Posted by Chip Patterson
Vanderbilt's James Franklin is walking into a difficult situation for his first head coaching opportunity. The Commodores have only won 13 SEC games in the last 10 years and are entering 2011 after back-to-back 2-10 seasons. More than any team in the conference, Vanderbilt has the most room for improvement. It's a difficult challenge for anyone, particularly a 39-year-old first-time head coach.
Then you meet James Franklin.
Franklin was impressive on the microphone Friday, taking a honest but enthusiastic look at his football program. Some of the first questions he faced concerned his recruiting philosophy, and how he markets a school with academic standards like Vanderbilt.
"The way I look at it is we have an opportunity to do something really special at Vanderbilt, Franklin said. "We have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. I really believe there's very few schools that are going to be able to compete with us when it comes to recruiting because we have an opportunity to offer things that very few schools can.
"You can come to Vanderbilt and get a world class education, so for the next 40 years of your life you have a degree that matters. When you walk into a job interview, and they get to know you, and they ask you where you went to school, you'll demand respect from everybody in that room right away. We also play in the greatest football conference in America, the SEC. If you're the best and brightest from all over this country, where else would you go? The third factor is we're in Nashville. I'm a big believer that your education is more than what you just learn in the classroom. It's a combination of all these cultural experiences, and we can provide that at Nashville.
"There's going to be some schools that maybe have one aspect. There's going to be very few schools that have all three aspects that I think people are looking for: the academic experience, the athletic experience, social experience. The last factor is these guys want to play early. We can offer that. We have some good players, we just don't have enough of them. From a depth perspective, we can allow young men to get on the field as well. That plan, that vision, that mentality has really been helping us."
Here are some more highlights from Franklin's press conference:
On Vanderbilt's quarterback situation: "This spring we had one healthy scholarship quarterback. So it's going to be a little bit interesting. I didn't think it was fair at any position, especially the quarterback position, to name any starters. Every one of our players is going to come in and earn their job in camp and what they've done all summer and off-season. That's including Chris Marve, everybody. We want to create the most competitive environment we possibly can."
On how to build the fan base: "I think the most important thing we can do is put a product on the field that our fan base can be excited about. That's the most important thing. We're going to do some things facility-wise to create a better home-field advantage as well, give a better game-day experience. The other thing, my staff, myself, the players, administration, we have to reach out to the entire Vanderbilt community, that's worldwide. I think that's one of our challenges as well, is because of our education, what we offer young men, our graduates go all over the world, we have to reach out and bring the community back together. Everybody has to understand we can't do this alone. It's not the players, it's not just the coaches. It's our alumni base, it's the community, everybody. We need this fan base to unite like it never has before."
Keep it here at the Eye On College Football for more updates from media days from all conferences in the upcoming weeks.