There's a way his career -- his life -- could have gone so much easier.
|With his highly successful offensive system, Franklin wasn't gone for too long. (US Presswire)|
All he had to do was lay back and let his coaching career take shape. But in the sometimes incendiary college football climate of the SEC, impressions die hard.
"The perception of being a rat," said Franklin, describing the label attached to him that might still exist for Auburn's new offensive coordinator.
"That's why I wrote the book," he added. "People told me if I wrote it I'd probably never get another job."
That meant banishment from the profession. He was branded. For five years that was Franklin's career, his life -- such as it was. No one would hire him after Fourth Down And Life To Go hit the shelves. Coaches just don't chronicle in print what goes on in a program, much less a corrupt one. Former Wildcats coach Hal Mumme was fired for recruiting violations that led to NCAA penalties for Kentucky in 2002.
Franklin was not named in the NCAA report and later filed suit against Kentucky to clear his name. The school eventually mailed every AD, head football coach and president in I-A stating that Franklin broke no rules and did not rat out the program.
Still, the vermin perception existed.
It's hard to believe Franklin is 50 now, at the top of his profession, back in the SEC, riding a wave that is making superstars out of top coordinators. The only difference is that Franklin would have been at the top a long time ago if he didn't have to scrape by for those five years (2001-06). That meant an existence filled for a year with the National Indoor Football League. Franklin became the general manager and coach of the Lexington (Ken.) Horsemen in 2003. At one point he had to declare bankruptcy. A daughter, Caroline, suffers from ulcerative colitis that at one point landed her in the Mayo Clinic.
Franklin's football intellect sustained him. He went back to his roots, developing a consulting service he sold to high schools. The Tony Franklin System Seminar became so popular that his initial consultation fee was $1,500 for schools to learn his spread offense. The whole shootin' match costs $2,995. Schools got instructional DVDs and a power point presentation. Seminars were held throughout the country. Schools flocked to him. His speaking services were in demand.
During a consulting session in 2002, a Hoover (Ala.) High School player died of sudden cardiac arrest. Franklin turned that tragedy into another book (Victor's Victory), this one dedicated to encouraging schools to have defibrillators available at games and practices.
Through it all Franklin was a football savant without a home.
"There's a code regardless of what profession you're in," he said. "It takes courage to break codes, do the right thing. You have to be willing to pay the price."