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Former Vandy QB Rodgers Eviscerates Alma Mater Right Before Signing Day

jordan-rodgers-vanderbiltYesterday, Former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers attacked his alma mater with an extremely long Twitter-based rant.  Whether Rodgers is right or wrong about the way former Vandy football players are treated after their careers end, he’s made new Commodore coach Derek Mason’s job even more difficult in the run-up to signing day.

Recently, Rodgers was not allowed in the Vanderbilt football facilities.  He was told he would have to pay a fee to use the school’s new indoor fields.

Now, we could post Rodgers’ rant tweet by tweet but, to be honest, it’s a bit tedious to read that way.  So here’s a link to his feed and here is what he tweeted last evening:

 

“It’s a shame but Vanderbilt will continue to be a stepping stone for coaches, a second rate program in the SEC and stuck in mediocrity b/c..

..of how the institution views athletics and treats their current and former players.  As a leader and starting QB during the emergence..

..and transformation of Vanderbilt into a contending and respectable program in the SEC I am ashamed at the treatment of some former players

..As I return to Nashville after my rookie year in the NFL I was excited to train at Vanderbilt with current players as well as pro day…

..and combine prep players. I have been throwing with current Vandy QBs and receivers and a receiver prepping for pro day. However, it has..

been a constant problem gaining access to the new “football” indoor facility during times it is “open use” I was turned away from the..

..indoor facility all together several times (even though the field was empty). After inquiring about the use of hte facility by active..

NFL alums and pro day players not currently enrolled. I was told I CAN’T use it unless I purchase a membership to the rec center!!!!..

..Vanderbilt and David Williams have “changed the culture”. NO.  The players (recruited by Bobby Johnson) and coach Franklin changed the..

..culture at Vanderbilt.  WE build that indoor by winning like no team in the history of VU. Now I have to pay to use it?! Pay to help..

..mentor and train with current players and alum trying to stick with a team in the NFL. WE built this program not some chancellor. This..

..is an embarrassment and only a reflection of the future of this program if it continues to put football and the success and treatment ..

..of its players as an after thought. I will choose to train somewhere else if VU has this little respect for its alumni who sacrificed so..

..much for this program. This is an embarrassment and a shame.  I love this school and program but it obviously is done with my services.

Let me reiterate: I would rightfully pay to use weight room, exercise classes, bball courts @ rec.I’m talking about 30 min/day on fball field

It’s not a me thing. There are 5+ ex VU players now in or continuing to pursue the NFL and a handful of recent grads trying for pro day

@VUNation @VandySportscom we didn’t request to drop in whenever. We gave a specific time window during open access hours to field.

It’s not about the $. It’s the fact that recent grads training for pro day in march and current NFL als can’t sue field without paying.”

 

Yikes.  Not surprisingly, Rodgers was quickly lit up on Twitter forcing him to post these follow-ups:

 

“Relax ppl and fans. I love you and Vandy! Just pointing out something that is disappointing for guys trying to make a name for themselves/VU

Twitter is a fickle thing. Love VU. What I said was truth. I will continue to search for resolution in house. Twitter can be taken out of..

..Context unfortunately. I am responsible for my actions and love my school. It will be better. It will be fixed.”

 

Twitter can be blown out of proportion, but it’s hard to see where anything Rodgers wrote last evening was taken “out of context.”  He ripped his alma mater, called the football program “second rate” and said it would be “stuck in mediocrity” before blasting the “culture,” the athletic director and the chancellor on a medium viewed by, well, everybody.

He didn’t put his foot in his mouth.  That would have gone unnoticed.  No, he put two feet on his keyboard.  And then things blew up for him.

In addition to ripping Vanderbilt’s program a week before National Signing Day, Rodgers also aligned himself with James Franklin who’s not exactly the most popular man in Nashville at the moment.  (Some people are trying to get his image erased from a local mural due to the fact that he left the Commodores and took half their recruiting class with him.)

Getting to the crux of Rodgers’ case, he’s actually in the right.  It’s foolish for schools not to welcome back alums.  Former players now in the NFL — or trying to reach the NFL — serve as good motivation for current players and can help lure recruits.  Unfortunately, Rodgers chose to take his argument to the people, did so with a hot head, and undercut the legitimate point he was trying to make.

Best of luck to Mason as he tries to cobble together a signing class in a two-week period while an ex-VU quarterback strafes his program with Twitter bombs.

