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Franklin’s Departure From Vandy A Great Reminder: Don’t Put Blind Faith In A Coach

bowing to statueFor the past three years, anytime has claimed James Franklin ran his mouth a bit too much (his aides have to have pretty wives, Nicky Satan, etc), many Vanderbilt fans have rushed to defend him.  Anytime this site has suggested he might leave — who didn’t see him eventually leaving Nashville? — many Commodore fans have tsk-tsk’d us and claimed that we “must just be scared of what he’s building” at VU.

All of that changed on Saturday.

Check Twitter.  Check a Vandy message board.  Check out this lengthy post from, the Rivals site covering the Dores.

In the eyes of many VU supporters, Franklin has gone from infallible god to used car salesman.  From a man others must fear to a man they themselves cannot stand.

We point this out not to mock Vanderbilt backers but to remind everyone that even folks with fancy degrees can fall way too deeply in love with a winning coach.  Franklin was good for Vanderbilt.  He improved the program.  He supplied a blueprint to his replacement.  And he deserved support for it.

But he didn’t deserve blind faith.  No man does.  If more of us remembered that you’d see less rage and pain after a winning coach hits the bricks for a better gig.

Tennessee fans ignored all of the secondary violations, all of the jerkish comments, all of the general nonsense that surrounded Lane Kiffin while he was in Knoxville.  Anyone pointing out that he behaved like a nitwit was “anti-Vol.”  At least until Kiffin left Knoxville less than a month before signing day to take his “dream job” at Southern Cal.  Ironically, Kiffin left UT on a January 10th.  Franklin left VU on January 11th.  Like Franklin, Kiffin went from hero to zero in a matter of hours.

At Florida, anyone daring to criticize Urban Meyer for running a discipline-free program was viewed as a hater, someone who must root for a school that can’t beat Saint Urb.  But then he retired, un-retired, retired again and left Will Muschamp a penal colony to try to clean up.  Finally, when he finished up his “I need to watch my kids grow up” period and landed at Ohio State a whopping one year later — kids grow up so fast these days — many Florida fans arrived at one conclusion: “Hey, this guy won games but he was full of crap.”  Yes, he was.  In fact, most coaches are… because most people are.

Most of us are selfish individuals who’ll say anything to get ahead in life or to make an extra buck.  That may be a sad view of humanity, but it keeps this particular writer from being disappointed when people don’t live up to their word.  If our species is flawed, logic dictates that coaches will be flawed, too.  They’re of the same species (though some of us believe anyone coaching at good ol’ State U. must be an angel rather than a mere mortal).

Franklin, like many a coach before him, begged his school’s fans and administrators for full buy-in.  Vandy ponied up a lot of cash and they admitted a few athletes who might not have been let in to school for previous coaches.  Tens of thousands of Vanderbilt fans got in their cars and drove to Birmingham for a ho-hum January bowl game.  In their view, they bought in fully.

But no matter how many nine-win seasons Franklin had in Nashville, VU is still not a destination job.  Not yet.  That’s not an insult, that’s historical fact.  Vandy fans who’d been convinced by Franklin that their program was as good as any were therefore floored when he chose Penn State over Vanderbilt.  Roll that one around in your head for a bit.  Three years ago, would anyone planted on terra firma have expected a football coach to select Vandy over Penn State?  But Franklin said what coaches say.  Then he won games.  Fans and media fell in blind love with him believing anything he said and defending anything he did.  Commodore fans just didn’t see this coming.

So when it did come and he did leave there was hurt, anger, and scorn.  Consider these snippets from the column linked to above:


“Franklin doesn’t have a neck brace (like Bobby Petrino), but somehow he managed to find a way to leave a school he made into a national power as The Most Hated Man in Town…

For a coach who has never known how to stop talking, the silence coming from Franklin’s Tweet-a-minute camp was deafening…

Those of us who worked around him know why he bailed.  Franklin wanted to work where there was already a built-in fan base with a vast stadium.  He felt he was a big time coach, and big time coaches coach in big time arenas.  To each his own.”


If those aren’t the remarks of a person who feels betrayed this writer doesn’t know what would be.  Suddenly Franklin never knew how to stop talking?  Funny how that changes from a positive to a negative when a coach jets.  If this site or another had written that very same thing a week ago, Vandy fans would have been up in arms.

