It's not No. 1 vs. No. 2. But with virtually nothing in the way of fanfare, Vanderbilt and Kentucky will become just as big a part of SEC history when they meet in Nashville this Saturday.
Why? Because thanks to the Commodores' James Franklin and the Wildcats' Joker Phillips, the game will mark the first-ever SEC matchup between two African-American head coaches.
Sylvester Croom famously became the league's first African-American head coach at Mississippi State in 2004, but resigned the position before any other minority hires were made in the conference--Phillips is the league's second, Franklin the third.
Speaking to SBNation's Steven Godfrey after practice Wednesday, Franklin said that with his team fighting for bowl eligibility, the historic nature of the game hasn't even occurred to him:
"Today is the first time I've heard or thought about it, honestly ... I hope we can get to the point real soon where it's not even a discussion point. But I also understand the signifigance of it, and I'm proud to be here with Vanderbilt, and proud that it's Joker. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him. I've known him for a long time and I know who he is as a man."This is true, but the fact that this particular bit of history is being made in a Vanderbilt-Kentucky game is a sign that there's still a long way to go; it's simply not a coincidence that the SEC's three African-American coaches to date have gotten their shot at the three universally acknowledged least-desirable jobs in the league. Still only 8 of 66 BCS conference head coaching positions (12 percent) are held by African-Americans.
"If this was 20 years ago, this game would be a bigger story, but that only means we're headed in the right direction."
But as Franklin points out, that it's taken until Thursday for anyone to notice that this substantial a milestone is being passed is a good indication that progress is being made. Given where the SEC was not so long ago, we think the league will take it.