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July 18, 2013
KEVIN TRAINOR: We have the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores, Coach James Franklin.
COACH FRANKLIN: Really appreciate the opportunity to be here today. It's amazing, year three. How different year three is compared to year two or year one. We've been able to do some pretty good things that we're very, very proud of, that you guys are aware of.
To put a little bit of perspective for everybody, before we arrived at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt had won four bowls game, had been to four bowl games, excuse me, in 122 years. We've been to two bowl games in two years. Very, very proud of that.
We were able to win nine games last year. Haven't won nine games at Vanderbilt since 1915. Very proud of that fact.
We were able to win our last seven games. Longest winning streak to end the season in the SEC last year was us.
Very proud of the fact that we're part of what we call the 20‑20‑20 Club. That is us and Notre Dame are the only two schools in the country that finished in the top 20 on the football field, that had a top 20 recruiting class, and are in the top 20 academic institutions. We're very, very proud of that stat as well.
Looking at it from an academic perspective, our freshmen just arrived on campus. We had the highest GPA our freshmen had ever had during June. Doing a great job there. We look on par. Over the last 10 years with what Vanderbilt has done academically when it comes to graduation rates and team GPA, we're at par with that or higher in every category. Very proud of where we're going and what we're doing.
But as you guys all know, those are things of the past, and our focus is on where we're going now.
Probably our biggest challenge is handling the success. I think a lot of times when you're taking over a program, you're dealing with 18‑ to 22‑year‑old males, adversity is probably a little bit easier to handle than the success. Making sure our guys understand that we're going to have to play with the same type of emotion, passion, chip on our shoulder that we've had in the past.
The other thing I'd like to mention that I think talks about the growth of our program not only in the SEC but nationally as well, we're the only program this past year in the SEC that did not lose an assistant coach. That talks about the belief of what our coaching staff sees in what we're doing at Vanderbilt and it also talks about the support that we're getting from the administration as well.
Very excited to be at Vanderbilt and representing that community. Very excited to be in front of you guys today.
We'll open it up for questions.
KEVIN TRAINOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Could you talk about the challenge of opening the season with a conference opponent and what that means.
COACH FRANKLIN: First of all, let me say right now, our focus is on Vanderbilt. Really always will be this time of year. Waking up every single morning, maximizing our opportunity and our experience at Vanderbilt to being the best we possibly can be.
We'll turn the switch here in the next couple weeks and we'll start focusing on Ole Miss. I think it's great for college football. I think it's great for the SEC. I know it's great for Vanderbilt, the fact we're going to be able to open the season college football, national television in our stadium and continue to build our brand and what we're doing.
Also two programs that are on the rise. There's a lot of excitement nationally about what's going on. So I think it's going to be a great opportunity.
I've talked with Coach Freeze a couple times this summer. Looking forward to our teams getting a chance to compete against each other.
Last year was a tremendous game. The fact we were able to go on the road and win in a very, very tough environment against a very good football team is I think going to make it even a more exciting year this year.
Q. Some other programs that are in cities with NFL teams, Pittsburgh, Miami, Cincinnati's talking about it, they play their games in the big NFL stadiums there. Is there any thought at Vanderbilt about moving more games to LP Field?
COACH FRANKLIN: It has come across the radar. I think one of the things that differentiates us is we are playing in our own stadium and on our own campus. We never really want to change that. I think that's something that really makes us unique.
A lot of those schools have challenges in trying to compete with those NFL programs. We say we're Nashville's team and we always will be. We take a lot of pride in being Nashville's team.
We have had some discussions depending on our schedule if we can get an eight‑game schedule, the possibilities of taking one of those games to LP Field, which I think would be great for the city as well, great for our program. But we want to make sure that the nucleus, at least seven games, are on our campus every year.
Q. After a season like last season, getting to a bowl, having to play in your own city, would you rather have gotten a bowl trip out of it? Do you think your players would have rather gone to another bowl?
