Looking around at the musings of our SEC brethren, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that if it isn’t after this season, surely James Franklin will jump ship to a different program after the next. This isn’t a lone occurence, either. It comes from fanbases with coaches on hot seats (Kentucky and Arkansas, among others), and it comes fanbases that are either looking to troll or are masking a telling fear (Tennessee).
For the sake of debate, let’s assume that Coach Franklin is everything we think he could be - a tremendous recruiter, a master marketer, an aggressive coach that is committed to playing an entertaining brand of football, and, most of all, a winner. Let’s say Franklin rights the ship and gets Vanderbilt back to a bowl this season.
Franklin has indicated that he plans to stay at Vanderbilt for the long haul. Of course, why would he say anything to the contrary? What sense would that make?
If Franklin gets Vanderbilt to a bowl game in 2012 after a tough 1–3 start, other programs, DESPERATE programs, are going to come courting, singing their siren songs.
I want to imagine him standing by his words, embodying his promises not only to the fans but to the players he dared to have the courage to fight for a new future for this program and the character to work so hard to lay that new foundation.
Though the results don’t do it justice thus far, it’s clear to me that the players believe in James Franklin and his vision. Certainly the University's Administration believes like never before. How refreshing is it to see that not only has Vanderbilt broken ground on the multi-sport practice facility but they are truly pushing for it to be completed as soon as possible, with a target date of sometime in 2013?
The last and perhaps most crucial part of the puzzle was always going to be getting the fans to fully believe. There’s just too much scar tissue for so many. Even if Franklin were to coach them into bowl eligibility, there will still be a contingent of fans waiting to see it all come apart in 2013.
It might be, for those last remaining hold outs, that it would take James Franklin passing on all those supposed “better” and “safer” jobs to stay and fulfill his charge to his players and recruits of becoming a legend rather than being a caretaker of someone else’s legacy for them to let go of the pessimism.
While I wouldn’t expect fans of any of the other 13 SEC teams to foresee Franklin being attracted to the nobility of staying at Vanderbilt and finishing what he started despite advances from more established programs, I’m curious to see if my fellow Commodore fans agree. Do you? Or do you think he would just pick up the stakes and shuffle on to the next destination, another nomad coach for hire?