Franklin busy off-field building Vandy traditions
Before James Franklin arrived, Vanderbilt didn’t have much
football tradition when compared to the rest of the Southeastern
Alabama fans cheer ”Roll Tide,” while the Arkansas faithful
call the hogs. Tennessee’s ”Rocky Top” is the song everyone not
wearing orange loves to hate. There’s the Gator chomp at Florida,
tailgating in the Grove at Mississippi, cow bells clanking at
Mississippi State and a rooster crowing at South Carolina.
Even though Franklin has spent the past few months prepping for
Thursday night’s season opener against the ninth-ranked South
Carolina Gamecocks, he’s been almost as busy rallying both players
and fans to stir enthusiasm over the Southeastern Conference’s
smallest and only private school.
Each player must know, and sing, the fight song. The Commodores
join the student section singing the alma mater, and flashing the
thumb and first two fingers for ”V-U” has become their own high
five. It’s been a big change for the Commodores.
”We didn’t really know the song,” senior defensive tackle Rob
”A lot of people didn’t realize what it was all about. Knowing
the song now and being able to like sing it after a game in the
locker room with the team and also singing the alma mater with the
fans after the game … that’s a big thing for us because it’s a
big deal not only because we feel we can get involved with the fan
base but also with the student body, which they are our peers. They
are people we go to class with.”
Franklin made his presence known first on the field where he
guided Vanderbilt to a 6-7 record in 2011 and only the program’s
fifth bowl berth ever. That earned him a pay raise in a contract
extension, and he pushed for improvements to the stadium where new
video boards and a hillside berm in one end zone will be on display
Ground should be broken for an indoor practice facility later
this year, and all the changes are starting to be noticed.
”They are trying to play football at Vanderbilt, they really
are,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. ”They have spent
the money. When we decided we wanted to play here at South
Carolina, we started spending the money, building all kinds of new
facilities, and that’s what they are doing.”
Franklin mimicked Tennessee’s ”Vol Walk” to the stadium before
games by having his Commodores get off buses and walk through the
Vanderbilt tailgate area on their way to the locker room. Franklin
placed an anchor Commodores carry across the street over to the
stadium for games now has a resting place of honor inside the main
He added ”Vanderbilt” back to the front of the jersey for this
season, something that had been missing since 1994.
Look at any of Franklin’s tweets, the phrase (hash)AnchorDown
usually is at the end. The phrase even is sewn into the inside of
each jersey near the neck and is on the new artificial field inside
the stadium. And Vandy fans also shared photos of themselves
throwing up the ”V-U” sign trying to help promote that.
Franklin says they have done a lot but shares the credit with
his coaches, players, administration, alumni and fans.
”It’s very, very important to lay a foundation for what you
want the future to be and what you want it to look like. Branding I
think is very, very important. Our colors, the star V. We have
strong colors. We have a strong emblem, so I think all those things
are important. And I think building a sense of pride of who we are
and what we represent is very, very important, and it’s something
that brings us all together,” Franklin said.
”Whether you’re in California or New York or London and you see
somebody wearing the star V, you have something in common with
them. I think all those things are very important in building a
sense of pride of who we are and what we represent is the most
Strong safety Javon Marshall says he didn’t know the words to
the fight song ”Dynamite” before Franklin arrived. Freshmen now
must learn the words and be able to sing it.
”Really coach Franklin did a great job of coming in here and
re-establishing traditions,” Marshall said. ”Probably my favorite
one is the fight song. I like the fight song a lot. Beforehand we
didn’t really know it, and he came in and he installed pride in us
to sing the fight song. We sing it with pride. We have a great
time. If you see some of the videos, we have a great time singing
Now Franklin’s next challenge is making sure that winning
seasons become another Vanderbilt tradition.
AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., contributed
to this report.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker