(8) James Franklin Leaves for Penn State
We all know what happened, more or less. The official line is that the opportunity to take over his home state’s flagship program was too great an opportunity to pass up, and so after only three years, James Franklin bottled everything he’d said about what a tremendous opportunity Vanderbilt was and beat it for a college football blueblood, one which - adding insult to injury - was coming off punishment for the very definition of “lack of institutional control” which had led Penn State to the dismal wasteland of...seven wins a year.
So our greatest success of the past century got strip-mined so that Penn State could get right after Sandusky. I think that’s a huge part of why there’s so much venom to this day about what happened. But was there an administrative failure component to this? Possibly. Franklin clearly wanted an improvement in facilities. And to be fair, the indoor practice facility was approved and built in snap time after his first season. But larger scale improvements, especially a new stadium, disappeared into the black box of Kirkland and re-emerged as nebulous ideas like a trip to the Fairgrounds.
Supposedly, the Goldfather (may he rest in peace) was offering crazy money to keep Franklin in Nashville at the end of things. But there were also rumblings at the time that elements within Kirkland saw the incident with Those Four as a warning shot for what chasing football success would bring, and were content to let Franklin walk. I don’t think anybody thought he would take the whole staff and a non-trivial chunk of the recruiting class with him, but it shouldn’t have been surprising. A lot of his recruits were always more Franklin guys than Vanderbilt guys - but that’s the way of football, I guess.
So either there’s nothing that could have kept him here when Penn State called, or there’s nothing Kirkland would ever have done to keep him here, or hell, possibly both. And since then, matters football-ish have gotten back to where they were under CBJ. Six wins? Possible. Beat UT? Possible. Go to a bowl? Possible. But things like running the non-conf table regularly, or having a winning conference record, or being able to dream on the possibility of finally winning double-digit games in a season? Not realistic.
If there’s nothing that could have been done to keep Franklin here, then it’s whatever. But if there was something that could have been done by Kirkland, and it wasn’t done, then this has to be the greatest administrative failure of the age: we had the key to the new era of Vanderbilt football, and we let it go. What you believe about this probably decides your vote.
(9) R.A. Dickey’s Application for Admission Gets Denied
I’m not going to say much on this one other than the following: You know how you feel about Ron Mercer wanting to play for Vanderbilt, but being denied admission? Well, we could have had BOTH 2012 Cy Young Winners at Hawkins Field!
That’s right—Nashville native and MBA alum R.A. Dickey wanted to stay in Nashville and play for Vanderbilt. Worse yet, when he got Ron Mercer’d by Vandy Admissions, he signed with THOSE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED, was a three time All-American for the damned Chuggers, and was chosen in the 1st round of the 1996 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers.
Though he is mostly known for remaking himself into a knuckleballer late in his career after an arm injury, Dickey was a flamethrower in college who was pretty much unhittable.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering whether he could have hacked it in the classroom? Well, he majored in English Lit at the school to the East—not some bullshit like Sports Management—and wrote a damned book in 2018. Safe to say Admissions got this one wrong. Infuriatingly wrong.
Just what the hell was going on in Admissions in the mid-90s, anyway???
Oh, and Tom reminded me after this was published that it’s rumored to be even more infuriating than that:
Chris Lee and George Plaster did a podcast a little while back where they talked about this. The gist of it was that Vanderbilt admitted a bunch of MBA students the year before and they all went elsewhere, so Vanderbilt’s response in Dickey’s class was to go nuclear on MBA and reject all or most of them.
Of course I’m over-simplifying. It’s a comment thread and I’m an idiot.
Which moment advances?
This poll is closed
James Franklin Leaves
R.A. Dickey Denied