Last week, James Franklin tried to let down his hair — bad analogy — and he shared what he now claims was a joke on a Nashville radio station. For those who missed it, he said that he won’t hire an assistant until he sees that the man has a pretty wife which, ha-ha, proves he can recruit. (Ironically, he was led down the path toward that statement by the hosts of the show and they have probably been the biggest the coach’s biggest cheerleaders.)
When Franklin’s quote hit the internet, he quickly backtracked and apologized in a series of tweets. Then Vandy de facto AD David Williams released a statement saying that Franklin’s poor statements were his own and not a reflection on Vanderbilt’s beliefs or policies.
But things didn’t stop there. Some groups wanted Franklin’s scalp — wow, two unintentional hair jokes in one piece — and VU had to get out the word that no disciplinary action would be taken against Franklin.
Meanwhile, a columnist for The Baltimore Sun went so far over the weekend as to say that Franklin’s remarks proved that he is “a sexist” and “just another used car salesman.”
To that we say — duh. Football coaches are football coaches. They’re not diplomats, rocket scientists or brain surgeons (though they make more money than all of those folks). These guys are hired to win football games and the best way to win football games is to sign good players. They’ll say anything and in some cases do anything to ink top talent.
Frankin a used car salesman? Sure he is. But his comment from last week doesn’t prove that. His comment from last week only proves that when made to feel comfortable he can still come across as a stereotypical dumb jock in the media. He’s not the first coach to make that mistake and he won’t be the last.
Franklin has been a controversial figure since arriving in Nashville. He’s had some dust-ups with coaches at Georgia and Tennessee and now he’s put his foot in his mouth with a goofy statement on a radio show that tabs itself as providing more entertainment than credible information. Franklin’s coach has got a little Lane Kiffin in him. So has Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, for that matter. None of those three have shown much fear of saying whatever the heck they want to say, consequences and angered rivals be damned.
That’s why the fans at Tennessee, Vanderbilt and MSU have all loved those guys. And claimed that anyone criticizing them is just scared of their potential. (In Kiffin’s case, Vol fans loved him right up until the time they hated him… it was a split-second flip-flop.)
But saying something goofy, snide, or bragadocious isn’t a fireable offense. And Franklin’s comment was goofy, not heinous or terribly offensive. We’ve all heard worse. If Bobby Knight could survive his comments about rape 20 years ago, the fact that anyone would expect Franklin to catch heat over this recruiting analogy just shows how much times have changed.
Franklin was dumb. The reaction has been dumber.
But here’s betting this won’t be the last time Franklin’s jaws cause him and his Vandy bosses some headaches. He shoots from the lip and he’s fiery. Most likely, he’ll pop off again. Here’s hoping that when that happens, he won’t say something so offensive that he actually deserves the heat that he’s getting over his most recent comments.
The coach is good for Vanderbilt and that’s good for the SEC as a whole. So someone should probably remind Franklin of a line that was stated to George C. Scott’s title character in the movie “Patton,” before he says something that could really do damage to his reputation or his standing — “Remember, your worst enemy is your own big mouth.”