James Franklin loves him some James Franklin.
Now Penn State loves them some James Franklin.
Those Vanderbilt fans that hold a grudge against Franklin because he agreed to become Penn State’s football coach should get over it.
It’s the way college football operates. Coaches come. Coaches go.
They have to decide what is best for them, their family and the future. James Franklin did that when Penn State called.
We’ll never know, but I don’t think Franklin would have taken another offer except Penn State’s. Vanderbilt quickly countered, offering Franklin more years and more money than Penn State did. Vanderbilt also promised to continue upgrading facilities to reflect other SEC programs.
Penn State was also the best job he could get. The NFL teams didn’t want a college coach with only three seasons under his belt. Texas chose a minority, but it was Louisville Coach Charlie Strong.
I believe Franklin will be successful at Penn State. The fact Vanderbilt could not sell out the smallest stadium in the SEC rubbed Franklin the wrong way. He may have changed the culture of the football program, but he couldn’t convince a fan base that suffered through losing seasons all their lives to give them another chance.
Some caught the fever, but it was an aging fan base that found other outlets. Others grew weary of paying hard-earned money, only to continue being the butt of jokes year after year.
Franklin will see 100,000 Penn State fans at every home game. He will have a bottomless recruiting budget. I feel certain Franklin will continue to use a helicopter to recruit high school players. He often used one here, showing up at two or three games on a Friday night. He used a chopper to navigate around Atlanta to do the same thing. You would be amazed at how much that impresses high school players. He was once referred to in Atlanta as “that dude in the helicopter.’’
Franklin made sure he was prominent at high school games. He shook hands, kissed babies and posed for pictures. He loved being James Franklin. Why not?
So when Penn State called, he answered. They need healing at the Big Ten program that was ripped apart when longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was imprisoned for molestation of young boys.
Vanderbilt needs to appreciate what Franklin did for its football program. It needs to make sure their next hire is the right one to not only carry on, but to take the program to the next level.
They have a solid nucleus remaining. Quarterback Patton Robinette returns and got valuable experience filling in for Austyn Carta-Samuels this season.
Franklin took advantage of a conference that was not as strong top to bottom as usual. Kentucky and Tennessee were down the past three years. He beat Missouri by a point last season after Tigers quarterback James Franklin was injured early in the game. At the time Vanderbilt played Georgia and Florida this season, both programs were crippled with injuries.
They beat the teams they were favored over and that had long been a bugaboo at Vanderbilt. They played hard in every game and they believed in Franklin.
AD David Williams will have a higher quality of candidates than any previous Vandy AD. He must hit a home run. He had the advantage of knowing Franklin when Franklin was at Kansas State.
This time Williams needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame member Joe Biddle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.