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Kudos To Kentucky For Backing Stoops, Football With Cold Hard Cash

outsideThe University of Kentucky has hired coach after coach after coach in the hopes that a new guy with a new whistle could turn around the school’s football fortunes.  Now the school is going to invest a fortune into it’s program.  Automatically that improves the odds that UK’s latest hire will be able to change the trajectory of Wildcat football.

It’s not a guarantee of success, mind you, but Mark Stoops’ chances of succeeding will most certainly go up once UK spends $45 million to build a new football training center and practice fields.

Kentucky has announced that its board of trustees will vote Friday on the new, privately financed facilities.  The school announced last fall that it would be pouring $110 million into improvements at Commonwealth Stadium (improvements that sound fantastic, by the way).  Paying Stoops a good sum and allowing him to have the cash to hire good assistants has been a positive move.  Dumping an additional $155 million total into Stoops’ program is better and smarter.

James Franklin has been hailed as the man who turned around Vanderbilt’s program single-handedly.  Judging by the $5.8 million Penn State is paying Franklin in Year One (including this $1.5 million buyout from Vandy), PSU honchos certainly view him as a Lone Ranger type.  But while the coach did wonderful work on the field and in recruits’ living rooms, much of the credit actually needs to go to athletic director David Williams and the Vanderbilt administration.

Franklin wanted money thrown into the VU program.  He wanted a new practice/football facility.  He wanted guarantees of stadium improvements.  He got most of everything he wanted (and if scuttlebutt is to be believed, Commodore brass promised him all sorts of stadium upgrades while fighting to hang onto him).  Franklin didn’t stick around, but his good work and the upgrades made to the Vandy program allowed the school to land Derek Mason (and a very impressive staff) as Franklin’s replacement.  Would the defensive coordinator from a Pac-12 champion team have taken the VU job without the improvements the school and Franklin made?  Unlikely.

Vanderbilt had the right guy as coach, but the school’s turnaround began when that right guy was given something better to work with, something better to sell to recruits.  Judging by the recruiting Stoops has done in his first season — the man is basically selling a dream to prospects — Kentucky appears to have hired the right guy for its program.  With an influx of cash, UK AD Mitch Barnhart, the administration and the school’s boosters are giving Stoops something tangible that he can use in his efforts to make Kentucky an honest-to-God competitive football program.

Again, there’s no amount of money that can guarantee success in Lexington (or anywhere else).  But big money darn sure improves Kentucky’s and Stoops’ chances for success.

Bravo.

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Hard To Argue With Mason, But It Would Have Been Fun To See Vandy Chase A Proven Head Coach

derek-masonJust as everyone from the Florida Keys to the Puget Sound questioned Vanderbilt’s hire of James Franklin — “Who’s he?” — folks from one coast to the other are proclaiming new hire Derek Mason to be the perfect man for the job.  His resume certainly checks all the right boxes:

 

*  At Stanford, he was part of a program that won big

*  He’s recruited students that fit Vanderbilt’s academic profile

*  He’s recruited the South, as he pointed out at his introductory presser

*  He’s served as defensive coordinator at a program that plays an SEC style of ball

*  He’s young, a former player and he’s coached in the NFL — which should help him communicate with his players and recruits

*  And he’s not short on confidence, saying “SEC East title, here we come,” during that aforementioned press conference

 

On the surface, he’s a near carbon copy of Franklin.  That’s a good thing.  Franklin may now be trying to tear down what he built up by chasing VU commits, but he did erect the Commodore program in the first place.  You can’t blame AD David Williams for trying to find someone with a resume akin to his last coach’s.

However — and mind you, this however is not a knock on Mason in any way — it would have been nice to see Vanderbilt take its newfound status as an honest-to-God football program with back-to-back top 25 finishes and see what kind of proven head coach the school could have landed.

There’s a scene in the film, “The American President” in which Micheal J. Fox’s character suggests the White House use the president’s high approval rating and “take it out for a spin.”  Well, it would have been nice to see VU use its current status to try and woo some proven guys.  Reports suggest the top two candidates aside from Mason were Clemson assistant Chad Morris and Indianapolis assistant Pep Hamilton.  Maybe Williams likes to hire guys while they’re still hungry.  Or maybe he did put out some early feelers to sitting head coaches only to be rebuffed.  (But if that had happened, it’s likely someone would have been given a raise at his current school.)

There are zero guarantees when it comes to hiring coaches, of course.  Franklin and Hugh Freeze were yawn hires outside of their new campuses.  They turned out to be terrific hires.  Last year, Bret Bielema was the “big name” hire that every fan craves.  He inherited a mess and has a long rebuild ahead of him, but a nine-game losing streak in Year One and the 11th best recruiting class in the SEC (as currently rated by Rivals.com) certainly can’t be classified as “hot start” material.

