Franklin Jacobs

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Franklin Jacobs (born December 31, 1957[1] ) is a former high jumper from the United States. His personal best of 2.32 meters (7 ft 7 14 in) was a world indoor record in 1978,[2] and at 59 centimeters (23 in) above Jacobs' own height of 1.73 meters (5 ft 8 in),[2] it remains the record for height differential, now held jointly with Stefan Holm.[3]


Jacobs was one of ten children of Jannie Jacobs, living in a shack in Mullins, South Carolina.[4] His parents separated when he was young.[5] The impoverished family moved to Paterson, New Jersey when he was three and lived with four cousins.[4] His first love was basketball, and he played for Paterson East-side High.[4] He only started high jumping in his senior year, after the end of the basketball season.[4] He cleared 6 feet 8 inches (2.03 m) that year.[4] His natural talent overcame his lack of technique: he called his style the "Jacobs Slop", as opposed to the Fosbury Flop;[6] but later renamed it the "Slope", from the trajectory of his launch.[7]

Jacobs barely graduated high school and got no athletic scholarship, but enrolled at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey with a federal grant.[4] He cleared 7 feet 1 inch (2.16 m) in his freshman year.[4] In March 1977 he tore cartilage in his right leg playing basketball, but competed for over a year without surgery.[5] He established a rivalry with Dwight Stones over the next two years,[4] with media emphasizing the contrast between Jacobs, a short inner-city African American, and Stones, a tall blond Californian.[8] Stones antagonized Jacobs by criticizing his unorthodox jumping style.[5] Jacobs beat Stones at the 1978 Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden, at which he set a world indoor record of 2.32 meters (7 ft 7 14 in).[6] He waived his right to try for an even higher record, saying he "didn't feel nervous enough".[6] The next day, Vladimir Yashchenko broke the record in Milan.[9] In July, at a highly publicized international between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Jacobs lost to Yashchenko on countback.[10] In August, Jacobs won the Tanqueray Award for outstanding amateur athlete; by then he had won 27 collegiate events.[11]

Jacobs anticipated gaining lucrative endorsements from the 1980 Olympics, but the U.S. boycott of the Games precluded this.[8] He was extremely disappointed and wanted to skip the U.S. "Olympic Trials"; he attended by request of his college, but failed his opening height.[2] He gave up the high jump and did not return to college.[8] A planned return to competition in 1982[12] did not happen.[2] In 1991, he commented, "I was upset and my dreams were shattered. I probably could have come back in 1984, but I was a naive kid. It was like the floor fell in."[13]

He subsequently had various jobs around Paterson,[2][8] working for a construction company 1986–91.[13] He married Naomi Livingston c.1990 and had a daughter Shannon in 1992.[2][8] Around 1995, they moved to Gilbert, Arizona.[2] In 1998 he was working for an electrical installation company.[2][8] That year, he attended a Millrose Games tribute to stars of memorable previous meets.[2]

Championship results[edit]

Year Tournament Venue Result Height (m)
1977 NCAA Outdoor Champaign, Illinois 2nd 2.26[14]
1977 US Nationals Los Angeles, California 2nd 2.27[1]
1978 NCAA Indoor Detroit, Michigan 1st 2.25[fn 1][15]
1978 NCAA Outdoor Eugene, Oregon 1st 2.26[16]
1978 US Nationals Los Angeles, California 2nd 2.24[1]
1979 US Nationals Walnut, California 1st 2.26[fn 2][1][17]
1979 Pan American Games San Juan, Puerto Rico 1st 2.26[1]
1979 World Cup Montreal, Canada 1st 2.27[1]
1980 NCAA Indoor Detroit, Michigan 1st 2.24[15]
1980 US Indoor Nationals New York City[18] 1st 2.24[fn 3][19]
1980 US Nationals Walnut, California 1st 2.24[fn 3][1][17]
  1. ^ Officially, 7 ft 5 in; NCAA switched to metric in 1979.
  2. ^ Officially, 7 ft 5 in; USATF switched to metric in 2003.
  3. ^ a b Officially, 7 ft 414 in; USATF switched to metric in 2003.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Nonna, Michael. "Franklin Jacobs". Track and Field Statistics. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Litsky, Frank (13 February 1998). "High Jumper Resurfaces For Honor at Millrose". New York Times. p. C8. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  3. ^ Sampaolo, Diego (14 January 2009). "The super consistency of Stefan Holm". torino2009. European Indoor Athletics Championships. Retrieved 2009-04-30. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Looney, Douglas S. (13 February 1978). "A Mite Over The Bar". Sports Illustrated. 
  5. ^ a b c Rhoden, Bill; photographer G. Marshall Wilson (May 1978). "A big victory for the "Little People"". Ebony: 82–88. 
  6. ^ a b c Putnam, Pat (6 February 1978). "The Slop And Hustle Take Over". Sports Illustrated. 
  7. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (8 June 1978). "Franklin Jacobs adds new technique to high jump". Jet: 52. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Madden, Bill (8 February 1998). "Jumpin' outta sight". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  9. ^ Reid, Ron (20 March 1978). "An Encore On A High Note". Sports Illustrated. 
  10. ^ Marshall, Joe (17 July 1978). "Not Quite As High, But A Bit Mightier". Sports Illustrated. 
  11. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (17 August 1978). "Franklin Jacobs wins 1978 Tanqueray award". Jet: 46. 
  12. ^ Litsky, Frank (9 February 1982). "Jacobs starting high jump comeback". The New York Times. p. B19. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  13. ^ a b Curry, Jack (4 February 1991). "Sidelines: You can't hide: After 13 years, Jacobs speaks". New York Times. p. C2. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  14. ^ "High Jump - 1977-06-04". 1977 Men's Division I Outdoor Track And Field. NCAA. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  15. ^ a b "Indoor Track and Field: Division I men's" (PDF). NCAA. 2008. pp. 2, 5. Retrieved 2009-04-30. [dead link]
  16. ^ "High Jump - 1978-06-03". 1978 Men's Division I Outdoor Track And Field. NCAA. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  17. ^ a b "Men's High Jump". USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions. USATF. Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  18. ^ "USA Indoor Track & Field Championships". USATF. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  19. ^ "Men's High Jump". USA Indoor Track & Field Champions. USATF. Retrieved 2009-04-30.