Is James Franklin SEC's 'Coach of the Year'?

Monday, November 26, 2012 at 10:05pm

James Franklin (Frederick Breedon for SouthComm)


James Franklin continues to rewrite history for a resurgent Vanderbilt football program.

Whether he’ll etch his name into the Southeastern Conference record books is up to his coaching peers.

Franklin could become just the sixth Vanderbilt coach to earn SEC’s Coach of the Year award, which will be announced later this week after a vote of the league’s 14 coaches.

While Franklin’s work guiding the Commodores to consecutive bowls for the first time in school history and five SEC wins for the first time since 1935 can’t be overlooked, recent history signals the award is unpredictable.

Take the past five years.

In 2007, the honor was bestowed upon Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom, who lost five games. But the Bulldogs also won just one SEC game the year before.

In 2008, the coaches were divided and the honor was shared for the first time. Some liked the story of Bobby Johnson — the last Vanderbilt coach to win the award — getting the Commodores to a bowl for the first time in 26 years with a 6-6 record. Others commended Houston Nutt for winning nine games in his first year at Ole Miss. The rest chose Nick Saban, who began his restoration project of leading Alabama back to the top.

In 2009, Saban won again as the Crimson Tide won the national championship. In 2010, Steve Spurrier impressed his counterparts by leading South Carolina to nine wins for the third time and into the program’s first SEC championship game. Last year, LSU’s Les Miles was awarded for rolling through the rugged SEC West and finishing the regular season undefeated.

In review, there aren’t strict, consistent criteria.

The coaches of the best teams often are admired, as was the case with Saban and Miles. But in 2010, that approach didn’t hold true. Auburn went 14-0 and won a national championship in Gene Chizik’s second year. With Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton leading the way, though, voters thought Spurrier was more deserving.

Overachievement is often rewarded even if the record isn’t perfect. Croom went 7-5 in 2007 but showed winning was possible in Starkville. Nutt did the same in Oxford and proved he can win at multiple SEC schools. He also won the award two years before at Arkansas.

Still, that does nothing to guarantee the award. Mark Richt’s job was in jeopardy after the 2010 season and his future looked bleak after Georgia started 2011 with two losses. But he pulled the Bulldogs together to win their next 10 games and reach the SEC championship game. The dominance of Miles and LSU ultimately was more appealing to his peers.

Thus Franklin’s chances are as good as those of Kevin Sumlin or Will Muschamp or Richt.

Sumlin, in his first year at Texas A&M, is the frontrunner. The Aggies overachieved in their first season of SEC play with nine wins — and counting — and a stunning upset of top-ranked Alabama on the road. Muschamp, in his second season, has Florida ranked fourth in the latest BCS standings. Richt once again proved his consistency, leading one of his more talented Georgia teams — ranked third — back into the SEC title game.

Vanderbilt is aiming for its first eight-win season since 1982. Under Franklin, the Commodores have won four SEC games by more than 23 points. In the 53 years before 2010, Vanderbilt won just four SEC games by that same margin.

The improvement is undeniable, but one can make the argument that the groundwork was set by the previous regime. Johnson and his staff recruited a majority of these players. Perhaps he deserves some of the credit.

But this group includes many of the same players who suffered through consecutive 10-loss seasons in 2009 and 2010. With different coaches, they are a different team and reached the final week of the regular season with the potential to match the school record for wins in a season (nine). Vanderbilt has reached that mark just twice before — in 1904 and 1915.

“It is a compliment to our staff because we’re developing our guys,” Franklin said. “Our guys are being developed. You look at the improvements in the play from the beginning of the season until now. You look at the improvements in the players from before we got here until now.”

If that improvement is deemed significant enough in the eyes of his peers, Franklin will join elite Vanderbilt company. Only Johnson (2008), George MacIntyre (1982), Art Guepe (1955), Red Sanders (1941) and Ray Morrison (1937) have been named the league’s top coach.


SEC Coach of the Year candidates


James Franklin Vanderbilt

Tied the school record with five SEC wins — first time since 1935. Commodores are bowl-eligible for consecutive years for the first time in school history and locked up first winning regular season since 1982.


