Perennial doormat Vanderbilt University is not such a doormat any longer under head football coach James Franklin. Franklin, in his third year with the Commodores after a previous stint with Maryland as offensive coordinator, has guided his team to back-to-back bowl appearances. The school had only been to four bowl games prior to Franklin’s arrival, so his popularity amongst the Vanderbilt faithful has… ah, fuck it, I can’t do this with a straight face.
Look, I understand that 15-11 and two bowl games is new territory for Vanderbilt “fans” but I’ve never seen such a microwaved microcosm of mediocrity in my life. I’m not going to make this preview about James Franklin, although I could; Vanderbilt fans like to call James Franklin their version of Bruce Pearl, while Vol fans recognize him as a slightly less imposing Lane Kiffin. What this is really about to me is the laughable way in which Vandy fans have developed a sense of accomplishment based on the last two years. Franklin has upgraded Vanderbilt’s overall talent, but the increase in wins is because Tennessee and Auburn faded to or below Vanderbilt’s level and Kentucky has been even worse than usual. Even then, Vandy’s anointed best coach in recent history was merely 1-1 vs. Tennessee’s universally regarded worst coach in school history. While bowl victories are benchmarks for a program like that, Vanderbilt’s fans seem to revel in the moral victories of near misses against ranked teams.
I’ve been told a few times that things are changing in middle Tennessee. I’ve been told that Nashville is becoming a Vandy town. I’ve been flashed the VU gang-sign by shirtless men in trucks, verbally accosted and physically threatened by Vandy students and fans inside Dudley Field, and screamed at by a Vandy fan on Broadway last New Year’s Eve. My crime in all these cases was simply displaying the logo of our State University on my person. Many Vandy fans turn a blind eye to the recent troubles on the West End campus and place blind faith in a coach that might be more salesman than savior. It almost seems that Vandy fans have become the very thing they always hated; a loud-mouthed group of Tennessee rednecks who have little class… a group of fans so desperate for success that they’ll accept any happening, any impropriety, and any sacrificing of values. Meanwhile, I’m afraid to leave my wife alone in the car at any establishment on West End.
I guess I was supposed to write a preview to predict how Vanderbilt will do this season. Then I remembered that I don’t care and neither does this site. Good luck Commodores!