James Franklin: A great hire for Vanderbilt

Published Dec. 20, 2010 7:27 a.m. ET

By Don Yates
December 20, 2010 

On Friday afternoon Vanderbilt named James Franklin its 27th head coach. Franklin looked impressive, handling himself well while addressing a room full of media. While some, even Scout.com�s own Matt Zemek, may frown on the hiring of Franklin-- I feel that Vanderbilt has scored touchdown with its new head coach.

Zemek wrote that Franklin was like �bologna� but I believe Franklin was more like a T-bone steak. When has Vanderbilt ever stolen a head coach in waiting from another BCS school? The answer is never. Gus Malzahn may be a fine head coach someday but he wasn�t a head coach in waiting. There had to be something the previous Maryland athletic director liked about Franklin to name him as a head coach in waiting. We saw what that athletic director valued in Franklin on Friday when he was introduced to the Vandy Nation.

Word was out that Franklin was an outstanding recruiter before he was formally introduced on Friday. Before the press conference doubts lingered because you can call any coach a good recruiter if they�ve found a good player or two. However, after the press conference it�s obvious that Franklin has exceptional people skills that will help him gain the respect of potential recruits. Franklin was right when he said, in the NFL you only get one first round draft pick a year but in college you can sign as many of you want. Vanderbilt needs to get more of their share of outstanding players and I think Franklin will help it get those players.

One of the trademarks of Vanderbilt over the past few years has been the poor or inconsistent play of its quarterbacks. Other than Jay Cutler, who�s been gone for five years now, Vanderbilt just hasn�t gotten solid production out of its quarterbacks. One thing that jumped out at me when looking over Maryland�s 2010 statistics was that the Terps starting quarterback had thrown 21 touchdown passes but only 6 interceptions. I was even more impressed when I found out that that quarterback was a freshman. Franklin knows a thing or two about playing quarterback because he played at that position in college where one season he passed for over 2,500 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Franklin will be an excellent ambassador for Vanderbilt football. Franklin is a sharp, well-dressed man who will represent the Vanderbilt program with poise and confidence. Just as Franklin will come off in a convincing manner to prospective athletes, he will impress prospective new fans in a similar manner. One group of fans that Vanderbilt has yet to tap into is the black community of Nashville. Tens of thousands of blacks live within a few miles of Vanderbilt stadium yet we see very few of them at the games. In the future I expect to see more racial diversity in Vanderbilt stadium.

Zemek seems to think that Vanderbilt should be worrying about how other SEC schools respect them writing, �Vanderbilt�s competitors don�t respect the program�. The truth is that the rest of the SEC should be worrying about respect as well. Off the field transgressions by the other eleven member school�s players are frequently in the news. As I write this column multiple SEC programs are under the magnifying glass and being investigated for possible rules violations. Vanderbilt�s top administrators announced on Friday that they plan to get serious about winning in football. It would be fitting for the rest of the SEC to make an announcement to show more of an emphasis in the honor and integrity department.


Zemek also writes that Malzahn turned down Vanderbilt and infers that Vandy should be embarrassed. There are plenty of quotes of Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams saying that Malzahn wasn�t offered a deal but I have yet to see a quote where Malzahn says he turned down Vandy. Williams is a professor of law at Vanderbilt. I don�t think he�s lying when he says Malzahn was never offered a deal.

Zemek also said that �Vandy is where coaching careers go to die� which not true. Gerry DiNardo moved on to LSU after four years at Vandy in the early 1990s and later coached at Indiana. Steve Sloan coached at Texas Tech and Ole Miss after coaching at Vanderbilt. Watson Brown was the head coach for 12 years at UAB after coaching at Vandy and is now at Tennessee Tech. Just a few years ago Bobby Johnson was reportedly offered the head position at Duke but turned it down to stay at Vandy.

No, Vanderbilt hasn�t been very successful in the win-loss column but athletic directors have taken some things into consideration when looking at Vanderbilt coaches to fill positions. In fact, recently outgoing Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bruce Fowler was named as a head coach at FCS Furman.

Franklin doesn�t need to win a national championship or even an SEC title to be considered successful at Vandy. He just needs to win and win the right way.