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SEC Hoops Roundup 11/26/2013

gfx-hoops-round-up1. California 85 – Arkansas 77.  Razorbacks open the Maui Invitational with their first loss of the year.  Arkansas gets career-high 21 points from Michael Qualls.

2. Vanderbilt 77 – Loyola Marymount 68. Vanderbilt finishes in fourth place at the Paradise Jam.  Kyle Fuller led Vandy with 19 points.

3. Kentucky 68 – Cleveland State 61. Late rally puts UK over the top. Cats trailed by 10 points with seven minutes left in the game. Video Highlights

4. Florida 86 – Jacksonville 60. Scottie Wilbekin returns to the lineup for the Gators.  Dorian Finney-Smith posts his first double-double for Florida. Video Highlights

5. Missouri 78 – IUPUI 64Career-high 24 points for Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson adds 22.  Antlers ejected for second straight game. Video Highlights

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SEC Hoops Roundup 11/24/2013

gfx-hoops-round-up1. Missouri 72 – Gardner-Webb 63. Mizzou freshman Johnathan Williams III pulls down 17 rebounds.   Some Missouri fans ejected for a “pattern of unruly behavior.”

2. Vanderbilt 75 – Morgan State 66. Kyle Fuller scores 16 points for the Commodores.  Vandy plays Loyola Marymount on Monday.

3. Auburn 75 – Murray State 67. Chris Denson finishes with 23 points – he’s the SEC’s leading scorer.

4. Utah State 87 – Mississippi State 68. On the road, Bulldogs lose their first game of the year.  Coach Rick Ray: “First and foremost they (USU) can shoot and we can’t.”

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Vandy’s Franklin Doesn’t View Tennessee Series As A Rivalry Yet

gfx - they said itTwelve months ago, James Franklin led Vanderbilt to a 41-18 rump-kicking of cross-state big brother Tennessee.  It was the coach’s first win over the Vols and the Commodores’ second since 2005.

Bigger picture?  Vandy has still dropped 28 of their past 30 games with Tennessee.  For that reason, Franklin isn’t ready to call the series a rivalry just yet:


“People call it a rivalry.  I don’t think it’s at that point.  It hasn’t been as competitive as it needs to be to be considered a rivalry.  But I know a lot of people are excited about this game.

I think it’s good for the state (if it becomes a rivalry).  I think it’s good for Vanderbilt.  I think it’s good for Tennessee.  I think it’s good for the SEC.  You’d love for it to be a rivalry, and those games are fun because there’s so much riding on it.”


Good for the Dores and good for the SEC, sure.  But it’s unlikely Franklin would find too many Vol fans who’d view a UT/VU “rivalry” as a positive development.

In addition to whipping Tennessee last year — and ending the tenure of Derek Dooley who was axed after the game — Franklin’s team took the Volunteers to overtime in 2011 before losing.  He also had a bit of an R-rated exchange with some heckling UT fans as he exited Shields-Watkins Field on that occasion.  Saturday will mark his second trip to Neyland Stadium.  And it will also be an opportunity for him to capture Vandy’s seventh win of the season while simultaneously snuffing out Tennessee’s bowl hopes.

For a Vanderbilt coach, it wouldn’t get much better than that.


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Lawyers Seek Coaches’ Texts In Vandy Rape Case

Vanderbilt_Franklin_Football_0d0c5This one’s just not going away, folks.

Tony Gonzalez of The Tennessean reports that “a new court filing in the case against four former Vanderbilt University football players charged with rape seeks evidence of text messages sent by coaches that lawyers for one of the ex-players think could shed light on what happened.”


While there have been rumors and speculation that coaches might have been involved in or had knowledge of the players’ attempted cover-up of the crime, this is the “first suggestion in court proceedings that members of the Vanderbilt staff might have had some level of involvement in the incident that would be relevant to the criminal investigation.”

According to the attorneys for ex-Commodore player Brandon Vandenburg, they have not been given access to all of the evidence in the case including “text messages from witnesses and coaches.”

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and VU athletic director David Williams declined comment on the court filing yesterday.  Vandy spokesperson Beth Fortune said via statement: “The issues raised by the latest court filing are a matter for the court to determine.  Vanderbilt has no role.”

In no way should this filing be taken as proof that Franklin or any of his assistants knew of the rape or attempted in any way to help their players cover-up the assault.  However, it does suggest that Vandenburg has informed his attorneys that he or someone else involved in the crime did have some level of text communication with “witnesses and coaches.”  The lawyers for Vandenburg could have easily said “witnesses” only.  Instead, the filing refers specifically to text messages from coaches as well.  It’s possible they could be fishing, but it’s more likely they believe some coach(es) spoke to some player(s).

