Vanderbilt's James Franklin Building a Contender or Pretender?

By Patrick Schmidt
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is coming off the Commodores first nice win season since 1915 in the ultra-competitive SEC and inked a long-term extension to stay in Nashville, Tn.

Franklin could retire tomorrow and a statue would be built in his honor at Vanderbilt Stadium. They could rename the field from Dudley Field to Franklin Field, but he’s not retiring tomorrow and he is set on leading the Commodores to a third straight bowl berth.

Let that sink in for a second. Vanderbilt likely is headed to a third straight bowl appearance. They had never been to two in a row before 2012, and could start the season ranked inside the top 25. What Franklin is doing at Vanderbilt is astonishing considering it is the smallest university in the powerful SEC and the conference’s only private institution.

More evidence of his historic accomplishments as head coach: Franklin’s 15 wins in his first two seasons rank behind only Dan McGugin who had 16 wins from 1904-05; his last two recruiting classes have ranked as the two best in the program’s history; he has a .577 winning percentage which is the best mark in 65 seasons since Red Sanders posted a .578 clip from 1940-1948 and led the ‘Dores to five SEC wins for the first time since 1935.

Less historic but nonetheless impressive is that Vanderbilt sold out three home games for the first time since the 1996 season in part because of the hope that Franklin has brought to Nashville. But the most shocking of all these accomplishments is that Vanderbilt begins the 2013 season with the longest winning streak in the SEC at six, their longest streak in 57 years.

Franklin has an edge about him and caused a rift on Tennessee radio last week after he posted this tweet last month.

I have no problem with a coach being a passionate and vocal defender of his school, but it’s also no surprise that it’s going to be met with some backlash. Much like his comments referring to Alabama head coach Nick Saban as “Nicky Satan” in January.

His passion and confidence can result in a poor choice of words at times, but after having to fight for respect that underdog mentality will do that. I can’t recall the last time a Vanderbilt head coach was revered and reviled as much as Franklin is at the same time. He is a legitimate threat to Tennessee for the first time ever for in-state recruits and has the conference heavyweights aware of what’s building in Nashville.

A trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game used to be a longer shot that winning the lottery twice in the same week for Vanderbilt, but with Franklin it’s becoming more of a realistic goal.

Bigger schools with much better facilities, a history of tradition and much more resources will undoubtedly pursue Franklin after this season. However, Franklin seems to be at home with no desire to leave the program he’s built.

Besides, he needs to keep padding his resume to get that statue.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Follow him on Twitter and add him to your Google network.

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