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Vanderbilt’s Franklin At The Podium – 7/17/12

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is stepping in front of the mics and cameras in Hoover, Alabama to close out Day One of SEC Media Days.  A year ago, no one knew much of anything about the former offensive coordinator at Maryland who’d just walked into the SEC’s most trampled-on program.  He used his Media Days debut to show that Vandy had hired someone sharp, quick and confident.  Since last July, he’s continued to be sharp (aside from a goofball statement regarding coaches’ wives needing to be pretty), quick and confident.  To the point of getting under the skin of a number of rival fanbases.

Let’s see what he says to kick off his second SEC season…

* Franklin ran through a long list of new facility improvements coming to Vandy in his opening comments.  He also spoke to the bowl game VU went to in his first season and the media attention his program has gotten.  Then he mentioned Vandy’s improved team GPA.  It was impressive list (though it would have been more impressive if he weren’t a fast-talker a la Dan Mullen and Gary Pinkel).

* Franklin says having so many starters back will be very important for his team this year.  It won’t be a matter of learning new systems.  He is concerned about leaders on his defense.

* “We had just enough success that it whet (the team’s) appetite.”

* As I said during Franklin’s comments last year, the guy knows how to recruit.  I’d sign for him.  The guy could sell an Esdel.

* Asked about the Tennessee rivalry, Franklin said he’s focused on the season opener with South Carolina, calling it a great opportunity for his program to open up with a top 10 program in Nashville on national television.

* Franklin expects quarterback Jordan Rodgers to make a big jump as a second-year starter.

* “If you have a quarterback you have a chance (to win).”  Franklin says the SEC’s depth at quarterback should make for another good year in the SEC .

* The coach says the past isn’t as important to players as the future is.  True or not, that’s exactly how a coach at Vanderbilt should pitch his program.

* “We still have a long ways to go and I understand that, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.”  Franklin said the administration, students, fans and community have to pull the same rope together with his team.

* Franklin suggested that Vanderbilt might have the toughest non-conference schedule in the SEC because it features two BCS opponents — Northwestern and Wake Forest.  Of course, a game with Presbyterian kinda/sorta eats into that claim.

* The coach says the administration has given him exactly the kind of support he expected when he accepted the Vanderbilt job.

* When asked about bad blood between his team and Georgia’s due to last season’s postgame dust-up, Franklin would say only that he and his program had “tremendous respect” for all of the programs and coaches in the SEC.  He did say, however, that when a team plays Vanderbilt, it had better be ready to play from the first whistle to the last.


Our overall grade for Franklin’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 5 on scale of 1-5.  Vandy’s coach may not be as entertaining a speaker as Steve Spurrier, but he’s as good a salesman for his program as there is in the SEC.  If his team can take any kind of step forward at all in 2012, expect bigger name programs to come calling.  ‘Cause he clearly understands the off-field portion of the job.

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Spurrier: If You Spent Four Years At Carolina, “You Were A Good, Solid Citizen”

Steve Spurrier might have gotten one of the biggest laughs of the day accidentally.  Talking about improved depth on his squad, Spurrier said:


“That’s right, back when (this year’s veterans) were coming in, we didn’t have many guys here that had been here.  I remember in ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08, somewhere right in there we might have five guys in their fourth year there.  Nobody stuck around much.  If you stuck around four or five years at South Carolina you were really something special.  You were a good, solid citizen.  (Howls of laughter.)  Now we’re actually talking about redshirting guys.”


Spurrier soon after pointed out that Carolina’s team GPA was as good or better than any other football squad’s in the SEC last year.

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UK Hoops Signee Noel Taking Summer Classes To Boost GPA

Nerlens Noel is the man expected to step right in and replace national Player of the Year Anthony Davis at Kentucky this winter.  But his academic standing continues to be a concern.

In May, NCAA officials looked into Noel’s academic background at Everett High School in Massachusetts.  This after Noel had transferred to the Tilton School in New Hampshire.  Well now Noel is going back to Everett to take two summer courses in order to boost his GPA enough to meet NCAA entrance standards.