So there’s nothing to say that a guy who’s already served as a head coach somewhere would have arrived in Nashville and led Vanderbilt to greater heights than Mason might lead them to.  Again, it’s hard to argue with his resume.  And grabbing the D-coordinator from a team that won the Pac-12 last season does indeed indicate the amount of progress Vanderbilt has made under Williams, Bobby Johnson (who recruited a lot of the guys his replacement won with) and Franklin.

It just would have been fun to see if the Commodores could have been able to lure in a successful coach from the MAC, MWC or AAC with its newfound status as bowl-goin’ ballgame-winnin’ program.

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Franklin’s Departure From Vandy A Great Reminder: Don’t Put Blind Faith In A Coach

bowing to statueFor the past three years, anytime MrSEC.com has claimed James Franklin ran his mouth a bit too much (his aides have to have pretty wives, Nicky Satan, etc), many Vanderbilt fans have rushed to defend him.  Anytime this site has suggested he might leave — who didn’t see him eventually leaving Nashville? — many Commodore fans have tsk-tsk’d us and claimed that we “must just be scared of what he’s building” at VU.

All of that changed on Saturday.

Check Twitter.  Check a Vandy message board.  Check out this lengthy post from VandySports.com, the Rivals site covering the Dores.

In the eyes of many VU supporters, Franklin has gone from infallible god to used car salesman.  From a man others must fear to a man they themselves cannot stand.

We point this out not to mock Vanderbilt backers but to remind everyone that even folks with fancy degrees can fall way too deeply in love with a winning coach.  Franklin was good for Vanderbilt.  He improved the program.  He supplied a blueprint to his replacement.  And he deserved support for it.

But he didn’t deserve blind faith.  No man does.  If more of us remembered that you’d see less rage and pain after a winning coach hits the bricks for a better gig.

Tennessee fans ignored all of the secondary violations, all of the jerkish comments, all of the general nonsense that surrounded Lane Kiffin while he was in Knoxville.  Anyone pointing out that he behaved like a nitwit was “anti-Vol.”  At least until Kiffin left Knoxville less than a month before signing day to take his “dream job” at Southern Cal.  Ironically, Kiffin left UT on a January 10th.  Franklin left VU on January 11th.  Like Franklin, Kiffin went from hero to zero in a matter of hours.

At Florida, anyone daring to criticize Urban Meyer for running a discipline-free program was viewed as a hater, someone who must root for a school that can’t beat Saint Urb.  But then he retired, un-retired, retired again and left Will Muschamp a penal colony to try to clean up.  Finally, when he finished up his “I need to watch my kids grow up” period and landed at Ohio State a whopping one year later — kids grow up so fast these days — many Florida fans arrived at one conclusion: “Hey, this guy won games but he was full of crap.”  Yes, he was.  In fact, most coaches are… because most people are.

Most of us are selfish individuals who’ll say anything to get ahead in life or to make an extra buck.  That may be a sad view of humanity, but it keeps this particular writer from being disappointed when people don’t live up to their word.  If our species is flawed, logic dictates that coaches will be flawed, too.  They’re of the same species (though some of us believe anyone coaching at good ol’ State U. must be an angel rather than a mere mortal).

Franklin, like many a coach before him, begged his school’s fans and administrators for full buy-in.  Vandy ponied up a lot of cash and they admitted a few athletes who might not have been let in to school for previous coaches.  Tens of thousands of Vanderbilt fans got in their cars and drove to Birmingham for a ho-hum January bowl game.  In their view, they bought in fully.

But no matter how many nine-win seasons Franklin had in Nashville, VU is still not a destination job.  Not yet.  That’s not an insult, that’s historical fact.  Vandy fans who’d been convinced by Franklin that their program was as good as any were therefore floored when he chose Penn State over Vanderbilt.  Roll that one around in your head for a bit.  Three years ago, would anyone planted on terra firma have expected a football coach to select Vandy over Penn State?  But Franklin said what coaches say.  Then he won games.  Fans and media fell in blind love with him believing anything he said and defending anything he did.  Commodore fans just didn’t see this coming.

So when it did come and he did leave there was hurt, anger, and scorn.  Consider these snippets from the VandySports.com column linked to above:

 

“Franklin doesn’t have a neck brace (like Bobby Petrino), but somehow he managed to find a way to leave a school he made into a national power as The Most Hated Man in Town…

For a coach who has never known how to stop talking, the silence coming from Franklin’s Tweet-a-minute camp was deafening…

Those of us who worked around him know why he bailed.  Franklin wanted to work where there was already a built-in fan base with a vast stadium.  He felt he was a big time coach, and big time coaches coach in big time arenas.  To each his own.”

