Sometimes Vanderbilt coach James Franklin will have the TV on in the other room and hear his name mentioned on SportsCenter.
So he’ll pop into see what the pundits are saying, only to find out they’re talking about another James Franklin — the Missouri quarterback.
“It is weird,” Vanderbilt’s James Franklin said. “It’s probably weird for him too. It’s a cool little wrinkle. But he’s the real James Franklin in this conference. I’m the other James Franklin, and I’m fine with that.”
The odd connection is about to get a bit stranger when the two meet on the field for the first time this Saturday in Columbia, Mo. And Bob Rathbun will do his best to differentiate the two for a national TV audience. Rathbun will handle the play-by-play duties for Fox Sports Network.
“It is odd that you have a situation where you’ve got a head coach and a quarterback — two guys that you will be featuring all night long — same name and no relation,” Rathbun said.
It’s not the first unusual name situation the veteran broadcaster has come across. Last year he was calling a game between the Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets. With five Williamses on the teams — Atlanta’s Marvin and New Jersey’s Deron, Jordan, Shawne and Shelden — Rathbun made it clear to his TV audience to whom he was referring.
“That was a pretty good challenge,” he said. “At one point there were three [players named Williams] in the game for New Jersey. So you just did it by their first name. … Basketball is so fast, it’s hard to spit it all out.”
Breaking down the James Franklins: At Vanderbilt, there’s 40-year-old James Geoffrey Franklin, a native of Langhorne, Pa., who has coached for the past 17 years. Then there is James Michael Ray Franklin, a 21-year-old junior from Corinth, Texas, who is in his second year of starting.
“He’s got four names? I should know that. He’s my cousin,” joked VU’s James Franklin, who was named after his father, who went by Jim.
The elder James Franklin just missed out on trying to recruit James Michael Ray. One of the coach’s former employers, Kansas State, pursued the dual-threat quarterback but not long after Franklin left for a job at Maryland.
Both have been college quarterbacks; James Geoffrey broke several records at Division II East Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania. They’re also both mixed up in quarterback controversies.
The elder Franklin is back-and-forth on starting Jordan Rodgers or Austyn Carta-Samuels. Missouri’s James Franklin has battled shoulder pain since getting beat up against Georgia. He received outside criticism for refusing pain medication — which his father defended as a family decision — and didn’t play two weeks ago against Arizona State. He started the next week in a loss to South Carolina, but proved ineffective and was replaced late by freshman Corbin Berkstresser. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he hasn’t lost faith in his James Franklin. His SEC coaching counterpart sees why.
“It is amazing how poised he is in the pocket,” James Geoffrey said of the young quarterback. “When you watch him, he looks almost relaxed. He understands the offense well, and makes a lot of plays. I’m very impressed by the kid and some of the decisions he’s made off the field.”
But the James Franklin name game is larger than the SEC.
Junior running back James Franklin picked up 1,247 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns last year at Division II Northwest Missouri State University, the alma mater of a certain college sports writer. Plus, this weekend another pair of James Franklins — same name, different order — will face off in a Division II matchup between two historically black schools in North Carolina.
James Franklin is the name of a freshman linebacker at Livingstone College, which hosts St. Augustine’s University and fifth-year senior wide receiver Franklin James on Saturday.
Named after his grandfather, the 23-year-old Franklin James has caught glimpses of James Franklin leading the Missouri offense and has to do a double take.
“He actually looks a little bit like me. That’s the crazy thing about it,” said James.
But he had never heard of the Vanderbilt coach. Though, maybe, one day they’ll cross paths. “I really want to coach,” James said. “That’s a coincidence, too.”