Boclair: Loudmouth

Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 9:05pm

It was a little over a week ago, when Vanderbilt was on its way to winning the final game of the NCAA baseball regional, that superfan “Vandy Lance” stood from his seat at Hawkins Field and said the same thing Commodores fans have heard him say many times in recent years. 

“We’re a baseball school.”

With that, first-year football coach James Franklin, sitting nearby, stood and playfully feigned dismay. He stretched his arms and hunched his shoulders as he struck a conspicuous “what about me” stance. 

Lance promised he would be there in the fall, but noted that Franklin thus far has done nothing. He then told the coach to sit down. The encounter was good-natured, but it also drove home an important point: The start of football season can’t come soon enough for Franklin and Vanderbilt.

Since he was hired to replace Bobby Johnson, the 39-year-old Franklin has told anyone and everyone how smart he and his staff are, how they have a plan that’s going to work where others’ have failed, how they’re going to make Vanderbilt a football power. It’s the same thing Commodores fans have heard many times from others throughout the years.

To inspire players he did not recruit and fans who had never heard his name until he was hired, Franklin must create the impression that he is well-prepared and in control. Salesmanship requires confidence. We all understand that. 

Still, it’s one thing when Nick Saban shows up at Alabama and declares things are going to be better. People believe him on his record.

Franklin never has been a head coach, let alone won a national championship as one. He was designated the head coach in waiting at Maryland, but it became clear in the days after Vanderbilt hired him that his former employer waited for him to leave before it fired Ralph Friedgen so it was free to give the job to someone else.

What people in this area know most about Maryland football during Franklin’s time there, in fact, is that it lost in back-to-back years (2008 and 2009) to Middle Tennessee State.

At best, Franklin is walking a fine line between confidence and arrogance. At worst, with each self-aggrandizing proclamation, he wades deeper into hubris and positions himself for a heavy dose of comeuppance. 

Take, for example, his recent address at the university’s all-sports banquet. According to some who were there, he promised that football would provide the foundation of success for the entire athletics apparatus. 

Of course his audience that night included members of the women’s tennis team, which just had been to the Sweet 16, the women’s golf team, which just had finished in the top 10 at the NCAA championship, the men’s and women’s basketball teams, which have been consistent NCAA Tournament participants, and many others who already enjoy significant success. 

No one is asking Franklin to prop up Vanderbilt athletics. They’re asking him to keep up. And so far, no one has told him to shut up. But eventually he must. 

Vanderbilt’s season — and Franklin’s tenure — begins Sept. 3 against Elon (a I-AA opponent), continues the next week against Connecticut (a solid nonconference foe) and then Ole Miss (the start of SEC play). 

All three games are at home, and Vanderbilt fans can believe Lance when he says he’ll be there. After all, he’s a fixture at VU sporting venues throughout the year.

As for Franklin, his word — or words, in this case — is simply is not enough. No matter how many times he says it. 

David Boclair is sports editor of The City Paper. Follow him on Twitter @BoclairSports and email him at dboclair@nashvillecitypaper.com.

4 Comments on this post:

By: miseryfuyf on 6/13/11 at 2:46

This has got to be one of the dumbest things you've ever written Boclair. First, Lance Smith needs to stop acting like he's the only Vanderbilt fan in the world. Just because he's loud and likes to act like he's a big deal while even more devoted fans (and louder) and more educated (to the sports we cheer for) are out there among the Vanderbilt community, doesn't mean he's IS the Vanderbilt fan. And I was there and it was way more playful between those two than you tried to even illustrate. One of your paragraphs talks about Franklin's background. Let me give you some info about his background since you're acting pretty naive. He's been at several places where the football was waaaaay more successful than the other sports on campus and let's see, the sport is supposed to be the most important in all of athletics, because it's the one that pays the bills. The SEC television contract would not nearly have the price tag it comes with if it had no football, so please, saying that the guy couldn't say that building the football program would be a model for the rest of the athletic department, just because at this present time (not always been the case) the other sports are doing well, doesn't mean he's incorrect. It doesn't make him a "loudmouth" either.

Also, in case you or Lance Smith haven't noticed, Franklin has done a few things already that no football coaching staff had done at Vanderbilt since at least Gerry DiNardo, and that's in recruiting. They have a Top 25 recruiting class at the moment. Please pray tell specify when you've seen that over there in the past 20 years. Answer: few if any times. Someone being energetic or trying to build something and you run to your laptop and throw down something about him being a "loudmouth". Yeah, the approach of that burrowed in, barely speaking to anyone football staff has so worked at Vanderbilt the last several decades, that's the way to go. They hire someone who's trying to make people care about the football program right off the bat, and he's shot down for it.

This was just a stupid article to begin with, you're better than this Boclair.

By: vandymom34 on 6/13/11 at 6:06

I agree with miserfuyf, give Franklin a chance. There's nothing wrong with him putting some energy into our team. I think it's good for them. Accept the change and move on Boclair. smh...

By: slim53 on 6/14/11 at 12:53

Agreed, this was a pathetic article. It was a hachet job on Franklin and in a backhanded way against Vanderbilt. So what Boclair is saying is that Franklin should pipe down, know his place and don't you dare try to behave like a winner! Boclair wants Franklin to go ahead and realize that winning football games at Vanderbilt is impossible and he should be a good little whipping boy for the rest of the SEC like all of his predecessors. My opinion is if the man is going to fall on his face I had rather see him do it running all out instead of getting there by timidly tip toeing on to the field. Go Franklin! Go Dores! Bring back Terry McCormick!

By: jws37205 on 6/14/11 at 6:38

I think it's admirable that the City Paper hires mentally challenged individuals such as yourself. However, I think your talents would be more in line with mopping floors and cleaning toilets than writing for the paper.

Did you expect Franklin to say this prior to his first season? "Hi, I'm James Franklin. I suck and so does my school."

Of course not. His job during the off-season is to recruit, promote and grow support for the football program. He can't call Saban and challenge him to an intra-mural scrimmage, so we really won't know what happens until the first game of the season. However, for you to criticize him for doing what he is supposed to be doing is asinine.

If this is the best the City Paper has to offer, perhaps it's better that you are no longer a daily paper. If I'm wrong, let's hear back from the dozens of your loyal fans David. Go back to writing graffiti on bathroom stalls. You don't have the chops to be a sports writer.