Bob Smizik: A Vanderbilt view of Franklin

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In his first appearance as the Penn State football coach, James Franklin just didn’t win the press conference, he scored a TKO. He wowed one and all with his performance, which no doubt fired up what is one of the largest fan bases in college football and inspired dreams of a return to the glory days when the Nittany Lions were among the elite programs in the country.

What particularly impressed me about Franklin was his stated commitment. He said, “We plan on being here for a long time. This is my dream job. This is where I want to be.”

Not only was Penn State getting one of the hottest, young coaches in the country, it was getting a firm commitment for the future. Few expected long-term stability with this hire, but coming from a Pennsylvanian who said he grew up a Penn State fan, it made near-perfect sense.

Now let’s hear the other side of the story. Let’s read about what they’re saying and how they feel in Nashville, where Franklin walked out on a contract -- perfectly legal -- and left behind players he recruited -- comes with the territory.

This is the lead to David Clymer’s column in the Tennessean today:

''James Franklin was all in.

''Until he was all out.

''Vanderbilt fans who now feel scorned are seeing a side of Franklin that others saw long ago. He talked about the team but it was really all about him. And he saw Vanderbilt as a means to an end.

''He spoke publicly about his commitment to the program while making sure his name was floated out there for various coaching openings. He brokered his success with the Commodores into the Penn State job.

''In other words, he isn’t any different from just about every other person in his chosen profession.

''He talked the talk until he walked. At the outset of preseason practice last August, Franklin spoke about sinking roots deep into the community, saying he “would love to have the fairytale that your kids going to the same school for 18 years.”

For the record, Clymer is a smart, nationally respected columnist, not some hometown bozo whining about a favorite team losing its coach.

For those impressed about Franklin’s talk of commitment to Penn State, consider what he said, according to Clymer, when he took the Vanderbilt job:

“This is not a stepping stone for us. This is a destination.”

Those words kind of water down what Franklin said in regard to a long-term commitment to Penn State.

I was among those who wrote most favorably about Franklin. My opinion was written before the press conference yesterday. No doubt, it would have been even more favorable had I waited. Clymer’s column was a dose of reality. It, however, has not changed my opinion. I stand by the sentence I closed with yesterday:

''James Franklin now is the man in charge of that great tradition and this rising football program. It’s hard to imagine it being in better hands.’’

But I thank Clymer from reminding me what I’ve long known but seemed to have forgotten: Above all else, Franklin is a football coach. And we know what they are like.


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