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VU’s Franklin, Mascot Celebrate Bowl Eligibility With Cheesy Song

When you become bowl eligible in back-to-back years for the first time in school history, there’s reason to celebrate.  And celebrate Vanderbilt did last Saturday after it’s 27-26 win at Ole Miss.  At 6-4, the Commodores are the leading candidates for the Music City Bowl and could actually rise higher — doubtful, but possible– in the bowl pecking order with a very possible 8-4 finish.

As usual, the VU athletic department leads the way in pumping out videos to promote its football program.  Below you can watch the pregame, game and postgame highlights from Vandy’s win… or you can skip right to the 5:30 mark where James Franklin picks up and carries the Commodore mascot into the jubilant Vanderbilt locker room.

 

Vanderbilt reVealed: Ole Miss game

 

This Vanderbilt team overcomes adversity.  This Vanderbilt team wins on the road.  This Vanderbilt team finds ways to win, no matter what.”

Whether you believe the message or not, you gotta hand it to Vandy, Franklin and the school’s promo department for knowing how to sell an exciting message to recruits.

With the exception of the cheesy song from The Script, this clip’s about pitch perfect.

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Report: VU’s Franklin Won’t Talk To NC State

North Carolina State head coach Tom O’Brien has his team at 6-4 and — at least publicly — he still has a job.  Unless the coach has been told behind the scenes that he’s finito, it wouldn’t be kosher for NCSU athletic director Debbie Yow to be making contact with any coach… not even the coach she once named Maryland’s coach-in-waiting before she left for Raleigh.

Still, VandySports.com — the Rivals site covering Vanderbilt — is reporting that Franklin has been approached by someone on behalf of NC State and that he’s shown no interest in the Wolfpack job:

 

“According to a source close to the Vanderbilt athletics program, VU head football coach James Franklin has turned down the opportunity to speak with North Carolina State about its head football coaching position.”

 

You’ll need to buy a subscription to the read the rest of VandySports’ report.

As we noted yesterday, Franklin should think long and hard before leaving Vanderbilt (if he’s given that chance).  The knee jerk response from most folks is that a coach should jump on the first train out of Nashville the first time the first time a bigger program comes calling.  But the reality is that a coach who has any amount of success at a school like Vanderbilt, Northwestern or Duke can stay put and be a hero there for quite some time.

Gary Barnett left Northwestern and Gerry DiNardo left Vanderbilt only to find that the expectations are a lot higher elsewhere.  Steve Spurrier — who left Duke for Florida — is an example of how moving on from a school with high academic standards might work out in one’s favor.

At the very least, Franklin should — and, of course, would — weigh all his options before blindly hitting the eject button at Vandy.  He and Bobby Johnson before him have led the Commodores to three bowl games in five seasons.  That should prove that VU can be competitive even in the SEC.  How much easier/better would life be at a school like NC State where the Wolfpack has been bowl eligible five times in the last eight years?

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Northwestern’s Fitzgerald Rips Vandy For Last-Minute Back-Out

Somebody cue James Franklin, ’cause you know Vanderbilt’s feisty coach is going to have a retort to this one.

Yesterday it was learned that VU officials sent letters — didn’t call, mind you, sent letters — to Northwestern and Ohio State backing out of football games with both schools next year.  Ohio State AD Gene Smith wasn’t happy about that as we told you earlier today.

Well, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is roaring mad, too:

 

“I’m disappointed.  We thought that were peer institutions, and obviously we were mistaken.  I think it just shows where our program is heading in comparison to theirs…

I’ve had a lot of respect for their coach and what they’re trying to get done there, but obviously we are in totally two different places as a program and to have them do it the way that they did, which I’ll let (athletic director) Jim Phillips handle all that, he’s the boss.  I’m just disappointed.”

 

The podium is yours, Mr. Franklin.

 

 

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Beatdown In Athens A Reminder Of Just How Much Work VU’s Franklin Has To Do

James Franklin has pushed so many right buttons since his arrival at Vanderbilt a year ago that many folks forgot just how many buttons needed to be pushed to steer the Commodore football program from troubled waters to tranquil seas.

In 2011, he won over a fanbase that was tired of being treated like a doormat each fall.  His post-game comments after last year’s tight loss to Georgia were for Vandy fans a cross between Tim Tebow’s Promise and Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.  There were six wins (granted against Elon, UConn, Ole Miss, Army, Kentucky and Wake Forest) and those victories brought a bid to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.  Along the way, the Dores came within five points of Georgia, three of Arkansas, five of Florida and six of Tennessee.  VU was giving even big-name SEC foes all they wanted.

