Vanderbilt Football: Can They Hold on to James Franklin Amid Recent Success?

Chad MintonCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2013

Franklin has a doormat program on the rise, but will he stay for the long haul?
Franklin has a doormat program on the rise, but will he stay for the long haul?Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

It was only a matter of time before James Franklin came up in a coaching search for a respected program, and that is exactly what is happening now with the firing of Lane Kiffin at USC.

At first glance, Franklin's brief coaching record at Vanderbilt spells average. However, he's 18-13 at a program that was lucky to win more than three games in a season before he arrived in 2011.

Franklin gave the normal answer to questions surrounding the buzz around the USC coaching vacancy, basically saying he's focused on Vanderbilt.

That may be true, but it's hard to ignore the glitz and glamour of USC. It's being speculated by that Franklin is at the top of the list for USC.

What Franklin has been able to do with such little talent in a short amount of time is what makes him so appealing to the bigger programs, and Vanderbilt will have to do everything in their power to retain him past this season.

If Vanderbilt heads to another bowl game this season, which it appears they will, then Franklin will get even more enticing offers in the offseason. 

Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, they remain a stepping stone program for up and coming coaches until they can establish themselves as an SEC power year after year. That's obviously no easy feat, and that is why it will be so difficult to keep Franklin much longer.

It is always possible that Franklin does choose to stay at Vanderbilt and continue to build his own legacy at a program that was at the bottom. If he continues to embrace the challenge of building a program from the ground up, then Vanderbilt has a small chance to keep him for many more years.

This is where the fans come into the equation. Franklin has always been very outspoken about getting the fanbase involved and them turning out in big numbers to give Vanderbilt a home field advantage that they have never enjoyed in SEC matchups.

He's made progress in that department, especially if you watched how much black and gold was actually in the stands for the matchup with Tennessee last season. Usually, that home contest for Vanderbilt is filled more than half with the orange colors of Tennessee, but it was much more in favor of Vanderbilt in the most recent meeting in Nashville.

This year's season opener against Ole Miss was another good example of how Franklin has ignited the fanbase into making Vanderbilt Stadium a tough place to play for SEC opponents.

Franklin deserves a ton of credit for that, as do the fans who responded. They have to continue to show that Vanderbilt is a program worth staying with for such a talented coach like Franklin. 

The reported attendance for Vanderbilt's last home game was over 32,000 for UAB, and that number needs to be a sellout when Missouri comes to town this upcoming week. Those kinds of things, like soldout stadiums full of crazy fans, can help keep a passionate coach like Franklin on the sidelines in Nashville.

A huge fork in the road is about to come up for Franklin on his head coaching journey that is less than three years old. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him, but the jury is still out on if that will be with Vanderbilt or a more glamorous program.