It is hard to imagine employees at Vanderbilt attempting to aid in the cover-up of a crime, especially after the media tsunami that engulfed Penn State so recently.  At the same time, we are talking about human beings.  Human beings put into stressful situations sometimes do incredibly stupid things.  Pressure busts pipes, as they say.

For Franklin, this court filing couldn’t come at a worse time.  His team could finish 8-4 on the season (with wins over Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest) and go bowling for a third consecutive year.  But this will serve as yet another distraction that must be overcome (both during the season and on the recruiting trail).  Also, Franklin’s name has been mentioned in connection with the opening at Southern Cal, one of the top five jobs in America at a school with a bigger endowment than even Vanderbilt.

Whether Franklin or his staff had any involvement in this horrible incident or not, the mere possibility could cause Pat Haden and other ADs looking for a new coach to cross the name of Vandy’s man off their list.

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SEC Gameday Links: High Noon Affairs 11/9/2013

gameday-links-150x150Vanderbilt at Florida

1. Both these teams are 4-4 and starting a backup quarterback.  Gators have a 22-game winning streak against the Commodores.

2.  Key for Vanderbilt – not falling behind early.  Vandy outscored 42-0 in the first quarter of last two SEC road games.

3. Vandy knows the Florida defense will be a challenge.  Coach James Franklin: “They are as good up front as anybody we have seen…”

4. Banged-up Gators will start their sixth different offensive line combination today.

Missouri at Kentucky

5. Missouri is one of only two top 10 teams – Ohio State the other one – to lose its starting quarterback for multiple games this season.

6. What will it be today for the Tigers – Maty Mauk, James Franklin or both?

7. Kentucky wants to get creative on defense to keep Missouri off balance.

8. Tigers defensive line poses a challenge for the Kentucky offense.  ”They have the fastest D-line that we’ve played,”

Auburn at Tennessee

9. Auburn’s running game is in a groove – 1,545 rushing yards the last five games.

10. Auburn defense will have to contain Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs – Tigers defense struggled against mobile quarterbacks early in the year.

11. Tennessee needs a better effort from its offensive line after failing to rush for 100 yards against Missouri last week.

12. In 2009, it was first-year coaches Lane Kiffin and Gene Chizik facing off.  This year, it’s Butch Jones and Gus Malzahn.

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Vandy Rape Case Not Going Away; Prosecutor (A Tennessee Fan) Says He’s Not Protecting The Dores’ QB

investigationIt’s a story that both Vanderbilt officials and fans must be praying will finally come to an end.  But thanks to a new report on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” last summer’s rape case is back in the headlines.

Four Vanderbilt football players — since booted from the team — stand accused of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery for a sexual assault in a Vandy dorm last June.  One of those players also faces charges of unlawful photography and tampering with evidence.  All four have pled not guilty, though one is now open to a plea deal, according to his attorney.

A fifth Commodore player — receiver Chris Boyd — was also dismissed from the team when he admitted to helping cover up the rape as part of his own plea bargain.

During Boyd’s plea hearing in September, texts from the former receiver were read aloud in court.  One of them identified now-injured Vandy quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels as having taken part in the cover up.  Boyd’s message said: “me Carta and Vanderwal and Vandenburg helped us move her out of the hallway.”  The unconscious girl was lying in the hall of a Vanderbilt dorm when she was moved by the group of players.

Dillon van der Wal is a Vanderbilt tight end.  Brandon Vandenburg was one of the four players dismissed from the team after being charged with taking part in the rape.

Van der Wal has one catch on the season.  Carta-Samuels was injured in the Georgia game and missed last week’s game at Texas A&M.

Continuing with the back story, four days after Boyd’s hearing the Davidson Country DA’s office said: “based upon the evidence collected to date, Boyd wrongly identified student Austyn Carta-Samuels as someone who participated in helping move the victim.  Carta-Samuels and Dillon van der Wal are both listed as witnesses in the rape case against four former Vanderbilt students.  Van der Wal and another student were involved in moving the victim from the hall to a dorm room, but that act alone does not constitute a crime.”

Confused yet?  Well, so is just about everyone else.

How or why would Boyd — a receiver — misidentify Carta-Samuels — a teammate and his quarterback?  Why is Carta-Samuels listed as a witness if he was not involved?  Why so much focus on Carta-Samuels when another player — van der Wal — is still on the team after helping to move the victim?

Those issues and a “possible coverup” were the focus of this piece from “Anderson Cooper 360.”

Asked point blank in the report if the DA’s office is protecting Carta-Samuels, Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman laughed off the idea before saying, “Matter of fact, I’m a Tennessee fan so I wouldn’t be protecting a Vanderbilt quarterback.”

Thurman also said that he believes he knows how/why Boyd sent his “incorrect” text.  He said that information will eventually come out during the trials of the four ex-Commodores accused of rape.

