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2011 SEC Media Days: Vanderbilt's James Franklin Has An Exciting Opportunity For You

Are you a promising student-athlete who’s interested in getting in on the ground floor and building something real? Are you looking for an opportunity to do something that’s never been done before? Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin would like to speak with you today!

“Big challenge, but bigger opportunity” was how Franklin sold the idea of coming to what is perhaps the SEC’s most historically downtrodden football program. “You have a chance to build something with your own hands and be a part of that. [You] can come to Vanderbilt and be the first guy that did something, and that’s win at a consistent level.”

Leaving aside the implication that Vanderbilt has never won at a consistent level before — everyone in the room knew it was true, it was just odd hearing it from a coach — Franklin, despite being a first-year head coach (and tied with Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen as the youngest coaches in the conference), clearly needs no extra training in marketing an SEC football program (even a not-great one) to the general public. Franklin pitched Vandy football almost as if it were an Internet startup, talking at a breakneck clip about stuff like “relationships” and “opportunities” and maybe also throwing a “synergy” in there for good measure. (I can’t confirm whether he actually did that last one, but he might as well have. I’m assuming synergy is something that Vanderbilt, 4-20 over the last two seasons, could probably use right about now.)

And Franklin is almost certainly endearing himself to Vandy diehards with his unabashed salesmanship of Vanderbilt’s academic superiority. When asked whether Mike Slive’s proposal to raise academic eligibility standards would help out a more rigorous school like VU, Franklin replied, “We’re already living at a higher standard than most of the schools across the country anyway.” When he sells Vandy to prospective recruits, he said, he tells them “you have a degree that really matters. When you go into a job interview, you’ll demand respect from the people in that room right away.”

And yeah, you’ll be playing in a stadium where half the fans are rooting for the other team, but Franklin says he’s working on that too. “The most important thing we can do,” he said, “is put a product on the field that our fans can be excited about.”

“Product”? Seriously, if this guy doesn’t have an M.B.A. already, Vandy should just go ahead and give him an honorary one. Interested in becoming a ’Dore? Operators are standing by.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.