From covering SEC sports to the Phoenix Suns, Duane Rankin used the skills learned from the first boot camp at Norfolk State in 1993.
May 24, 2022

At every stop, Rankin applies lessons learned in the inaugural SJI class

Derrian Carter

Marshall University alum Duane Rankin struggled to remember all the details from 1993 of the first boot camp for the first class of the Sports Journalism Institute. Still, he could recall the grueling 21-day boot camp that featured early mornings, late nights, a 10-minute turnaround on a Norfolk Tides baseball game and highly competitive sports checks.

“It was hard (and) tough because we wanted to make sure there were no slip-ups and no embarrassment from the students,” SJI co-founder Leon Carter said, “because they really had to set the tone for class number two.”

When Rankin arrived at boot camp, the Huntington, W.Va., native relished separating himself from the pack but acknowledged he cracked under pressure once. On a live deadline, he and fellow alum Brian Ettkin wrote a story about the assistant managing editor/sports for The Washington Post, George Solomon, for the APSE Bulletin, but Rankin hardly contributed to the piece. The feeling of not living up to his and SJI’s standards motivated him never to miss a deadline again.

“From that moment forward, I prided myself on being great on deadline,” Rankin said.

Initially wanting to be a commercial artist, where he grew up drawing his favorite athletes like Charles Barkley, Eric Dickerson and Julius Erving, Rankin tried his hand at sports journalism as a junior for the Huntington High School’s Tatler. He interviewed by writing questions on sheets of paper and handing them to his athlete friends for responses. This journey is a testament to his commitment and drive.

All smiles as Duane Rankin celebrates end of the first SJI class with Leon Carter in 1993.

A former track and field athlete, he carries a competitive confidence in the industry, where he strives to outperform himself and his peers. Hip hop group Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without a Pause” is a song that encapsulates his career.

“There’s one line in it, ‘I'll throw it down your throat like Barkley,’” he said. “That song always resonated with me, and that's pretty much my career.”

Rankin took his SJI teachings and applied them to the various teams and players he covered throughout his career. He has covered Tennessee, Clemson, Auburn, Alabama football, West Virginia University men’s basketball, South Carolina track and field and the Erie BayHawks. When journalism turned digital, he embraced the change through his artistic foundation.

“I always was visual,” Rankin said. “(When the transition came), I (could) be visual again. I love video, (and) I had no problem making the adjustment.”

While at the Montgomery Advertiser, Rankin finished first in the 2014 Associated Press Sports Editors multimedia category for his video compilation of Alabama’s Trevor Releford’s 50-footer, Auburn’s Nick Marshall’s game-winning TD pass and G.W. Carver High School’s Antonio Nelson’s half-court buzzer-beater. Rankin brings similar multimedia elements to his coverage of the Suns.

“Duane is one of the best on our staff at being mindful of incorporating multimedia into his stories,” said Chris Coppola, assistant sports editor of the Arizona Republic. “He’s very good at getting those snippets, for lack of a better term, out and posted and then incorporating them into his story.”

In the next chapter of his career, Rankin plans to combine his artistic appetite and love of sports.

“The next phase of my career, I think it’s going to be doing video (and) documentary,” he said. “I truly have a passion for that.”

For the future classes of SJI, Rankins encourages students to be themselves, adaptable and open to criticism.

“If you get selected to SJI, you're somebody, so have confidence in who you are,” he said. “Whatever your personality is and who you are, it's going to come out in your work.”

you might also like