Let's face it. James Franklin took more than just a half-dozen recruits and a mostly intact coaching staff with him when he made the decision to forsake NashVegas in favor of the Lion's Den. He also managed to carry on a few intangibles when he and his family boarded that northbound private jet. For example, he robbed many fans of their willingness to believe that a head coach will back up his talk and rhetoric with actions.
OK. Lesson learned on that one. Now we're all a little wiser, and although we'd love to think that Derek Mason, if successful, would finish out his coaching career on West End, we know now that it's more likely he won't. And we'll survive that transition too, should it arrive, just as we are pulling through this recent one, perhaps even better for the wear.
But lately, I've been thinking how James Franklin helped build this program up to the point that we could even hire Derek Mason & Company. Those same sales and marketing skills that had fans believing Franklin would hang around for the long haul also helped the players themselves truly, honestly believe that they could whip anybody, on any given Saturday. And rightly so.
Much of that motivation was built around establishing (or reinforcing) traditions and mantras and slogans and buzzwords—a steady drip-drip-drip of Black & Gold indoctrination that helped shape the team into one that was not just physically tough but also mentally tough. The result: Goodbye, SOV; hello, BNV.
So I've been left wondering how many of those intangibles will hang around in Franklin's absence.
For example, I think it's generally agreed that saying "Anchor Down" long predated Franklin, and although it became practically liturgical on his watch, that's a definite keeper. As is flashing the "VU" sign, although I honestly don't know how far back that goes. Either way, that's ours too. We're keeping it. Of course, flying the victory flag is an old tradition (although many may not have known about it, since it didn't get implemented often pre-Franky), and although I can't cite the origins of the Anchor Ceremony (and all the links-in-the-chain imagery that accompanies it), that's something that needs to stay as well.
Then there are the phrases that fermented strictly in the locker room, among the players and assistant coaches: "That's my brother!/He ain't that heavy!" and "Vandy ain't worried 'bout nothin'!" and even the reciting of the season's victories post-win. Yes, I can see those verbal traditions hanging around and getting passed down from era to era.
Where it gets trickier, however, is when you get into the phrases that were pure Franklin-speak: "Going 1 and 0 this week," "Six seconds at a time," "VanderBUILD," "Playing with a chip" and "Blue-collar mentality" (which I always enjoyed as the ultimate irony, given Vandy's decidedly white-collar image).
What the hell happens to those things?
No doubt, some of those words are already echoing through the halls of Happy Valley. But Franklin didn't invent these concepts or coin these phrases. Vandy football has every right to hold on to them. But should they?
On one hand, I think Franklin's buzzwords and verbal traditions were important and served a purpose. They helped teach the guys to focus on the task at hand and to play with intensity and to develop a sense of pride and identity—traits that Vandy teams of yore could never lasso for any length of time.
But what happens when the Masonites come in and install their own philosophies and phrases and verbal motivators? Do some of those traditions of old suddenly become verboten? Can they only be whispered between players in hushed tones, lest the spirit of the departed James Franklin be summoned like Beetlejuice? What will remain rooted, and what will be allowed to wither on the vine due to lingering resentment or simply a desire to buy totally into the new guy's folkways?
I know CDM has already made reference to Stanford playing with a blue-collar mentality. Great. That should bode well for that one. But will he have our guys playing six seconds at a time in an effort to go 1 and 0 each week? Perhaps not in those words. Maybe in his own words, in his own way. Or maybe not at all. After all, he's not going to be James Franklin. He's Derek Mason. He's our new head coach.
Regardless of how these things shake out, I hope the players hang onto the valuable lessons they learned from the last guy, even if those lessons get delivered in new or different ways by the new guy.
I think there is one Franklin phrase that we can all agree should never be spoken again, at least not by any head coach:
"It always starts with I love you, and it ends with—"
Well, in this case, I think that one just needs to end.