And the “to each his own” line reveals hurt feelings as well.  The writer of that piece knows full well that there’s not a coach in America who would prefer to work in an unfilled 40,000-seat stadium than in a packed 100,000-seat stadium.  None, zero, zip.  Yet the anger brought on by Franklin’s adios blinds Vandy supporters to that fact.  ”Well if he wants to go to one of the 10-15 best programs all-time, so be it.”  Uh, yeah.

Again, this isn’t to make fun of VU fans or anyone who grew to know Franklin while covering him.  It is simply a reminder that we all need to remember that these guys are human beings with human egos.  If they spot a better gig or a way to make an extra buck, all that we’ll see is a vapor trail in their wake.

They’re not infallible.  They’re not gods.  Most don’t looooooooove their school so much that they’ll turn down better jobs.  They’re people.  And we people are typically out for ourselves.  (Okay, Mark Richt is the exception to the rule.)

So from Columbia, Fayetteville and College Station out West to the other Columbia, Gainesville and Lexington to the East, you SEC fans should root for your coaches and support your coaches.  But don’t put blind faith in them.  If you do you’ll only wind up hurt feelings and rival fans yelling “told ya so” back in your face.  Ya know… like broken-hearted Vanderbilt fans today.



Good sentiment but be serious, Vol fans were still divided about Kiffin the day before he left.


I agree with most of this article, there is no loyalty in coaching. Rich Rod left West Virginia for Michigan once. 

But please note that most Vandy fans were happy for Coach Franklin until he set fire to Vandy's future. Vandy only has 3 recruits still committed with less than 3 weeks until signing day. He talked about players de-committing not being honorable but practically every recruit from Vandy has now done that. The writer of the quoted article on Vandysports does not represent all Vandy fans either. No Vanderbilt Fans wants to go back to 2 win seasons which is what we are looking at for at least the next 3 years. Vandy went from having a top 25 class to have a top 250 class in 2 days. Maybe you can understand the frustration in seeing what was a bright future collapse. No coach is going to want the job now either. At least Kiffin left a top 10 class, and a desirable job for someone. Franklin has left nothing to build on at the toughest job in America.


That he bailed on Vandy doesn't surprise me.  He's a professional coach with an ego and some awareness of reality.  What are the chances  that his achievements at Vandy, whatever they might be in the future, would approach, let alone rival what he could do at Penn State?  What bothers me are the reports that he and his staff are actively recruiting some of the players he recruited to Vandy.  That is dishonorable, and smacks of what Kiffin and Orgeron did after they left Tennessee.  If he has to rob a program like Vandy to succeed at Penn State, then the Lion fans might want to re-evaluate their new hire.  They may have hired the next Lane Kiffen.


Nice  article and a good lesson for all. Just a few observations a few days later when heads have cooled:

1) everyone I know is so thankful for what he did at Vandy. He was just what we needed to start to believe and change our attitudes about what we could, no should, be in football in the SEC. What he gave us is what had to come before the next step. I will always be grateful. While the size of the fan base maybe an issue, no doubt he took the fans and made them crazy fans! Andhow aboutour bowl attendance! Us out of town alums showed up.

2) everyone understands why he went to PSU - he is from Pa. probably his dream as a kid. It just didn't match the dream he told us (to be a legend) and really that is ok too.

3) everyone is hurt and shocked at how he handled his exit. He never said anything to us - thanks for my first job, loved VAndy and Nashville, etc. Pretty common things to do when you leave a job. There is also the issue of what he was doing while on Vandy $ and while he would not tell Williams that he had made a decision, when we knew he had. (Will be interesting to see if more comes on the pay while doing other work) Not just FRanklin, but so many coaches handle the exit terribly - advise to any young folks out there - always say goodbye with thanks, class and kindness.  Also an absolute shock that he instantly got 50% of our recruits to decommit within hours of his speech at PSU. To the credit of more than a few PSU fans, some where a bit concerned about what Franklin was doing to VAndy AND to their existing recruits.  He acted like he was mad at us! and we offered him $50 million. Really very very strange exit.