 

If those aren’t the remarks of a person who feels betrayed this writer doesn’t know what would be.  Suddenly Franklin never knew how to stop talking?  Funny how that changes from a positive to a negative when a coach jets.  If this site or another had written that very same thing a week ago, Vandy fans would have been up in arms.

And the “to each his own” line reveals hurt feelings as well.  The writer of that piece knows full well that there’s not a coach in America who would prefer to work in an unfilled 40,000-seat stadium than in a packed 100,000-seat stadium.  None, zero, zip.  Yet the anger brought on by Franklin’s adios blinds Vandy supporters to that fact.  ”Well if he wants to go to one of the 10-15 best programs all-time, so be it.”  Uh, yeah.

Again, this isn’t to make fun of VU fans or anyone who grew to know Franklin while covering him.  It is simply a reminder that we all need to remember that these guys are human beings with human egos.  If they spot a better gig or a way to make an extra buck, all that we’ll see is a vapor trail in their wake.

They’re not infallible.  They’re not gods.  Most don’t looooooooove their school so much that they’ll turn down better jobs.  They’re people.  And we people are typically out for ourselves.  (Okay, Mark Richt is the exception to the rule.)

So from Columbia, Fayetteville and College Station out West to the other Columbia, Gainesville and Lexington to the East, you SEC fans should root for your coaches and support your coaches.  But don’t put blind faith in them.  If you do you’ll only wind up hurt feelings and rival fans yelling “told ya so” back in your face.  Ya know… like broken-hearted Vanderbilt fans today.

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If Franklin Goes, Can Vanderbilt Find A Suitable Replacement?

silhouette-question-markWith reports that James Franklin has been offered the Penn State job now all over the web, the question becomes: “If he leaves, can Vanderbilt find another winner?”

Honest answer?  It won’t be easy.  But that’s the case with every other program in the country, too.  Every hire is a roll of the dice.  And while there are no guarantees Vandy AD David Williams could find another winner, there’s nothing to say the man couldn’t roll another seven or eleven, either.

Franklin and Williams have made the Vanderbilt football job a better gig.  First, many believe the school is paying Franklin more than the $3 million guesstimate that’s so often kicked about.  You can be sure a school handing out those kind of greenbacks can find someone willing to take them.

Second, Franklin has demanded improved facilities and an increased recruiting budget.  VU has answered on the recruiting budget and most of Franklin’s facility demands have been or are being addressed as well.  So if he goes, his replacement won’t have to argue for things like an indoor practice facility.  Vandy’s now got a brand new one.

In general, there exists a commitment to football at Vanderbilt.  And that goes deeper than cash.  Many around the league believe the school has eased its entrance requirements for football players (though no one with a VU mortar board is likely to admit that).  Whether it has or hasn’t, Franklin has still proven that a good recruiter can lure 3- and 4-star recruits to Vanderbilt.  And that might be Franklin’s biggest gift to the school.  He’s provided a blueprint for the next guy.

Whoever replaces Franklin will know which buttons to push on the recruiting trail.  He’ll know that a “50-year plan” and a world-class education will sell to a lot of mamas and papas.  He’ll be able to tell recruits — as Franklin has — that they can a) play in the best NFL preparatory conference in the nation, b) win games and go to bowl games, c) get a diploma from one of the most respected institutions of higher-learning in the US, and d) they can do it all while living in one of the nation’s most vibrant cities, filled with museums and libraries and concert halls.  No other SEC school can boast that combination.  No other SEC school can even come close to that, in fact.  And while we doubt many of Franklin’s recruits have hit town, unpacked, and headed straight for a museum, that doesn’t mean parents haven’t liked that pitch.

Franklin has also shown that winning isn’t impossible at the West End school.  He’s benefited from what have turned out to be pretty easy non-conference schedules, yes, but in this day and age you can go 2-6 or 3-5 in the SEC and still reach one of the 30+ bowl games now in existence.  Ask Dan Mullen.

And what better time for a new coach to enter the SEC East?  Missouri just went from 2-6 in the East to division champs.  Florida’s coach is on a red-hot seat.  South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier will soon turn 69 and he — like Franklin at VU — is just about the only coach to have success at his school in the past 100 years.  There are no guarantees Carolina’s program will continue to excel post-Spurrier.  Tennessee is likely to be mediocre again as Butch Jones tries to re-stock the Vols’ roster.  And Kentucky is still at the bottom with Mark Stoops having to basically start from scratch.  Who knows if/when Tennessee or Kentucky ever find stability?

