I hate to do this to you Vanderbilt. I really do. I have really grown to like you and what you had going on. I like James Franklin and the message that he talks to recruits about. Heck, if I had any eligibility left I’d play for Franklin. Where else in the country can you play top-notch football and get a top-notch education?
That is Franklin’s message and it makes sense. Vanderbilt has made itself relevant on the football field with back-to-back bowls games, by winning nine games for the first time since 1915. I know because we have heard it all summer long.
I recently spoke with Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams and he told me that people laughed at him when he announced that James Franklin was the man he hired to bring this program out of the doldrums. Well know that he has done that everybody wonders aloud how in the world is Vanderbilt suppose to keep maybe the hottest coach in the country.
With the recent sad developments in Nashville surrounding a rape investigation, Franklin has tried to shield his team from the fallout. And he, along with the entire university staff, had done just that until Friday afternoon. The indictment and subsequent suspension of star wide receiver Chris Boyd for essentially attempting to cover up the crime threatens to derail the momentum Vanderbilt football has established.
The fallout from this situation will be harder to shield the team from.
Let’s start on the field. With less than two weeks before the much awaited home opener with Ole Miss in front of a national televised audience, practice was cancelled Friday. That’s at least one day of prep that won’t happen for a game that already was a matchup of two of the upcoming teams in the Southeastern Conference.
Also, Boyd along with Jordan Matthews are/were the best returning receiving duo in the SEC, arguably the country. Yea, they are that good.
They call themselves the “flyboyz” and with new starters at quarterback and running back that duo would have opened the field up for an offense that now must find another weapon to go along with Matthews.
Off the field, that’s the tougher situation.
Do you think anybody is asking the questions: ‘Who’s next?’ ‘Are the police going to come talk to me?’ ‘Do they think I know anything?’ ‘Am I going to have to testify if/when this goes to trial?’
Now I didn’t go to a school as academically tough as Vanderbilt, but I’d imagine you have to concentrate a decent amount of your time on your studies, let alone focusing on what Franklin and his staff expect of you on game day. That’s a lot for 18 to 22 year-old kids to focus on right now.
And that momentum that Franklin and the Commodore football team has built over the past two years? Will recruits—you know the four-star kids that would have never considered Vandy prior to Franklin—will those kids still consider Vandy, let alone choose to go to Nashville.
Which leads to the ultimate question: Is Franklin, who has been contacted by other job opportunities this offseason, willing to stay now? There is/was so much momentum going forward at Vanderbilt you could see it, feel it. I was in the “War Room” during this year’s signing day and the energy there was incredible.
There aren’t too many jobs in college I could see Franklin leaving for, but what if the University of Texas came calling, or another marquee college job? What if Franklin is seen as the next Mike Tomlin and gets offered, oh I don’t know, the Dallas Cowboys job or the Carolina Panthers, should they become available?
Does this legal situation make one of my favorite coaches, the coach who walks into a room and introduces himself to everyone, less relevant? Will the situation contribute to losing all the momentum that he has (Vander)built or is James Franklin that good? Stay tuned Aug. 29 at 9:15 p.m. ET for the first answer to this season-long question.