Noel is racing against the clock because he reclassified from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2012 earlier this year.  Meaning: He doesn’t have quite as much time to get his academics in order as he would have had he stayed in the Class of 2013.

If/when Noel does become eligible, the high-top fade will quickly replace the unibrow as the most popular use of hair in the Commonwealth.

Stay tuned…

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NCAA Set To Raise Scholarship Values, But That Could Further Drive Expansion

According to USA Today, the move to get athletes a bit more financial support through more valuable scholarships is becoming quite serious:

“A committee weighing a number of potential changes is expected to recommend that the value of individual scholarships be raised by as much as $2,000 in the top tier Division I, moving closer to covering the athletes’ full cost of attending school.  Full grants currently cover only room, board, books and tuition…

Scholarship increases would vary by school, and (Jack) Swarbrick’s committee is proposing a cap: the lesser of an institution’s uncovered costs or $2,000.  The move, if approved next month, wouldn’t be mandatory but subject to adoption by conference.  Amounts for athletes on partial scholarships would be prorated.”

“Hurrah,” many in the national media will shout.  “Finally, some of these millions will be going back to the student-athletes.”  (Jason Whitlock, of course, will say it’s a scam and a pittance.)

But here’s the rub.  The same people who will praise this decision are the very ones who’ve been screaming, crying and whining about conference expansion and realignment.

If only some conferences — SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12, if it survives — can afford to make these changes, they are going to have an even greater recruiting advantage over the have-nots of Division I.  That could lead to several on-the-cusp programs petitioning for acceptance into one of the big money leagues.

Also, if the universities in those big leagues will be tossing out so much extra cash, where will those dollars come from?  Sure they make millions upon millions from television revenue now, but every single dollar is allocated toward something.  For every athlete getting 2,000 extra bones in the years to come, some other area of a school’s budget will take a $2,000 hit.

Unless the conferences sign even bigger television deals in order to create even bigger surpluses of cash.  And how might a conference get earn a bigger TV deal?  By expanding.

You can’t have it both ways.

If you’re an anti-expansion person you shouldn’t spend too much time praising a move to increase scholarship values when that very move will help fuel further expansion and realignment.  And if you’re someone who’s very much in favor of getting these student-athletes some extra cash, you can’t decry the method by which conferences make the cash they’ll then turn around and give back to the athletes.

It’ll be interesting to see the fall-out from this one.

(Sidenote — It also appears that the NCAA will increase eligibility requirements for freshman athletes, raising the GPA in core course from 2.0 to 2.5.  Coaches will scream. 

For those who continue to say that academics have nothing to do with expansion because sports is bigger than academics, pay close attention.  Once again, presidents and athletic directors are putting academics first… and these are the same people voting on which schools to invite into their conferences.)

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SEC Headlines – 8/16/11 Part One

1.  Florida sophomore Ronald Powell hopes to live up to the hype that made him America’s top prospect in 2010.

2.  This writer wonders how is Florida going to us Trey Burton this year.

3.  Gator cornerback Moses Jenkins is finally healthy again.

4.  Despite another scooter-related injury, Mark Richt isn’t banning his players from using them around the Georgia campus.

5.  AD Greg McGarity says scooters are just part of campus life.

6.  Richt is making a concentrated effort to bring more energy and enthusiasm into the Dawgs’ football program.

7.  John Calipari’s Dominican Republic national team whipped a team of ex-Kentucky greats by 18 in a Rupp Arena exhibition last night.

8.  Steve Spurrier bragged about his team’s GPA last night and said that South Carolina’s program “is healthier than it has ever been.”

9.  Ellis Johnson isn’t too worried about his defense… yet.

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Saban At The Podium

Here’s a rundown of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s comments:

* Saban joked that he and Steve Spurrier would like some sort of award for making it to 10+ SEC Media Days.

* Saban made a thanks to people who have tried to help rebuild Tuscaloosa post-tornado — including Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift.

