James Franklin’s pleas finally were answered.
But the Vanderbilt football coach hopes it was just a start.
After three months of seeing much of Vanderbilt Stadium empty or filled with enemy colors, Franklin was impressed with the Commodore contingency that accounted for nearly 60 percent of the 57,103 at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday in Memphis.
“I thought [Saturday] was a great representation of what Vanderbilt can be,” Franklin said after Vanderbilt’s 31-24 loss to Cincinnati. “This was the first game this year that I’ve felt electricity and it was probably from our fan base. It was unbelievable.”
Last Thursday, Vanderbilt officials announced they had exhausted their ticket allotment for the bowl. Thus, at least 13,000 Commodore fans were in attendance and perhaps more with the undetermined number of fans who purchased their tickets through other online services.
Behind Vanderbilt’s bench, shades of black and gold draped more than one side of the stadium. Beforehand, fans lined up to form a “Dore Alley” that the players and coaches are accustomed to walking through before games at Vanderbilt Stadium.
“We were there for a long time, shaking people’s hands,” senior cornerback Casey Hayward said. “It was like, ‘OK, this is crazy. We’re going to go out here and do our thing.’ It was electrifying. Our fans did a great job. We’re glad they came out and supported us.”
In fact, Hayward said he hadn’t witnessed this type of intensity and buzz from Vanderbilt fans since his freshman season.
“Our whole side was lit up with black and gold,” Hayward said. “We haven’t had that since the Auburn game [in 2008] when we had [ESPN’s College] Gameday there. It was exciting.”
Vanderbilt (6-7) averaged 32,873 fans at seven home games this season. That was down from 33,289 in 2010, when the Commodores were just 2-10.
Much of the 39,773 seats at Vanderbilt Stadium were occupied by visiting fans as Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky all brought nearly as many — or even more — fans as the Commodores did. After a 33-28 loss to Georgia on Oct. 15, Franklin attempted to send a message to Vanderbilt fans when he made sure to put a big emphasis on thanking the Georgia fans for showing up and accounting for nearly half of the season-high 36,640 in attendance.
On Saturday, he was quick to thank the Commodore faithful for their support.
“This is the first time this year that I really felt an electricity about Vanderbilt football,” Franklin said. “We weren’t able to capitalize on it [Saturday]. But, again, this is just a step.”
• Less than a week after the season's final game Franklin has a staff opening to fill.
Wide receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator Chris Beatty has been hired as an assistant on Tim Beckman’s staff at Illinois.
Beatty, 38, spent just one season with the Commodores after three seasons coaching the running backs and wide receivers at West Virginia. This will be his fifth stop over the last seven years.
Beatty received much of the credit for swaying four-star recruit Lafonte Thourogood (a quarterback turned wide receiver) from heading to Virginia Tech. He also helped develop sophomores Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd into two deep receiving threats. The duo combined for 13 touchdowns and 1,251 yards.