James Franklin waited with anticipation for this day to come. A year ago after losing to Tennessee in Knoxville during overtime, Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley led a not so flattering cheer in his locker room, letting everyone know within ear-shot that Tennessee was the Volunteer State, not the Commodore State.
Franklin and his Vanderbilt football team got their revenge Saturday night with a 41-18 smack down of the Vols. Vandy not only kept Tennessee winless in the SEC, but they also have state bragging rights for at least the next year, and they probably put the final nail in the coffin of the Derek Dooley era in Knoxville.
James Franklin is an excellent football coach—a player’s coach. He’s going to be one of the hottest names out there for schools looking for a head coach. Having said this, the powers in Nashville need to make sure they do everything they can to lock down a long-term contract for their head football coach.
A few years ago, Michigan fired Rich Rodriguez and a search for the next Wolverines head coach began in Evanston, Illinois. A young, energetic, tough as nails winner from Northwestern by the name of Pat Fitzgerald was at the top of the wish list of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon.
Where will James Franklin be coaching football next year?
Northwestern did the right thing, and they showed Fitzgerald "the money" to keep him in Evanston. There are the obvious similarities between Northwestern and Vanderbilt. Both are known as the academic institutions in their respective conference, and neither school gets the respect they deserve no matter how many games they win or how many bowl games they play in.
Let’s face it—Vanderbilt will never sell as many season tickets as they will to Rocky Top. Heck, you have to donate a certain amount of money to the Tennessee athletic fund just to have the right to buy season tickets.
Vanderbilt will never play in front of the 100,000-plus fans that pour into Neyland Stadium, and Northwestern will never play in front of the 100,000 that pour into The Big House.
It would be easy for guys like James Franklin and Pat Fitzgerald to look at greener pastures. Tennessee and Michigan are an easier sell to a four-star recruit than Vanderbilt and Northwestern. You have crazed fans, a terrific alumni base and a much bigger budget to work with in Knoxville and Ann Arbor.
So here’s why Fitzgerald stayed at Northwestern and why James Franklin should stay at Vanderbilt:
Coach Franklin is building something special in Nashville. Yes, he has to recruit on a national basis because of academics, but he currently has nine four-star recruits committed to play for the 'Dores right now.
If he stays at Vanderbilt, he will get the type of young men that go to Notre Dame, Stanford and Northwestern. These programs win and so can he—he's proved it.
He's already got a team that has bought into his philosophy—anchor down and six-seconds. He has upper-classmen who will be an example for that stable of talent that will sign with him in February.
Does Coach Franklin have the same love for Vandy that Pat Fitzgerald has for Northwestern? I don’t know, only he knows that. Coach Fitzgerald played for Northwestern, and he’s from the Chicago area.
What is keeping him in Nashville?
I’ll tell you what should keep him in Nashville. He has a city, a school, an administration and most importantly, a football team that now believes they can win every Saturday. Vanderbilt, like Northwestern, believes they are going to win and should win every Saturday.
Northwestern showed Fitzgerald the money when Michigan came calling, and now Vanderbilt needs to do whatever it takes to make sure James Franklin doesn’t leave Nashville for the so-called greener pastures of Fayetteville, Knoxville or Lexington.
This time of the year, the blogs, the rags and Internet team sites are full of “Who’s getting fired?” info. It’s refreshing, especially at a school like Vanderbilt, that David Williams, The Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics, doesn’t have to buy out a contract but instead has to make sure he has enough in the coffers to fight off the vulchers and keep James Franklin in Music City.