August 12th, 2013 12:15 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Jerry Reed, Middle Tennessee, recruiting, Vandy
It’s as if rival SEC fans were just waiting for a Vanderbilt player to step out of line. James Franklin — to paraphrase a Jerry Reed song — has pretty much done what they say can’t be done. He’s turned VU into a decent football program. And many outside of Nashville suspect the Commodore coach must have been cutting some corners in order to accomplish that feat.
In a worst-case scenario for Vandy, four players have been dismissed from the team, arrested and charged with five counts each of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. This isn’t a run-of-the-mill fistfight, a stolen motorscooter or a boating offense on a Middle Tennessee waterway. It’s a heinous crime. The kind that draws media attention from all across the nation.
Armed with such an ugly story and already feeling as though Franklin must’ve been doing something naughty to turn Vandy around so quickly, many, many rival fans have suggested via messageboards and call-in radio shows that the young coach has started to recruit a different kind of player to the West End. Put simply: A lot of people believe this case proves that Franklin is recruiting bad boys in order to win.
In reality it proves no such thing.
Oh, we might eventually find that Franklin is taking a few more chances on character as is being claimed, but one horrible episode shouldn’t be enough evidence for a conviction even in the court of public opinion. There’s not a football program in the Southeastern Conference that hasn’t dealt with its own share of unseemly behavior and high-profile arrests over the years. When you bring together 85 to 100 teenagers from all corners of the country and from all sorts of economic backgrounds, there’s no way of projecting who might go astray.
If we begin to see a string of arrests from within the Commodore program, fine. Then everyone will have a bit more ammunition to hurl at Franklin. But as bad as this particular incident is… it’s still just one incident.
That means it’s time to dial down the “he’s recruiting thugs” talk.
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