Anything ever come of that article published a week or so ago that claimed Franklin knew about the rape and instructed one of the players to delete the recording of the assault from the players cell phone? Yes, they recorded the rape on a cell phone.
The deed is done. Lane Kiffin is no more. (We’ll pause so Tennessee fans can wipe away their tears of joy.) Now the speculation is churning about who Southern California will hire to replace the one-time up-and-comer. And one name that keeps popping up is Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.
The good news for Vanderbilt is that their coach had so much success in his first two seasons on the job — and recruited so well — that he’s been noticed by darn near everyone in the country. And that list apparently includes Trojans AD Pat Haden.
The bad news for Vanderbilt is that their coach had so much success in his first two seasons on the job — and recruited so well — that he’s been noticed by darn near everyone in the country.
Franklin said all offseason that he plans on being at Vanderbilt for a long time. Any knowledgeable sports fan knows that coaches who say that mean “As of now I plan to stick around for a long time.”
Southern Cal is one of the plum jobs in college athletics. The NCAA sanctions that left Kiffin with just 56 scholarship players this past weekend are going to end soon. Kiffin’s replacement can also enjoy a year or two’s grace period by blaming the ex-Trojan coach for all that ails the Southern Cal program.
Sure, the heat would be turned up on Franklin if he were to trade a Commodore’s hat for a Trojan short sword, but if he continues to win in Nashville the heat will eventually be turned up their, too. Expectations will rise.
Yeah, yeah, “He could go 6-6 forever at Vandy!” Wanna bet? Many VU fans are just as irrational as those zealots you’ll find dotting fanbases everywhere else across the SEC and America.
And speaking of fans, Franklin has on numerous occasions commented on the need for more VU fans to pack Dudley Field and support his program. To date, Vandy can no more sell out games against foes like Austin Peay than anyone else. Only VU’s home arena seats less than 40,000. Not filling a 40,000-seater is the kind of the thing a coach notices.
In case you’re wondering, the LA Coliseum holds 93,000-plus.
Commodore AD David Williams and the administration at VU deserve credit for finally pouring money into their football program. In fact, Vandy can throw cash around like many a big-time public school. But Southern Cal is another private school. A private school with the funds to compete with Texas as the United States’ richest football program. So if Williams tried to ante up, Haden could easily keep raising the stakes.
One other point? Franklin might be looking to distance himself from the rape case that’s left a cloud hanging over Nashville West End all season. Wouldn’t you?
So assuming that Franklin really would “jump at the job” if offered, it becomes clear that he’s pretty much auditioning for the gig this season. His Dores are currently 3-2 with wins over Austin Peay, UMass and UAB. The losses have come to Ole Miss and South Carolina. That’s not too impressive.
The rest of the way Vanderbilt will face Missouri, Georgia, Texas A&M (on the road), Florida (on the road), Kentucky, Tennessee (on the road) and Wake Forest. On the surface, Missouri (who VU beat last year in Columbia), Florida (depending on their depth in November), Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest are all winnable contests. Pull all of those and Franklin would be 8-4 and heading to another bowl game.
And he’d likely remain a favorite for the Southern Cal job.
But if VU backslides this season and can’t register a signature win in 2013, some Trojan boosters might balk at the idea of hiring a Vandy man. LSU went down that road with Gerry DiNardo in 1995 and he lasted just five seasons on the Bayou with a 32-34-1 record.
In some ways, Vanderbilt fans are left in no man’s land — pulling for big wins but knowing that such victories could cost them the best two-year coach the school’s had in generations.
NFL’ers like Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher (ex-Trojan players) are also reportedly in the mix for Haden’s job. A&M’s Kevin Sumlin has had his name tossed around, too. But the one name on every list is Franklin’s. And he’ll spend the next two months trying to prove in Nashville that he’s ready for a premiere job in Los Angeles.