Will Muschamp Florida

In his second year, Muschamp took a talented Gators team, infused with youth, to a 7-0 start, including a win over No. 2 LSU. With the third-best scoring defense in the nation — behind Alabama and Notre Dame — Florida is surprisingly ranked fourth in the BCS.

Mark Richt Georgia

He has the Bulldogs in the SEC title game for second straight year and is in position to reach national championship game if Alabama falters.


Kevin Sumlin Texas A&M

In his first year, the Aggies surprised many in their initial SEC go-round. They won nine games and counting, and upset top-ranked Alabama on the road. The Aggies could finish second in the tough SEC West after being picked to place fifth.


9 Comments on this post:

By: TITAN1 on 11/27/12 at 9:40

I think coach Franklin deserves it. Great season!

By: wiseguy1 on 11/27/12 at 10:08

Considering the 4 candidates summarized at the end of the article, I'd have to go with Franklin. Look at accomplishment under the 'more with less' filter that everybody in today's working world is living.

Georgia is right where everybody expected them to be. Anything less would be under achievement. Check the stats and see that Matthews/Boyd account for more yards than UGa's Brown/King receiving combo. That is offset with comparison of Gurley/Marshall to Stacey. Kimbro/Tate don't have carries or yards to make the list. Exit Richt.

VU has no "Johnnie Football". VU beats A&M in total defense by more than 30 yds/game. Excellent candidate, but compare the A&M O-line with VU O-Line talent pool and A&M is where you would expect. Sure they had a 1 huge win, but 1 huge win does not constitute coach of the year. Exit Sumlin.

UF brings the 'luck of the Irish' is all I can say there. Winning at UF must require head coach to sell their soul. Spurrier did, obviously Zook didn't, Urbane Meyer did and not Muschamp must have taken the deal. Winning with good luck does not qualify one for coach of the year. Winning with bad luck might qualify consideration. Exit Muschamp.

VU Defense gave up big plays, but all in all, was pretty tough. Jordan Rogers is still Aaron's little brother. Sadly, not Aaron. Maybe another year of college ball. I'm sure Franklin wishes he had another year with Jordan and another year to grow/groom Robinette. If Jordan had Aaron's command of the game VU would be 11-1 because offense would have put up enough points to beat So Carolina & Northwestern and played ball control game with Florida to minimize their 'big play' scores. VU did win 2 games everybody said they wouldn't. Ole Miss & UT. Ole Miss win was from maturing Rogers.

Franklin is hands down winner.

Biased you say? Tried to stay with facts, but Ehhh ... Maybe a little.

By: TITAN1 on 11/27/12 at 2:14

I think it was well said, wiseguy1.

By: jwk6179 on 11/27/12 at 2:20

Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M did much better in the SEC than anyone thought they would. Just about every sportswriter and media personality that covers the SEC stated that Texas A&M would struggle coming into the SEC and with a few breaks, could be 6-6 at the end of the season, if they were lucky. Missouri and Tennessee were both expected to have better records than Texas A&M. As far as "Johnny Football", few expected him to even be the starter at the beginning of the year, let alone have the success and be the frontrunner for the Hiesman Trophy this season. Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M did much better than what was expected of them. I think Sumlin gets it this year!

By: wiseguy1 on 11/27/12 at 3:28

jwk, As I said, Sumlin is an excellent candidate. Lots to like there. You say #1, I say #2. I think the sports writers that wrote off A&M looked at history of when Arkansas and South Carolina joined the conference and struggled versus doing their homework and looking at key match ups. It would have taken a real good crystal ball to see Johnny Football.

I'm going to read betweenteh lines and extrapolate a bit here, but it appears you contend Johnny Football success is from superior coaching and not a freak of nature. I say freak of nature based on your observation nobody thought he would play, much less be highly considered for Heisman. I think having a freak of nature playing for your team fails to tilt the scale in favor of coach of the year.

Voting so far is Franklin 2, Sumlin 1.

WARNING... CAUTION ... the following may be mildly entertaining to fans of black & gold and likely offensive to folks wearing orange.