Off the field, Franklin sold his program to starved fans, recruits and the media.  Recruits responded in historic fashion for VU last February and his list of commitments is above average again this year.  Media members have responded even more positively than the recruits.  After a single 6-7 season at Vanderbilt, Franklin’s name was attached to much higher-profile jobs all across the US fo A.  Matt Hayes of The Sporting News put the icing on the cake by ranking Franklin as America’s 25th best football coach.

But now people are starting to remember just what kind of job lies ahead of Vandy’s fiery, energetic, salesman of a coach.  The Dores are 1-3.  They’ve lost to South Carolina and Northwestern in come-from-ahead-to-lose fashion.  And after a route over tiny Presbyterian College, Vanderbilt was dismantled on national television by Georgia 48-3 in Athens on Saturday.

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SEC Responds To Questions About Suspension Of UM’s Elston

On Tuesday of this week, the Southeastern Conference handed Ole Miss defensive back Trae Elston a one-game suspension for a wicked lick he made against UTEP receiver Jordan Leslie in the fourth quarter of a 28-10 Rebel victory last Saturday.

Here’s the hit in question:

 

Trae Elston Huge Hit (LandShark) Ole Miss

 

The league’s press release regarding the suspension read as follows:

 

“This action was the result of a flagrant and dangerous act which occurred at the 3:18 mark in the fourth quarter.  The action is in violation of Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA Football Rule Book, which reads, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder,’ and Rule 9-1-3 which states, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.’”

 

Ole Miss fans weren’t happy.  Others out there began to smell a conspiracy.  Heck, in what might be the single silliest thing I’ve ever read — prepare to laugh Vanderbilt fans — one sports radio host penned a piece suggesting that SEC commish Mike Slive might have suspended Elston while ignoring a hit Vandy’s Andre Hal put on South Carolina’s Justice Cunningham because Ole Miss is bad “while Vandy under second-year coach James Franklin was becoming a media darling.”

In terms of all the “Slive and the media are out to get us” emails I receive — and I get two or three every day — most come from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt fans.  Way ahead of the rest of the pack.  So I know Commodore fans will howl at the idea that Slive and SEC were looking out for VU.

Just for comparison, let’s look at the hit Hal put on Cunningham:

 

Play of the Game – South Carolina at Vanderbilt

 

Nasty.  And in my view, that play could have resulted in a suspension, too.

But for kicks, let’s look at one more hit that ended with a suspension last season.  This one resulted in Arkansas’ Marquel Wade being ejected from the game and suspended.  (I’m pretty sure Arkansas was one of the league’s top teams and James Franklin hadn’t become a media darling yet, so I’m not sure what the conspiracy theorists would say about the one below.)

 

Marquel Wade gets an illegal hit on Jonathan Krause

 

More on that one in a minute.

I wanted to get to the bottom of why one play earns a suspension and another doesn’t.  How does the SEC determine who sits and who plays?  (And for the record, I believe the league should absolutely be consistent in its rulings.  I also believe that there is never anything wrong with erring on the side of player safety.)

SEC associate commissioner and chief PR guy, Charles Bloom was kind enough to share some info with MrSEC.com.

 

“1.  Every game gets reviewed by the Coordinator of Officials (Steve Shaw).  Coaches are invited to send in specific plays for additional review and they get an explanation as to the play.  Any communication is between the school and the conference office.

2.  Differences between the UM/UTEP hit and the Vandy/Carolina hit:

a) In the UM hit, the defender has his head down prior to contact and makes contact with the crown of his helmet into the facemask of the receiver.  In the VU hit, the defender has his head up prior to contact and while there was initial contact with the helmet, it was at the side of the helmet.  The crown was not used by the defender.

b) A flag was thrown in the VU-USC hit and should have been thrown in the UM-UTEP hit.

c) By rule, the definition of a defenseless player is ‘A receiver whose focus is on catching a pass.’  NCAA Playing Rule 9-1-4 states, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.  When in question, it is a foul.’  Also, NCAA Playing Rule 9-1-3 states, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.  When in question, it is a foul.’

d) The NCAA has made ‘Protection of Defenseless Players and Crown-of-Helmet Action’ a point of emphasis this year.”

 

Now, I’ve received dozens of emails from people saying that in the photo of the hit I posted Tuesday,  Elston’s shoulder is buried in the chest of the UTEP receiver.  I wrote on Tuesday that it looks to me like the crown of Elston’s helmet is hitting the receiver right in the neck/throat beneath at the base of his facemask.  According to Bloom’s response, it seems the SEC office apparently saw it that way, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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VU’s Franklin In “Spin Mode” Already? He Shouldn’t Be

According to the Associated Press, James Franklin has already gone into “spin mode” following Vanderbilt’s 0-2 start to this season.  The Commodores have suffered a pair of come-from-ahead defeats to South Carolina (17-13 in Nashville) and to Northwestern (23-13 on the road).  Fans and some in the media expected more from the Dores.  Now Franklin’s trying to prevent those folks from jumping ship:

 

“We learned valuable lessons, and we are getting better.  I know there’s a frustration with our fans from years, and then the light started shining and there was hope.  All that is still there.  You know one game, one moment is not going to define who and what we’re going to be as a program.”