Granted, last year’s jump by Mizzou suggests that our views now might not mesh with what actually occurs over the next couple of seasons… but on paper, the East is the place to be if you want to make three million bones a year and coach in the SEC.

But there is one problem.  Whoever replaces Franklin will have to replace an extremely popular coach.  If he does something out of step with his predecessor’s work he’ll probably hear a few, “Franklin didn’t do it like that” comments from the cheap seats.  (That’s ironic because if Franklin takes the Penn State job he’ll definitely be told how he differs from Joe Paterno.)

Franklin did more than just go 6-6, too.  The last two seasons he’s gone 9-4.  He’s won his bowl games.  He’s won two in a row against in-state rival Tennessee.  While it’s possible Franklin could continue along on that same path, history suggests otherwise.  At some point even Franklin would face a rebuilding year.  If Franklin jets and a new guy arrives in time for a 6-6 campaign, he’ll be judged against his predecessor’s 9-4 campaigns.

And what if Franklin has squeezed the absolute maximum from the Commodore program?  Coaches are cocky fellows.  Most of them believe that they can win anywhere in the country.  But good coaches also tend to have shrewd agents.  Agents who’ll say, “Why not pass on Vanderbilt for the time being… let someone else prove that they can keep that ball rolling.”

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Vandy Fans, Once Again, Let’s Talk About Bowl Selections (And SEC TV Ratings)

yelling-hard-drive-latencyYa try to explain something to folks and they just get mad.  Yesterday we tried to explain how Vanderbilt — with an 8-4 record — wound up in the SEC’s very last bowl slot.  Allow us to summarize:

 

*  The bowl selection process has never been fair and it’s never been about “rewarding” teams.

*  Bowls pick teams for tourism purposes.

*  Goal One is to bring in a large group of fans for a week in December or January.

*  Goal Two is to reach as many television viewers as possible in an attempt to woo more tourists throughout the year.

 

Seems pretty simple.

But a couple of VU fans didn’t like that.  You can check the comment boxes here.  And the ol’ MrSEC.com inbox got a few nastier notes that our “curse” filters wouldn’t have allowed in the comment areas.  Apparently we at MrSEC have an “anti-Vanderbilt agenda.”  One person informed this writer in particular that I’m “jealous of graduates of the only true University in the Southeastern Conference.”

Ahoy, polloi!

So what… the bowls all share our “anti-Vanderbilt agenda?”  Either that or what we stated as facts yesterday are, ya know, correct.

We’re going with the latter and here are a couple of reasons why:

 

1.  The Liberty Bowl — which chose 6-6 Mississippi State over the 8-4 Commodores — posted on the game’s Facebook page a photo of the Bulldogs playing in the 2007 Liberty Bowl.  That game set an attendance record for the game at 63,816.  Vandy’s game in Memphis two years ago drew 57,103.  And while VU fans continue to spout numbers like 30,000 as a true attendance figure for their Liberty Bowl appearance, the reality is the school did sell out its allotment of tickets (13,000) with everything else being a guesstimate.  The Nashville City Paper wrote at the time: “(James) Franklin was impressed with the Commodore contingency that accounted for nearly 60 percent” of the crowd.  Cincinnati wears black just like Vanderbilt, so trying to decide which team black-clad fans were rooting for would probably be a bit difficult from a pressbox.  But even if VU did take 30,000 to Memphis, MSU’s game with UCF in 2007 still drew more folks to the Bluff City.

2.  Television ratings haven’t helped Vandy’s cause, either.  As we noted yesterday, “Decades of losing have made Vanderbilt less than must-watch viewing for most national sports fans.”  If you want to sell your city to millions of television viewers you need — wait for it — a game that will draw in million of television viewers.  The Commodores’ last two bowl games have ranked last and next-to-last in SEC game viewership.  Vanderbilt’s Music City Bowl matchup with NC State last season ranked 29th out of 35 holiday contests last year.  More national viewers tuned in to watch Central Michigan/Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Bowl, UL-Lafeyette/East Carolina in the New Orleans Bowl, and SMU/Fresno Sate in the Hawaii Bowl to name a few.  Oh, and Mississippi State’s Gator Bowl date with Northwestern drew in 200,000 more viewers as well.  (The Bulldogs also drew more TV eyeballs than he Dores the season prior.)