Until then, the DA’s decision to maintain secrecy in this case — specifically with regards to Carta-Samuels’ possible involvement — will only ensure that the story won’t go away and that questions will continue to be asked.

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Refs From Georgia / Vandy Game Could Face Discipline

Those who watched Saturday’s Georgia/Vanderbilt game likely walked away scratching their heads over the NCAA’s new targeting rule.  Twice the officials on hand seemed to be off-base with regards to the spirit of the rule.

At the very least.

Example One: Bulldog linebacker Ramik Wilson made a clean shoulder-to-chest hit on Vandy receiver Jonathan Krause yet was flagged for 15 yards and ejected for targeting.  The booth official “un-ejected” Wilson upon replay review, but 15 yards were still marched off against the Dawgs:


Ramik Wilson lays Big Hit on Vanderbilt Receiver


Example Two: Georgia defensive end Ray Drew was flagged for targeting and ejected for what appears to be an accidental helmet bump of VU quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels’ facemask:


Georgia's Ray Drew Ejected On Worst Targeting Call Ever


Ask a dozen refs if “intent” has anything to do with the NCAA’s new targeting rule and you’ll get a dozen answers.  The fact of the matter seems pretty simple from this front… if the rule is to be called “targeting,” intent has to be present.  You don’t accidentally “target” someone.

But then again, we said all summer that this rule would be a no-win scenario for officials, coaches and players, none of whom seem to view the rule in the same way.  And you can toss in the booth officials as well, as they’ve overturned too many ejections to count.

Quite naturally, Georgia’s Mark Richt and AD Greg McGarity have spoken with SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw and “other league administrators” about the two targeting calls that went against them in Saturday’s 31-27 loss.  McGarity told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chip Towers (one of the SEC’s best reporters, by the way) that UGA follows “protocol” and “conversations that the AD or coach have with the league office are confidential and always verbal.”

Towers points out that SEC officials have their work reviewed on a regular basis.  If the SEC and Shaw come to believe the officials in Nashville last weekend erred, those men could face disciplinary action.  They could be suspended.  They could be let go at the end of the season.  Or they could be passed over when it comes to bowl assignments.

Unfortunately, most officials would probably tell you that they didn’t want the targeting rule changed in the first place.  It’s just another bang-bang judgement call for refs to make, only this one has greater consequences thanks to the ejection portion of the rule.

The idea behind the rule — no head-hunting, player safety — is a sound one.  The wording of the rule is lacking.  The execution has been worse.

We suggest now — as we did last summer — that the NCAA adopt two separate rules to cover this helmet-to-helmet issue.

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Georgia’s Richt Not Worried About Bringing Up 2-Year-Old Grantham/Franklin Feud Before Vandy Game

Georgia and Vanderbilt meet this week in Nashville.  The Bulldogs are trying to rally despite a raft of injuries.  The Commodores are looking for their first SEC win.

But one story to watch is the rekindling of the fire that once burned between Vandy coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.  In 2011, Grantham was upset by a Commodore player actions after a 33-28 UGA win:


Todd Grantham goes nuts! UGA vs. Vandy 2011


James Franklin response in his postgame presser set the tone for his program in what was then Year One:


James Franklin Press Conference – Georgia 33, Vanderbilt 28


But that was two years ago.  The Dawgs pounded Franklin’s Dores 48-3 last year in Athens.  The brouhaha of 2011 is ancient history.  Right, Mark Richt?  Right?


“I don’t know how many guys are still around, but anything we can use to motivate, I’ll be all for that.  Right now we’ve got to find a way to get better in blocking and tackling and doing the fundamental things that it takes to win…

There’s an emotional part of the game that you want to get guys in a mental frame of mind where they are excited about playing the game.  I don’t know if that will be the thing, but we’ll be trying to figure out something to get them going because it’s been a pretty long haul in between open dates.  There’s been a lot of bumps and bruises along the way.”


Hmmm.  Sound like this rivalry could get a bit snippy all over again.

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Missouri 51 – Vanderbilt 28 (Video)

Watch video highlights of the Missouri 51-28 victory over Vanderbilt.  Tigers move to 5-0 and 1-0 in conference.  Vandy drops to 0-3 in the SEC and 3-3 overall.


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Vandy’s Franklin Listed By Just About Everyone As A Candidate At Southern Cal

James-Franklin-contemplativeThe 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.


“He has won at Vanderbilt and made the brand recognizable in a conference that has swallowed the program whole for the better part of a century.”

“Franklin remains one of the more impressive young coaches in the country, so USC could make this hire looking at not just the next two or three seasons but the next decade.”

“Franklin is also an excellent recruiter and would energize a fanbase that was turned off by Kiffin.”

“My sources say if offered, Franklin would jump at the job.”

“Here’s who I believe are five candidates that USC will consider to replace Lane Kiffin… 1. James Franklin, Vanderbilt.”


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?

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