 

Franklin just happens to be right, of course.  You can’t turn around a football program like a skateboard, it’s more like moving a cruise ship.  Franklin inherited a team of redshirt juniors and seniors last season from Bobby Johnson (the previous coach didn’t get nearly enough credit for his part in VU’s 2011 bowl-bound season).  He fired up that veteran squad, fired up recruits and, in doing so, fired up fans as well.

Quickly, many, many media members fell right in line over-inflating the coach’s reputation.  Matt Hayes of The Sporting News, for one, wrote this offseason that Franklin — who has a single 6-7 season under his belt as a head coach — is already the 25th best football coach in the country.

Whoa, pardner.  Let’s just slow all this stuff down a bit.

Vandy’s team is faster this season thanks to a bevy of three-star recruits Franklin has brought onto his West End campus.  For years, the Dores had been dealing mostly with two-star guys.  But getting speed on his team is just Step One.

There’s still an issue of depth.  In the SEC, you can’t just be one-deep, you better be two- or even three-deep at most positions.  It will take Franklin more than two recruiting classes and 15 games to reach that point.

Also, as the coach himself has admitted, he still needs to win a tight game to get his team over the mental barrier of being the “same ol’ Vanderbilt.”  Trust me, if you hear something long enough, you start to believe it.  As Northwestern roared from behind to tie and then win last Saturday night’s game, it was if VU players knew the script, hung their heads, and sadly agreed to play their parts.  That mentality — which has been part of the program for nearly a century — will have to be changed.  It will take a late-game win over a good program to get that done.  Maybe more.

So what’s the verdict on Franklin?  There isn’t one and that’s the point.  It’s too soon to be judging him.  He did a nice job on the field last season and in living rooms this offseason.  That doesn’t mean he’s going to be the next Knute Rockne.

He’s now off to an 0-2 start and that will anger a lot of folks in the media who had already crowned him as the Prince of Football.  In reality, his squad faced a Top 10 Carolina team in its opener and then traveled to play a program whose success VU would like to eventually emulate.  The Commodores opened with two very losable games.  For that reason, no one should be saying, “I told ya Franklin wasn’t special” just yet.

The jury is still out on Franklin.  How ’bout we see where things stand at the end of this season?  And even if Vandy suffers through a losing season, the young coach can still prove that he indeed is the man for the job if his recruiting holds.  To this writer, he still looks like a good hire.  Not a great one, not a terrible one, but a good one.  Now he needs time to prove how good.

Franklin shouldn’t be going into spin mode now.  He shouldn’t have to.  Fixing Vanderbilt’s football fortunes won’t be done over the span of just 15 contests.

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Vandy Dance-Off Continues To Show That VU “Gets It” When It Comes To Internet Recruiting

A strong argument can be made that no athletic department in the SEC has done a better job of using internet video to promote itself than Vanderbilt’s.  (And now that David Williams has actually been named “athletic director,” it’s probably time to stop with the “but Vandy doesn’t have an athletic department” jokes.)

From behind-the-scenes video on signing day to the unveiling of the Commodores’ new unis, the folks at VU “get it” when it comes to marketing their new “anchor down” brand online.  Which is no surprise, these folk are at Vanderbilt after all.

Yesterday, a new video was posted at the school’s website showing the Vandy football team — players and coaches — having a “dance-off” in a team meeting room.  Silly?  Maybe.

But to a prospect watching the clip and seeing a grown man do the worm while head coach James Franklin laughs his rear off, it’s probably a pretty good inducement to answer the phone when VU calls.  Get an eduction, live in a big city, play better football — at least that will be Franklin’s pitch — and have a good time while doing it.

 

Vanderbilt Football Dance-Off

 

The guy doing the worm?  Offensive line coach Herb Hand.  Not bad.

Not a bad way to continue to promote one’s program, either.

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Ole Miss’ Workout Video Continues SEC Schools’ New Branding Trends

Since James Franklin arrived at Vanderbilt, the Commodore athletic department has zipped to the forefront of SEC self-promotion.  And we don’t mean that in a bad way.

Whether it was a behind-the-scenes, documentary-style look at the VU offices on signing day or today’s multi-tiered coverage of the Dores’ new football uniforms, Vandy seems to “get it” in a way that most schools didn’t five years ago.