 

Much has been made of the Gator Bowl selecting a rematch of last year’s Capital One Bowl between Georgia and Nebraska.  It’s been pointed out to us (in both the comment areas and in emails) that UGA didn’t sell out their bowl allotment last year.

But if you check the top table below you’ll find that Georgia/Nebraska was last year’s 5th-highest rated bowl.  Hmmm.  Still wondering why the Gator Bowl would pick the Dawgs and Huskers over say Vanderbilt and Nebraska?

Once again, none of this is to say Vanderbilt didn’t get a sca-rew job.  It did.  But the reasons are fairly obvious to anyone who doesn’t sign his emails, “Anchor Down!”  Vandy doesn’t have a reputation (yet) for selling out bowls or its regular season games (in a 40,000-seat stadium).  The Commodores are also a poor TV draw when it comes to their last two bowl games.  VU fans may hate those facts.  They might not like someone sharing those facts.  But they just sound silly if they continue to try and argue those facts.

Below are the television ratings for all the SEC bowls over the last two years…

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Suck It Up, Vandy Fans, Bowl Bids Have Everything To Do With Tourism

poutingThe bowl system isn’t fair.  It never has been fair and it never will be fair.

Cities initially staged college football games during the holiday season in order to bring fans to their hotels, restaurants and stores.  In a century of bowl games, things still have not changed on that front.  In fact, television has made tourism an even bigger part of the equation.  Now cities not only want two fanbases coming to town during for a game, they also want to draw in additional visitors by airing advertisements for their beaches and golf courses in well-watched bowl matchups.

And all that is where Vanderbilt runs into trouble.

The Commodores got the short end of the stick this year when it came to SEC bowl travel.  After two years in the Volunteer State (in the Music City and Liberty Bowls), Vandy finally landed a postseason game across the Tennessee border.  Unfortunately, that game is the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, the very last bowl game on the SEC’s lengthy list.  So a team that went 8-4 is going to a bowl farther down the food chain than games playing host to Mississippi State (6-6, Liberty Bowl) and Ole Miss (7-5, Music City).  Two other 8-4 SEC teams (Georgia to the Gator and Texas A&M to the Chick-fil-A) also landed better travel itineraries.

Naturally, Vandy fans aren’t the least bit happy about what they view as a slight to their program.  Our mature, well-reasoned reply?  Tough noogies.

Decades of losing have made Vanderbilt less than must-watch viewing for most national sports fans.  And though the Dores have sold a healthy number of tickets to those two bowl games within their state, they still couldn’t sell out a 40,000-seat stadium — by far the smallest in the SEC — during the stretch run of what’s become the school’s best three-year period since the 1920s.  Drawing less than 40,000 for November games against Kentucky and Wake Forest is no way to wow bowl committees.  Especially when the coach himself has been challenging Vandy fans to show up and turn out since the day he arrived in Nashville.

This is not to say, “Well, it’s Vandy, who cares?” as some VU fans will most assuredly cry.  We’d say the same for any SEC school that couldn’t put 40,000 fannies in seats in an effort to hang onto the best coach they’ve had in the modern era.  Want a better bowl trip?  Show the bowls that you’ll support your team.

Next season the SEC will begin to play a larger role in determining who goes bowling where.  Whether that will make a difference in VU’s future fortunes is yet to be determined.  And while some Vandy fans compare their squad to Duke — headed to the Chick-fil-A Bowl — the fact of the matter is that the Blue Devils won 10 games, finished with a #24 ranking, and won an ACC division championship.  In other words, it’s an apples to carrots comparison to say the SEC should have fought for VU as the ACC did for Duke.  Duke accomplished more.  It was an easier fight.

With all the talk of bowl destination disappointment, James Franklin had better make sure his players don’t spend too much time listening to their fans’ groans.  The Commodores have beaten just two teams with winning records the last two years and Houston — also 8-4 — should present a pretty good challenge down at Legion Field.

If Vanderbilt fans turn up in Birmingham in large numbers and if Franklin’s team can win its ninth game over a pretty good foe, then Commodore Nation will have something to complain about if the Dores are shafted in the bowl selection process next season.  Until then, Vandy’s just the latest school to whine, wail and weep about unjust bowl treatment.

Oh, and just to be on the safe side, ya better start snapping up a few more tickets to Dudley Field next season, too.