I think Williams (one of the best Ads by the way) will get us a great coach and we will be fine. I bet some of the 50% of our recruits that Franklin got to decommit come back to Vandy. I thought that if we got 2-3 more years of Franklin and announced the stadium thing (in the works) we would see a big jump in season ticket holders. I still think it will happen this year or next. Wonder if JF will kind of regret that he left one or two year too early.

Anyway nice article John. Love to see your thoughts on poaching. Personally, I'd sayit is fine and normal if its less than say 20% of a class and if there is space in the new school's class. I feel sorry for thePSU recruits that will get dropped to make way for our 10 guys that decommited (if they don't come back to Vandy)

Finally a really funny thought for an SEC site - isn't funny that PSU basically took all the Vandy coaches, staff and recruits. WE ARE…VANDERBILT NORTH. NOT!!! 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


Not from the Vol fans I talked to.  When I wrote or said anything about Kiffin being a loudmouth, I might as well have stepped into a pool with piranhas.  I would actually say that Tennessee fans were quicker to defend Kiffin than Vandy fans were to defend Franklin.  

But I have a different perspective.  If you say something, it's one thing.  If someone in the media tsk-tsks a coach it's a whole different thing.  You have an opinion.  Someone in the media is "on the attack!"

Either way, folks shouldn't put blind faith in any coaches and I think we can agree on that one.

As always, thanks for reading the site,



@vandyfan1 The recruits were committed to Franklin, not the Dores, or they would have remained committed. Franklin is leaving the program better off than when he arrived (the players already on campus are better than those when Franklin arrived). Now Vandy either hires another charismatic coach who will recruit players to play for him (not the school), slides back to ineptness, or builds a SEC athletic department culture. Franklin did what he could with a bad situation for a football coach, and now he will have the chance to see what he can do with a good situation for a football coach. It's not personal. It's a business decision.


@the_voice @vandyfan1  I just don't see it!! The past team was very Senior laden, and the returning players have very little experience. This is a team that was going to fall which is part of the reason JF left. he knew that this team was not going to be very good. Also this team has had 20+ kids de-commit this weekend, and Penn St only has 4 open scholarships and 2 were just taken by former Vandy recruits. No coach is going to want a class of less than 10 in his 1st recruiting class which will be ranked 100+ even if he was here to stay people will instantly claim he can't recruit.  Most of the Frustration with Franklin was he clearly was trying to flip players to Penn St. while under contract with Vandy. That action caused most of them to leave even when there was no room for them at PSU (which is under NCAA sanctions). The writer at Vandysports is the recruiting writer for Vandy and he literally watched a top 20 class disintegrate into nothing. Right now Vandy only has 3 players committed to them (think about that for one minute) Yes they will sign 20 plus kids but most of them will be Sun-Belt level players at best. Of the three remaining one's only other FBS offer besides Vandy was UAB. Everyone else in the SEC is signing NFL players and Vandy is signing High School players. The incoming coach has no chance. Kiffin left a top ten class at UT and everyone hated him for poaching 3 or 4 kids when he left, Franklin can't even sign some of these players yet has turned them against Vandy. It seems he has a vendetta against a school he was working for just last week


@vandyfan1 @the_voice I understand your frustration. What I don't see is Franklin enticing 20 Vandy commits to decommit so he could sign two at PSU. I'm thinking that most of the players decommitting aren't leaving to follow Franklin but instead are leaving because they committed to play for him instead of Vandy and have better options available than going to a Franklin-less Vanderbilt. Football factories hang on to most of their commits because the school is a bigger part of the equation. Thus Tennessee hangs onto most of their recruits when Kiffen leaves and PSU hangs onto most of their recruits when O'Brien leaves.

The timing sucks, but that wasn't something he had control of. When a coach moves from college to the pros or vice versa the timing will suck for where he is leaving and for the chain reaction that follows. When O'Brien left PSU to move to the Texans after the NFL season ended, PSU needed a coach, and wanted a successful college coach this hire. The timing would have sucked for their chosen coach's old school no matter who they hired. If Vanderbilt can unearth another diamond like Franklin, they'll be just fine over the long haul, which is what really ought to matter.


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