I would think any staunch big orange fanatic ... you said previosly there is no black & gold in the back of the closet ... would vote for a VU coach for coach of the year simply for beating that storied football powerhouse in the eastern region of the state. Won 28 of the last 30, or something? Had to be something superhuman he did as we all know the one thing UT does is always kick the s#@t out of Vandy. Well, except this year. Sorry, couldn't help myself.

By: Titan9282 on 11/27/12 at 3:56

wiseguy1, well said.....well said!!!!!! I have been a Vandy fanatic for 15 years and this has been an amazing year.

Consider this as well, 6 Games in, the Commodores were 2-4. Dead to rights. Thanks for playing. Better Luck next year, They were in the verge of benching Rodgers, Stacy was hurt, and it looked as if this team would go in the tank. What does Franklin do. 1. Makes Rodgers into a very SMART QB and not turn the ball over. 2. He gets the O-line to buy in and they have played 1000% better. 3 He turns a defense that lost a lot of players into a defense that has been getting turnovers and sacks.

I think that Franklin deserves Coach of the Year and he would be my #1 choice followed by Sumlin. Franklin is the top 3 coaches in Vanderbilt's history. He takes the most of his talent and turns them into winners. I cannot wait until he gets his recruits in here and see what they can do. On the other hand, Dooley could not do that. Dooley tried to over simplify things i.e Sal Sensari and the 3-4 defense he tried to incorporate. Go Dores. Wherever we go for a bowl, I am urging ALL Vandy fans to show their Black and Gold.

By: jwk6179 on 11/27/12 at 6:54

Vanderbilt fans are living in a make believe world if you think that James Franklin is going to stay at Vanderbilt for a long time. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next week or so that he leaves Vanderbilt for one of the many college head coaching openings. When the other schools start opening their bank accounts, I don't think Vanderbilt will be able to match some of the offers he will recieve. As far as his recuirts go, he won't be here when HIS RECUIRTS get here.

By: 4gold on 11/28/12 at 8:11

Now Now JWK, do I read a little jealousy in your post? UT fans can't stand a little success in the midstate.

As much improved as VAndy has been I still think A&M coach will get the vote for the win over Alabama. Vandy had no big wins. Had A&M not beaten Bama I think Franklin would have gotten it.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: wiseguy1 on 11/28/12 at 11:56

Ah, such fertile ground to plow. jwk's reply would have been so much more meaningful, versus simply mean, if he said "good luck with that". Alas he didn't, and we get to enjoy the putrid aroma of venomous attitudes because the orange world is turned upside down.

And through it all you raise yet another point that I would think supports you voting for Franklin as COY. Raise his stock for someone to hire him away VU. But no, you just can't get over the hate factor.

JWK ... good luck with the new coach, er fixer, and rebuilding. At least VU has a coach you believe other football programs would want. No doubt there will be interest from other programs. Franklin is certainly no Urban Meyer or Lane Kiffin ... I'm in, no I'm out, wait I'm in again ... or one & done.

As far as Franklin's recruits ... we saw many of them play this year ... Kimbrow, Azibuke, Sealand off the top of my head. I certainly liked what I saw. Not worried about a drop off as Franklin's recruiting classes have been ranked pretty high compared to recent past classes. If the three freshmen above represent the rest of the class, I'm not worried. VU does need lots more to compete with the upper echelon programs. All signs are positive toward that end. It'll take a few years, but he will get there.

In response to your bad attitude, I offer the thoughtful holiday wish ... Apparently UT lost more than the recipe. Quite possibly burned down the kitchen and did serious damage to the rest of the house. Former UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton is probably the best thing to happen to Vanderbilt athletics since David Williams. He managed to drive football, men's basketball and baseball into the pooper. I'm sure orange faithful are thankful Hamilton didn't have the opportunity to mess with Pat Summit's replacement or women’s basketball would be on life support too. The toilet bowl may be the only bowl UT sees for a few years thanks to Mr. Hamilton & Mr. Kiffin.

Merry Christmas JWK and may your football dreams be filled with a cross between the heard hearted Grinch and Lane Kiffin.