* Saban’s monotone voice at 9:30 in the morning is putting me to sleep. 

* Saban pointed out that his team lost four first-round draft picks and its starting quarterback.

* Saban says his team’s focus is on cleaning up mental errors and improving the fundamentals.

* Saban says football has “cycled back” to more 3-4 than 4-3 defense.  “We actually played 3-4 last year about 20% of the time.  And that’s dictated and determined by the offense that we play.  Because when we play nickel and dime, we’re playing more 40 type defense.”

* Asked about the passion of the Iron Bowl rivalry, Saban said: “I think we have two great institutions and I think we have a lot of wonderful people who support those institutions in a very positive way.  I think our state is very, very important and I think the respect we have for each other is very, very important and in no way should affect the competitive rivalry that we have with each other.  But I also think some of the things that have been negatives are not really good.  And I think there’s just a small number of people who probably, you know, create this on both sides.  So this is not a criticism of one or the other.  And I would like to see fans show class in terms of how we represent our institution and our state and our athletic programs.  And that would be really, really appreciated.”

* Asked about Mike Slive’s idea of multi-year scholarships, Saban said he would like to discuss these issues.  “I don’t fully understand the purpose of some of these things and some of these things we’ve never discussed.”

* Saban said there are a lot of good things in college football and then smacked the idea with a pretty broad statement — “I know there’s nobody in this room interested in writing about positives.”  He then went on to give a passionate story about a player who didn’t have a high GPA in high school, but graduated from college thanks to football and is now a success.  In other words: “Why raise the GPA standards?”

* Asked about the SEC’s success, Slive said it speaks to the quality of the SEC’s national marketing.  “I kind of feel like we’re the national league of college football.  And I think that’s largely what our conference has done, what Mike Slive has done in terms of the TV that we have and things like that.”  Saban also praised the quality of the programs and coaches in the league as well as the quality of players in the Southeast that are available to recruit.

* Asked about an Alabama fan in the lobby who was wearing an “I Hate Auburn” t-shirt, Saban said: “I would tell him that it’s not personal.  That it really isn’t personal.  And that is not really the way we should respect the opponents that we have.”  He added, “I think we can all be a little more respectful to each other and still have just as fierce competition on the field as we’ve ever had and everybody can be very prideful in whatever their accomplishments are. … This kind of behavior sort of develops more of that kind of behavior.  And I don’t think that’s a good thing.”  Good answers.

* Saban said Trent Richardson “probably played his best football of the season when he was in the A-back role” when Mark Ingram was out last season.  The coach said he’s still not likely to hand any back 30 times a game.

* On being picked #1 in the West by the media, Saban said: “You all are a lot smarter than we are as coaches, ’cause I could never pick who’s gonna win the SEC. … From a logical standpoint, I know there’s a couple other teams in our division — forget the league — that have just as many returners starting and their quarterback.  So even though I have a tremendous amount of respect for the intelligence level and your ability to prognosticate — which we really can’t do, I’m not capable of doing — I don’t understand how you come to the decisions that you come to.”

* Saban said: “We have question marks on our team.”

* Saban said linebacker Dont’a Hightower has his “explosive quickness back.”

* Saban said Alabama’s quarterback battle “doesn’t stand anywhere.  It stands like it stands.”  Insightful.  He also said there’s nothing wrong with being a “game manager.”  He feels that’s just part of the job.

* Asked if Slive acts as a dictator, Saban smiled and said: “No, not at all.”  He also said, “I think Commissioner Slive does a really, really good job in our league.  And I think he’s got some wonderful ideas and has had some tremendous input in the direction of college football.  I also thinks that he listens to the input that we have as coaches and carries that to our administrators so that we are represented. … And I think that any intention that he has of anything that he does is for the betterment of our league and of college football.”

* Saban took some good natured shots at Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana.

* Saban is an incredibly sharp guy.  If he’d let his guard down a bit more, he’d probably have a much better reputation in terms of his personality.  But he keeps a wall up that he really takes down.

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