John Adams: Franklin is positive; do Vandy fans really care?

John Adams

HOOVER, Ala. — James Franklin needed only 30 minutes at the SEC media podium to prove sweeping changes are under way at Vanderbilt.

Not once did he mention turkey insemination, as his coaching predecessor, Robbie Caldwell, did last July to the delight of everyone in attendance at SEC Media Days.

Nor did anyone mistake him for Steve Martin.

Former Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson once told reporters at SEC media days a story about being mistaken for the actor by a group of Japanese tourists while he was vacationing in California.

Franklin provided no punch lines Friday — unless you think it's uproariously funny that he would say, "We have an opportunity to do something really special at Vanderbilt."

You might counter that Franklin has a greater chance of being mistaken for Steve Martin than he has of doing something special at Vanderbilt. And he looks less like Martin than Caldwell does a turkey.

In fact, the former University of Maryland assistant coach looks and sounds like someone Vanderbilt should have hired. He appears almost studious while talking as good of a game as you will hear from someone heading up a program that is more apt to end a career than make you coach of the year.

Franklin makes such a compelling case on behalf of his new program, you have to remind yourself that he's at Vanderbilt — and not Stanford, for example — or you might start looking for a spot on the smallest bandwagon in college football.

"We have an opportunity to really distinguish ourselves," he said. "I really believe there's very few schools that are going to be able to compete with us when it comes to recruiting because we have an opportunity to offer things that very few schools can."

He's not referring to the opportunity to play immediately. Instead, he cites a "world-class education," a great city in Nashville and membership in the nation's premier football conference.

He's not breaking new ground there. Every risk taker who ever signed on with the Commodores probably cited the same advantages, all of which are as real now as in any other year when the Commodores were coming off a 10-loss season.

Those advantages routinely have been offset by higher academic standards than its conference competition; a small, antiquated stadium that's better suited for Conference USA than the SEC; and an apathetic fan base that's more out of place in this league than the Vanderbilt players.

Against that backdrop, it's no wonder Franklin has created headlines by securing 12 commitments toward his next recruiting class. The obvious question: Will those commitments hold up through what promises to be another last-place season in the SEC East?

The atmosphere is more discouraging than the record for Vanderbilt football. Opposing team's fans often take over the stadium on game day. That lack of fan support is magnified by the passionate turnouts at every other SEC venue.

"I think the most important thing we can do is put a product on the field that our fan base can be excited about," Franklin said. "That's the most important thing. We're going to do some things facility-wise to create a better home-field advantage as well, give a better game-day experience.

"Everybody has to understand we can't do this alone. We need this fan base to unite like it never has before."

His call for unity is appropriate. But, as he will find out like every Vanderbilt coach before him, it's lost on a fan base that doesn't care.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 11

MikeTheTiger writes:

This guy is exactly what Vandy needed. Reminds me of Bruce Pearl a little...hopefully without the NCAA issues down the road.

tovolny writes:

I don't read John Adams' stuff anymore. He probably hit Vandy hard, while also mentioning some comparisons that put UT in a bad light. Remember, I did not read this. WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE of this kind of article. Is there some people out there that think Vandy competes for the SEC crown every year. If you can tell me what the purpose of the item is, I'll go back and read it.

orangecountyvols writes:

Every new coach says pretty much the same thing....."we're going to do this, or that" etc.

It's all programmed......they know they have to sound like the greatest thing ever at the greatest ever school. Whenever a new coach/manager.........whatever, takes over, all is going to be great.

Franklin is just glad to have the job and all his exuberance is not anything new.

FWBVol writes:

I think John Adams is right on about Vanderbilt in this column. Vandy fans don't really support football, and haven't for decades. Yes, the education is great and Nashville is a nice city, but you can only use those selling points so many times. Yes, Nashville is the biggest city that is home to a SEC school, but Vandy has the smallest alumni base.

While the Tennessee Titans might have hurt UT a little as far as tickets sales go, they probably hurt Vandy more. If I lived in Nasvhille and had a limited football budget I'd dish out my bucks to see the NFL team rather than an inferior Commodore squad.

Stanford can occasionlly make noise in the Pac-12 because the conference isn't as strong top to bottom as the SEC. Plus there are more players in California than Tennessee. Northwestern can do the same in the Big 10 for some of the same reasons.

I'm 53 and have followed SEC football as long as I can remember and never once have I ever heard an opposing coach or TV announcer refer to Vandy as a sleeping giant. Yes, the Commodores will have a winning season once every 10 or 15 years. And now that there are 30 something bowls they might even make to a bowl every 10 or 15 years, but I'll go on record saying I don't think Vanderbilt will compete for a title in the SEC East in football in my lifetime.

Oh, and where is cantstandsaban now that something has been written about his team? Shouldn't he be coming to the defense of Vandy telling us how UT is now the second-rate power in the state and saying that Adams is clueless?

Kelly8 writes:

in response to tovolny:

I don't read John Adams' stuff anymore. He probably hit Vandy hard, while also mentioning some comparisons that put UT in a bad light. Remember, I did not read this. WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE of this kind of article. Is there some people out there that think Vandy competes for the SEC crown every year. If you can tell me what the purpose of the item is, I'll go back and read it.

What was the purpose of this comment? Are you really so ignorant to comment on a story that you admittedly didn't read? He's throwing sarcastic barbs towards Vandy. James Franklin is the one mentioning SEC crowns, so I guess at least one person thinks that. But you wouldn't know that...because you didn't read the article.

bbfn writes:

in response to Unfrozen_Caveman_Volfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

In all honesty, the stadium in Lexington, KY is no better than Vandy's. And they are never more than 75% full, either. Been there several times. And, despite this article, there are some dedicated Vandy fans out there. This year KY, TN and Vandy will all be at the bottom.

pomp_and_circumstance writes:

Shame on you John. Vandys fans are the most astute and passionate in all college football. And they obviously care very much about you. Why else would they vote you the the #1 Sports Writer in Knox County?

vol64 writes:

IMHO, John may be off on this one. If(big if) Vandy starts winning 7 to 9 games a year and is competitive with the big boys in the SEC, I think it will be surprising how big a following they will have especially in the middle and west Tenn. markets.. i can remember when I was growing up in middle Tenn in the 40's and 50's it was hard to find UT fans in the towns I was familiar with. I believe a lot of that latent fan base still exists even after 40-50 years and they only like two things (1) Vandy to win and (2)anything UT to lose.

not_guilty writes:

Is it true that the City of Belle Meade police are giving Vanderbilt tickets to traffic offenders? That multiple offenders get season tickets?

thetrollhunter writes:

Maybe if Vandy had fans they would care.

Voluvr writes:

I couldn't resist becoming a scab crossing my own picket line of not reading Adams articles. However, living in Middle Tenn. my curiosity got me.

Funny, referring to Vandy Coaches as risk takers. I have to give it to Adams on this one. Another problem is that the fan base is composed of fans that would never be accepted as students at the school. Those guys have already shifted their allegiance to the Titans. You can hear on the afternoon radio they still don't know what they're talking about.

Maybe Franklin can get em stirred up over there and get the students to the game before the 3rd quarter. If any Middle Tennessee people are going... leave early...traffic will probably be backed up all the way to Wendy's!

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