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Rumors Continue To Tie Vandy’s Franklin To Southern Cal Gig

james-franklin-trojan-helmetSouthern California AD Pat Haden is reportedly nearing the end of his search for a new football coach.  Interim coach (and former Ole Miss coach) Ed Orgeron is no longer in the running for the Trojans’ full-time gig.  Boise State’s Chris Petersen has pulled his name out of the hat, as usual.

That leaves three candidates that we know of: Washington’s Steve Sarkisian (already interviewed), Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (already interviewed), and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.

Sarkisian is a former Trojan assistant.  Del Rio is a former USC player.  Franklin is the wild card.

From the coach’s perspective, it would be almost impossible to turn down one of the five best coaching jobs in the country to remain at Vanderbilt.  Yes, the school — like Southern Cal — is private and can toss plenty of cash around.  But Franklin has already worked miracles in Nashville.  He’s led the school to three straight bowl games for the first time ever and he’s won eight games in back-to-back years (with a chance to win nine in back-to-back seasons).  That’s not been done at Vandy since the 1920s.

Plus, Franklin has repeatedly called on fans to turn out for Commodore football games.  They haven’t.  There were thousands of empty seats for both the Kentucky and Wake Forest games as VU made its stretch drive.  Vanderbilt Stadium seats just 40,000, so unfilled seats are sure to chap a coach with Franklin’s aspirations.

Franklin also might be thinking it’s time to jump while the getting’s good.  Vanderbilt has beaten just two FBS squads with winning records over the last two years.  At some point, even at Vandy, fans will want more.  Ask Dan Mullen about feasting on cupcakes for too long.

Vandy AD David Williams needs to pull out all the stops to keep Franklin and you can be sure that he will.  But if USC offers, it’s hard to imagine Franklin not accepting.

However, oother issue at play is the rape trial involving four ex-VU footballers.  Defense attorneys have requested copies of the text messages sent back-and-forth between the players involved and Vandy’s coaches during the attempted cover-up.  Haden will have to discuss that matter with Franklin on the uber-slim chance that Vandy’s head coach in any way aided his players in trying to hide the deed.  That’s extremely doubtful, mind you, but after the Penn State scandal, it wouldn’t be prudent for an AD to hire a coach without asking about such an ugly episode.

USC is expected to name a coach in the next three weeks.

Stay tuned…

 

(UPDATESarkisian has now said he did not interview with Southern Cal.)

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Vandy’s Franklin Listed By Just About Everyone As A Candidate At Southern Cal

James-Franklin-contemplativeThe deed is done.  Lane Kiffin is no more.  (We’ll pause so Tennessee fans can wipe away their tears of joy.)  Now the speculation is churning about who Southern California will hire to replace the one-time up-and-comer.  And one name that keeps popping up is Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.

 

“He has won at Vanderbilt and made the brand recognizable in a conference that has swallowed the program whole for the better part of a century.”

“Franklin remains one of the more impressive young coaches in the country, so USC could make this hire looking at not just the next two or three seasons but the next decade.”

“Franklin is also an excellent recruiter and would energize a fanbase that was turned off by Kiffin.”

“My sources say if offered, Franklin would jump at the job.”

“Here’s who I believe are five candidates that USC will consider to replace Lane Kiffin… 1. James Franklin, Vanderbilt.”

 

The good news for Vanderbilt is that their coach had so much success in his first two seasons on the job — and recruited so well — that he’s been noticed by darn near everyone in the country.  And that list apparently includes Trojans AD Pat Haden.

The bad news for Vanderbilt is that their coach had so much success in his first two seasons on the job — and recruited so well — that he’s been noticed by darn near everyone in the country.

Franklin said all offseason that he plans on being at Vanderbilt for a long time.  Any knowledgeable sports fan knows that coaches who say that mean “As of now I plan to stick around for a long time.”

Southern Cal is one of the plum jobs in college athletics.  The NCAA sanctions that left Kiffin with just 56 scholarship players this past weekend are going to end soon.  Kiffin’s replacement can also enjoy a year or two’s grace period by blaming the ex-Trojan coach for all that ails the Southern Cal program.

Sure, the heat would be turned up on Franklin if he were to trade a Commodore’s hat for a Trojan short sword, but if he continues to win in Nashville the heat will eventually be turned up their, too.  Expectations will rise.

Yeah, yeah, “He could go 6-6 forever at Vandy!”  Wanna bet?  Many VU fans are just as irrational as those zealots you’ll find dotting fanbases everywhere else across the SEC and America.

And speaking of fans, Franklin has on numerous occasions commented on the need for more VU fans to pack Dudley Field and support his program.  To date, Vandy can no more sell out games against foes like Austin Peay than anyone else.  Only VU’s home arena seats less than 40,000.  Not filling a 40,000-seater is the kind of the thing a coach notices.