But the revolution has begun and more and more SEC schools are falling in line.  As newspapers die off, more schools are hiring their own beatwriters for their official websites (how honest the opinions and reporting are is debatable, but with fans as readers that probably won’t matter as many just want to read positive stories anyway).  Schools like Texas A&M have been using Facebook and social media to trumpet their own uniform unveiling today.  And now Ole Miss has gotten into the act with a well-produced video introducing the latest class of Rebel basketball players.

Pushed on Twitter by new UM athletic director Ross Bjork, the video is not just some clips from the Rebs’ summer workouts.  It’s an interest-generator for fans and ticket buyers as well as a recruiting tool for any hoops player with an internet connection.

And it’s very well done:

 

 

With cell phones that shoot HD video and inexpensive editing equipment that can make any video look like 35mm film, a new day has dawned for schools who can now market themselves more often, in new, more affordable ways than ever before.  I started working in television 20 years ago.  By today’s standards, the technology I used back then would compare to an anvil or a horse-and-buggy.

Schools no longer have to depend on outside coverage for buzz.  They can and do create their own.  SEC schools — like Ole Miss’ basketball program — are now taking full advantage of these new opportunities to brand themselves.

If not for the video above, Bjork’s tweet, and various websites that have posted the video after reading the tweet and watching the clip… would you be thinking about Mississippi’s basketball team today?  And that’s the point.

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Vandy Unveils New Unis At Barnes & Noble

Vanderbilt’s new 2012 football uniforms have been unveiled and three things stand out:

 

1.  Vandy’s has incorporated a big black stripe on the shoulders of their gold jerseys, not unlike the jersey design of the crosstown Tennessee Titans.

2.  The Commodores will now have a white helmet (to go with their gold and black helmets).

3.  VU held their fashion store at a Barnes & Noble.  Not sure why I find that amusing, but it beats a chemistry lab.

 

More details on the new unis can be found right here.  (Did ya know that “Anchor Down” is stitched into the interior of each jersey neckline!?)

Video of the fashion show can be found here.

James Franklin says his players are happy with the new uniforms.  “Our players will tell you the gold jersey went from being the worst to being the best.”  Quarterback Jordan Rodgers said simply, “Look good, play good,” after descending down an escalator in VU’s new all-white uniform complete with the white helmet that was “hush-hush.”  At the unveiling, only the seniors knew about the white helmets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We wanted to save one more as a surprise for (the players),” Franklin said.  “We wanted our family, fans, the media, alumni and team to see them at the same time.”  While Franklin said Vandy will wear its traditional gold helmet on most occasions, his players seem to have a different new favorite look.

“My favorite is the white-black-white,” Rodgers said of the white helmet, black jersey, white pants combo.  “It’s awesome.”  Linebacker Tristan Strong agreed.  “Definitely the white-black-white.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Franklin also used the opportunity to share his tough talk message with Commodore fans:

 

“You guys saw last year, we’re not gonna take a backseat to anybody.  You come into Vanderbilt Stadium you better be ready for a fight…  Change is happening.  The culture has been changed.”

 

In the end, Vanderbilt becomes the latest school to feature umpteen mix-and-match uniform combinations.  While this writer isn’t big on gold jerseys for any school unless they’re extremely shiny — hey, my story, my opinion — there’s certainly nothing too off the wall with the new design.  They’re less a break from tradition than what we’ve already seen at Missouri and Arkansas this offseason.

Texas A&M will break out their new uniforms this afternoon.  Here’s hoping they’ll go the VU route and tweak… rather than overhaul.

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Vandy Will Be Breaking Out New Football Uniforms

Looks like you can add another school to the long, long list of folks getting outfitted with new football uniforms this fall.  Once there was a day when schools would stick with the same uniform and design for years.  Now, if you’re not tweaking or overhauling things every other year, you’re falling behind.

Well, James Franklin isn’t allowing Vanderbilt to fall behind.  In fact, the second-year Commodore coach is picking up right where he left off last year by building another solid recruiting class.  And how do schools lure in teenage superstars?  With the promise of slick new unis.

According to an email sent from the VU ticket office to several Commodore boosters, new unis are indeed on the way in Nashville:

 

“Mark your calendar for the Commodore Football fashion event of the summer.  On July 11, the 2012 Commodore Football uniforms will be unveiled at the Vanderbilt Barnes and Noble Bookstore from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm.  Check out the new look as it comes down the moving runway within the “official Commodore Gear Outlet”  located in the 2525 Building on West End, right across from Centennial Park.  James Franklin in a fashion show…surely you don’t want to miss that.”

 

Here’s hoping Vandy’s uniforms feature a traditional look with… oh, who am I kidding?  When in doubte expect any school’s new duds to be gaudy, flashy and over the top.  Especially when that school’s got a deal with Nike (and VU does).

Gimme $5 on the color “anthracite” being mentioned.

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