers at the beginning of his career.

What’s your prediction for Saturday’s game and are you willing to place a bet on it?

I can bet on this — in the men’s game, a Xavier man will be the winning coach. But it will be the Xavier coach.

Ted Lewis