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WWJD – Imagining James Franklin As Coach Of Kentucky Wildcats

Tyler B.

WWJD – What Will James Do?

 “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away to a better SEC location we knew it was a sin to lock them up in the first place. Vanderbilt is that much more drab and empty that he’s gone.”

-         ” Red” from Shawshank Redemption

-          Vanderbilt A.D… Oh, wait.

James Franklin won’t be in Nashville next year because he’ll be in Lexington. He’ll be there because against all odds he’s putting a winner on the field and only about 30,000+ people care. This year Vandy is one play from beating UGA and a missed 29-yard field goal from taking Arkansas into overtime. Disregard the Florida five-point loss on the road or hanging tough at Alabama for 44 minutes. They’ve played one bad game all year, at USC, and mauled once basement bunkmate, Kentucky, by 30 at home. A potential UT victory is enough proof for me that he’s legit. It’s a small sample size from which to hire a coach, but when have SEC fans ever looked at the big picture? As it stands the picture of UK football is John Calipari.

Franklin’s raised a few brows during his short time as the Vandy coach, but his good work has not surprisingly been overshadowed by the negativity surrounding Muschamp, Richt, Dooley, Nutt and Mullen. A list nobody wants to get buried under, what’s the ceiling and the incentive for Franklin to stay?  A bigger contract and a few extra thousand fans? If he stays it’s a feel good story that doesn’t end well, and as we all know, almost nothing ends well for a head coach in the SEC.

Could Franklin stay put for 2012 and take advantage of another “down year” in the SEC East to improve his stock, even though he’ll have a much younger team? You bet. But if Franklin wants to stay in the SEC there’s never been a better time to leave and there isn’t a better place to go than Kentucky. Think about the head coaching changes that could easily happen within the next two years: Richt could be gone… Dooley could be gone… Spurrier could retire… Muschamp’s still figuring out his mess… Vandy will have a new coach and returns to the Vandy SEC fans all know and love. Think about that for a minute…

This means another year or two of SEC East transition and who will take advantage of it? USC was the benefactor in 2010, and UGA 2011, so who will it be in 2012 or 2013? The University of Kentucky will take advantage of it, that’s who.

UK football isn’t a diamond in the rough. Famous for its horses, UK football is more like a diamond buried deep in an ever-growing pile of horse manure. But UK is a diamond that can be found and Franklin has proven he isn’t scared to get his hands dirty. UK football has Vanderbilt expectations but all the ingredients to annually be a fringe top-25 team. When Franklin takes over the UK job I expect them to reach Atlanta by 2014.

I was a genius when I wrote 2+2 = 4. I was a fortune teller when I wrote that the sun comes up every morning. I was correct when I wrote at the start of the season Bama’s defense will go down as the best defense in the history of college football. Now you can go ahead and add James Franking being the coach at UK next year to that list.

Full disclosure: I wrote earlier this year on this site about why UK would never win in football.  But after watching seven Vandy games this year, and thinking about Franklin as the UK coach, is when I changed my tune. Program expectations are now so incredibly low that it almost touches the other end of the spectrum, and this might actually be one of the best jobs in the country for the right guy. A guy like James Franklin. He’s a perfect fit for UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart – something UK fans know is extremely important – and Barnhart will crawl to Nashville to get him. No “big time” school is ready to take a chance on Franklin just yet, so Kentucky moves first and is rewarded for doing so.

Talking Points from James Franklin’s first UK Presser:

  • First of all we’re going to fight. I want to make sure everybody understands that. We’re not going to sit back and take it from anybody. Those days are long gone and they’re never coming back – ever.
  • We will play a style of football that will win in this league and not some gimmicky style that has a shelf life. I don’t have an odd fascination with pirates or treasure maps.
  • There wasn’t a transition period for me at Vandy and there won’t be one here. We’re going to win now and we’re going to be winning when I’m here in 10 years.
  • We rank in the top-25 of national attendance figures and our fans deserve better than what they are paying for. And when we are in the hunt for an SEC title berth in November there is no stadium big enough in this country that we couldn’t sell out.
  • Everyone knows how passionate UK basketball fans are … If you build it they will come.
  • I left Vandy with a top-25 recruiting class coming in – the first time that’s ever happened – and I expect that trend to continue with the resources I now have at my disposal.
  • We’re going to tap into the fertile Ohio recruiting scene which is something we’ve never done here.
  • I know our enemy.
  •  Now let’s go play some damn ball.

Wildcat fans, it is with great honor that I introduce you to your new head football coach.

Tyler B. works as a communications specialist for a Louisville, Kentucky company.  A lifetime SEC fan – long before it became “acceptable” to cheer for every team in the conference – he plans on writing several books about college football that have a fantastic chance of never being written. 



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UK needs to put some serious money and commit heavily to getting Mike Leach back at UK. I respect what Coach Brooks did but Leach was the real mastermind behind UK's exciting offense in 1997-1998. I would love to see UK become the next Oregon but it won't happen in the SEC. I loved the high scoring late 90's teams and fans will get behind a fun team to watch. Yeah we had no defense then but it sure was entertaining to watch. Leach helped that team break almost every UK record and several SEC records as well. I hope he does not go to Ole Miss!

J. Gott
J. Gott

Ok, UK fan here, and I agree with the sentiment of this article. UK, is not some big dog in the world of football, but they have shown some flashes of growth here and there. Coach Brooks came here with UK on probation (no one would take the job then), and totally turned the program around. They have been to 5 straight bowls (Vandy has been to 4 in there entire history!) winning 3 of 5. UK is Top-25 in attendance every year, and is top-20 in profitability. Our facilities, while they are not up to 'Bama or Tennessee's standards, are a ton better then Vandy's, Heck, I mean even UK had a long winning streak against Vandy, before this years game.
Anyone that needs an example of a good coach that goes to a stalled program, can look at Spurrier at South Carolina. Before he went to S.C. they were extremely bad (look in the SEC's history and they are the 2nd worst in win-loss ratio). Spurrier has turned them around, and he was a more farfetched possibility then Franklin going to UK! I love Franklin, for he has taken the 2 and 3 stars that Vandy has, and has made them competitive with some of the best teams in the country (thats called development and preparation, Joker)! On top of that, he has a Top-25 recruiting class coming in that has a host of 4-Stars in it.
Uk would be smart to go after hi, but Joker will get 1 more year to disappoint, so this is a moot point.

Tyler B
Tyler B

A billion-dollar endowment has nothing to do with it, but I understand your point... He's already hit the ceiling at Vandy whether you choose to believe that or not. If he wins at UK for a few years, I expect him to leave UK and get a call from the big boys. How's a resume look if taking Vandy and UK to new heights look?


Kentucky is far from a dream job. Franklin would never leave Vandy for Kentucky; a lateral move at best.


How exactly has he reached the ceiling with Vandy when he has maybe the best recruiting class ever for Vandy coming in and a better than usual recruiting class that is mostly redshirting at this point?


I wouldn't really call it a lateral move. Kentucky is by no means a power, but at the same time no one is shocked when they make a bowl game. Assuming Vandy gets 6 wins this year then that will be their 2nd bowl birth in the last 30 years.

Franklin could probably get paid more at UK as well. Like the author said, Vandy is as good this year as they've been in a good while and hardly anyone cares.


It would be Vandy's 2nd bowl trip in 4 years.


Vandy's billion dollar endowment says otherwise.


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