In case you’re wondering, the LA Coliseum holds 93,000-plus.

Commodore AD David Williams and the administration at VU deserve credit for finally pouring money into their football program.  In fact, Vandy can throw cash around like many a big-time public school.  But Southern Cal is another private school.  A private school with the funds to compete with Texas as the United States’ richest football program.  So if Williams tried to ante up, Haden could easily keep raising the stakes.

One other point?  Franklin might be looking to distance himself from the rape case that’s left a cloud hanging over Nashville West End all season.  Wouldn’t you?

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The SEC’s Best Football Programs Part 5: Ranking Them From 1 To 14

mrsec stat analysis newFour categories.  Twenty sub-categories.  Numbers and data.  All-time wins and climate reports.  Heisman trophies and talent pools.  You name it, we’ve included it in our multi-part series that attempts to rank the SEC’s best football programs from #1 to #14.

You can read an overview of the project here.

Part 1 — Recruiting Base — can be found here.

Part 2 — Tradition — can be found here.

Part 3 — Campus Life – can be found here.

Part 4 — Recent History — can be found here.

And below, you’ll find our scoring chart.  Seeing as how we’ve received at least one email or comment expressing disagreement over every single one of the 20 topics we’ve chosen to include, we fully expect to hear some gripes and grumbles about our scoring methodology.  That’s OK.  We’re not trying to get this project past Will Hunting and the guys at MIT.

Rather simply providing a ranking of programs off the top of our heads — which so many folks have done in the past — we wanted to put some numbers to the whole thing.  In fact, we’ve wanted to do this for a couple of years now… but it’s a time-consuming drill.  These numbers couldn’t all be found in one site (until now).

Over the past few days we’ve shown you the breakdowns of how the SEC’s programs ranked in terms of:

 

* Recruiting Base: NFL Picks over Recent 20 Years

* Recruiting Base: 4- and 5-Star Signees over Last 5 Years

* Tradition: All-Time Wins

* Tradition: Conference Championships (1950-2012) (Most modern conferences began to take shape around 1950)

* Tradition: National Championships (1936-2012) (The AP Poll was launched for good in 1936)

* Tradition: All-Time Bowl Appearances

* Tradition: All-Time Heisman Trophy Winners

* Campus Life: Average Number of Sunny Days

* Campus Life: Percentage of Female Students in Campus Population

* Campus Life: Percentage of Ethnic Students in Campus Population

* Campus Life: Average Football Attendance

* Campus Life: Licensed Merchandise Sold

* Recent History: Stadium Size (Current capacity)

* Recent History: Wins over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: Conference Championships over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: National Championships over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: Bowl Appearances over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: Heisman Trophy Winners over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: NFL Draft Picks over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: 1st Round Draft Picks over Last 10 Years

 

So what counts most?  The category labeled Recent History.  Those accomplishments are essentially covered twice (in the Recent History and Tradition categories).  Recent success is what today’s recruits know.  So when you see the final rankings, the last 10 years will play a role.

At the same time, tradition counts, too.  A program that has lived through 90 years of frustrations to turn things around in the most recent decade shouldn’t be expected to land atop our rankings.

As for determining those rankings we decided to convert league-wide percentages into a point system.  Example: Since 1936, the SEC’s current members have won 22 “major poll” national championships.  Alabama has won 10 of those.  Percentage-wise, that’s .454 of the SEC’s national titles.  So Bama would receive .454 points in our system.

Yes, yes, there are other ways to do it.  We welcome you to have at it.  But for our fun little exercise we decided it would be more fun to say: “School X is responsible for .333 of the SEC’s conference titles in the last decade… so we gave them .333 points in this category.”

Obviously the higher the score the better a team’s rank.  Of the 20 categories we used, 19 are positive numbers (meaning the higher the number, the better).  Merchandise sold, however, was a ranking provided by Collegiate Licensing Company in which the lower the number, the better.  So for that one category, we actually subtract the percentages/points.

We counted to the third decimal place, in case you’re wondering, and all of our percentages when added together equal between 99 and 100.

You can click the links above to see the actual wins, losses, championships, etc for each category.  Below, we simply show you what percentage of a category each school was responsible for.  The final number — merchandise sold — was subtracted as part of the tallying process.

Before you get too upset about out over-simplified methodology, take a look at the actual results.  We found them to be pretty darn close to what we might have thrown out off the top of our heads anyway.

On to the scores:

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