“… We’re also gonna fight. I want to make sure everybody understands that. We are not gonna sit back and take stuff from anybody. Anybody. No one. Those days are long gone and they are never coming back. Ever.”
Those were the words spoken by James Franklin after Georgia had escaped Nashville with a hard fought win over Vanderbilt last October. Four months later, they continue to resonate. From Music City all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
At the time Franklin was hot over a postgame run-in he’d had with Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. A month later he would again show his fiery side when video taken from inside Tennessee’s locker room after its win over Vandy hit the internet. Also, there were rumblings from inside more than one SEC program that Vanderbilt’s players had mastered the art of the late hit and the clip.
Add it up and it seems clear that Vanderbilt’s football program is no longer your daddy’s Vandy football program. And if you need further proof of that, simply take note of the fact that the University of Maryland and the Atlantic Coast Conference have filed a formal complaint with the SEC claiming that Franklin and his staff tampered with players on the Terrapins’ roster.
Franklin defended his program last week on a Nashville radio show but he did not deny speaking with the players in question. Indeed, the ex-Maryland assistant admitted that he maintains relationships with lots of his former players.
Whether you believe Franklin tried to woo quarterback Danny O’Brien and others to Nashville probably depends on your fan allegiance. But it really doesn’t matter if the accusations are true or not. What matters is the fact that someone is making an accusation about Vanderbilt.
Vandy vice chancellor of athletics David Williams told The Tennessean that he could not remember anyone filing such a claim against his school in the past. ”Everybody around here knows the level of integrity of this university. I’m going to do the investigation (into the tampering charges) — that’s what I’m supposed to do. At the end, I’ll be able to say, ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’ These are new allegations that arose to us.”
If Williams finds that tampering did take place — and we’re going to have to really trust “the level of integrity” of his university on that one — it’s possible that VU could be hit with a secondary NCAA violation over the matter. That’s nothing to be proud of and you can be sure some academicians at Vanderbilt won’t be happy that accusations have been made against their fine institution in the first place.
But for Vandy fans who’ve grown tired of being the SEC’s football punchline, tampering charges and secondary rule violations are of little import. Dores fans are simply thrilled that Franklin is delivering what he promised back in October — that “old” Vanderbilt is gone.
Now “new” Vanderbilt is getting national media coverage, getting higher-caliber recruits… and getting under the skin of other coaches, programs and conferences. At this point there should be no doubt that Franklin has changed the culture of the Commodores’ program.