I admit it, I was fooled. I fell for one of the oldest con games in the book by a man who was nothing more than a slick salesman. The smug ``we told you so''s, and ``lol Vandy''s that came forth were to be expected, and I certainly earned a few of them myself. In the end, all of us have become a little more bitter and distrustful as a result of it. I realize that many of you are past this, and want to move on. I was there with you. We learned that James Franklin wasn't the dedicated person we thought he was. We learned that more recruits were about playing for Franklin, not for Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, we also learned distrust. Ultimately, Franklin left Vanderbilt in a much better place, and because of that, I was willing to let his departure go.
Then came National Signing Day. For those of you who don't know, Franklin had an interview with Finebaum on NSD that really revealed a lot about him and his recruiting practices when he arrived at PSU. That is where I really got to the point where I needed the cathartic rantings you see before you.
Before I continue, I have no issue with Franklin ``poaching'' Vanderbilt recruits. It's common practice to bring kids over when a coach changes schools. These kids haven't officially committed until NSD, and whether you like it or not, they're not ``ours" until we have that letter. You can argue Franklin took it above and beyond (as many recruiting experts have pointed out), taking with him a lot more than ``normal'', but that's neither here nor there. I also think that being critical of that practice puts us in an awful spot. If Mason had brought over guys who were Stanford all the way, where would we be then? As it was, Mason only went after Stanford guys that Vandy was also fighting for. As a fanbase, we're sanctimonious enough with our academic standards, let's not exacerbate that by taking ridiculous stances on who and who not to recruit.
Getting back to Franklin's departure, to the point that he left Vanderbilt for PSU, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I was even willing to overlook the ``I'm thinking" about it dog and pony show he put on for about 10 days. I legitimately believe that PSU, for a Pennsylvania boy, is a dream job.
To the point where he ``stole'' some of our recruits, I was upset, but understood it was part of the ``business of football''. It does feel a little bit like kicking us when we're down, but that's just the way it works. We all knew that some players were just here for Franklin, we just didn't know half the team was in that camp.
If you haven't already, listen to that interview I posted above. That is the point where I start to categorize his behavior as betrayal. Paul talks to Franklin, pointing out that he has been very vocal about recruits who ``flip'' not being men of honor. Franklin in the past has often also been very much about not settling down for anything but the best. When Paul starts to ask the tough questions, Franklin has nothing but the usual salesman ducks. As the interview goes on, you can tell Franklin gets more and more irritated that the normal Franklin BS isn't working. Paul does an excellent job of exposing that despite his professions to the contrary, Franklin gives no shits about Vanderbilt (and probably never did).
All this would still be categorized as ``hurt feelings'' as Franklin. Franklin dismisses all the critiques of him in the same way as an internet troll. He almost literally responds ``lol, hurt feelings'' to many of Paul's questions about how Vanderbilt fans may think about him. To be perfectly fair, he'd have a point, to this point all I've done is talk about how he was just a man who lied to us and I've not really covered anything he's done outside the rules. We thought we had a coach who genuinely cared for the team, the fans, and the city. In the end he was only about himself. So to Franklin, he doesn't see it as betrayal. He's always been about himself, doing a job, and he took the better one when it came along.
But that's the point. That's why a lot of Vanderbilt fans feel betrayed. It's not in that he left, it's not that he flipped recruits, it's that it has become abundantly clear that he never cared. Well, more accurately, he only cared so far as he could use us to popularize himself to get to the next level. Fans of bigger football schools may laugh, thinking that we're fools for thinking that anyone would care. Maybe that's true. Maybe we were too idealistic in what we thought we had. Regardless, it was the first time in a century anyone even cared even that much about Vanderbilt, so I think we should be allowed a little leeway.
Some other fans have recently said that we're not being fair about the week-long decision process. Those of us who have switched employers at least once know that there's a period where you're still at your old job, but you are fairly certain you are leaving for a great new opportunity. Hell, it's even customary for your new workplace to not talk to your current employer until the deal is all but done. If you're looking for work (or have found new work) you are not betraying your company to tell your bosses that you're staying. It's not even a betrayal to exaggerate how long you're `thinking' about a new offer. It is, however, betraying your company to have made a decision to leave, lie to them that you're staying, and while still being paid by them, you then funnel company assets and resources to your new employer. In fact, in many instances, that's a criminal act.
If Twitter is any indication (lol, I know), Franklin and his assistants were following and going for PSU recruits for as far back as two weeks before the official decision. That's awfully suspect, especially since some of these recruits Vandy had no interest in. I think it would warrant at least a cursory look over by the NCAA to make sure that Franklin wasn't actively recruiting on Vanderbilt dime. Because it certainly looks suspicious at the very least. It's in the past however, and I doubt anything tangible even exists about it.
Like all betrayals however, we are growing from it. We learned to be a little less invested in sales pitches by coaches, we learned that our SEC brothers and sisters actively wish harm upon us and our school (I have a whole article on that planned for next footbaw season), and unfortunately, we learned distrust. While Franklin's betrayal can leave us upset and even angry, that it doesn't affect our support of Mason. We can use this opportunity to grow stronger as a community, and I believe we have. I have a lot of VU friends who have gotten more invested in Vanderbilt football as a result of this.
Coach Mason made out exceptionally well given the time he had on NSD. To be sure, there's a theme here and I appreciated his comments about how he's not necessarily going for pure speed (which is often a big factor in *s). Mason is the new face of our program. He promises great things, and has a different presence than Franklin does. In the end, it may be a blessing that Franklin betrayed us when he did. Because Coach Mason looks like a great fit for Vanderbilt thus far.
Anchor Down, boys and girls, we've got a school to the East to piss off into once again making angry and ignorant phone calls into local radio stations.
It's ironic, in a way, that Franklin brought ``the chip'' when he came here. It fit so well coming in given the attitudes we get round CFB. In leaving us, he ultimately became just another example of why we need ``the chip''.