COACH FRANKLIN: We had a tremendous experience. I think that's a credit to Nashville. I think it's a credit to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. I had an unbelievable experience. I grew up in Philadelphia. I think it's a lot like growing up in a city and you take that city for granted, and you don't get a chance to go and see all the different things that are going on in that community. It was a really good opportunity for us to do that.
It was also a great opportunity for us to really continue to brand ourself and claim ourselves as Nashville's team. So it was a great experience for us. Our guys are very, very appreciative of the opportunities that they get, and very thankful for the way Nashville and the American Mortgage Music City Bowl treated us.
Q. With all the success that the SEC has in football, do you feel like there's maybe more pressure on coaches in the league to win and win right away than in other conferences around the country?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think I got a pretty good perspective on college football and different conferences. I've coached in the ACC. I've coached in the Big 12, the PAC‑10, the NFL, and now the SEC. I think I got a pretty good perspective.
I think there's pressure throughout this country when it comes to college coaches and college football and producing wins.
We've gotten to a point as a society that everyone wants immediate gratification, they want it now. That's not really our focus or our concern. I don't think it's any different really in the SEC, besides everything is different in the SEC.
What I tell people all the time is what the biggest difference is, is just the emphasis on football in this part of the country. I think today is a perfect example of that. I heard a stat today that there's more media at this event than there is at a Super Bowl. It tells you how people feel about football in this country and how people are so prideful of the SEC and their specific institution.
It's probably magnified a little bit, but I think nationally there's a lot of pressure on coaches to be successful and be successful fast.
Q. I think a lot of coaches, if they went to Vanderbilt, went to back‑to‑back bowl games, people would expect them to be somewhere else by year three. How many jobs or opportunities have you turned down? Why is it that after all the success, when I'm sure you could have moved on, you're still there?
COACH FRANKLIN: Great question, which I'm not going to get into the specifics on that.
You know, I do think it's been known to people, obvious to people, that we have had some other opportunities. My coaching staff as well. You talk about not losing one assistant coach this past season, that we're very proud of.
We believe in what we're doing. We believe in the commitment that the kids have made. You walk into that home and you talk to that kid and you talk to their parents about the opportunity that you're presenting to their son at a place like Vanderbilt. The fact that they have a chance and get a world class education and play in the greatest football conference in America.
We believe in the difference we're making in kids' lives, in people's lives. I think also the fact the university has made a tremendous commitment. I wasn't able to keep all those assistant coaches just because we're doing wonderful things, it's also because we were able to make the commitment to keep them financially as well.
I think more than anything you see a commitment at Vanderbilt right now, not only from the head coach and the players, but from the administration and the boosters and the fan base and everybody else, probably more so than it's ever been at Vanderbilt. To me that's exciting.
We sell the recruits on the fact you have a chance to come and do something that's never been done before. To me that's an unbelievable opportunity and not a lot of places can say that. They got a chance to come and build something with their own hands, and that's what we're trying to do with Vanderbilt.
Q. I know you're off limits to speaking about the incident, but personally, I would like to now how it's affected you, not talking about the players?
COACH FRANKLIN: I can't get into any discussion about this. It's an ongoing legal investigation.
What we've been doing is we've been focusing on our team and our players and making sure we're doing what we're supposed to do academically this summer. We have taken classes in June and July. We had some guys study abroad in May, which is an unbelievable experience for them. Then get ready for the season to get started. That's really what our focus is right now as a team.
Very, very proud of the kids and how they've handled that, as well as our coaching staff, and specifically our strength staff.
Q. Both you, football team and baseball team at Vanderbilt, have both seen successes of late. Is there a friendly rivalry between the two sports and does that motivate you to do better at all?
COACH FRANKLIN: Let me say Coach Corbin is one of my closest friends. His wife Maggie and my wife, we go out to dinner at least once a month. We actually spend a few days vacationing together. I think he's been a tremendous resource for me in not only from a leadership perspective, but also just how Vanderbilt works.
Every institution is unique. You have to learn how to navigate it. Tim has been a big part of that. He's been building his program for a long time and been very, very successful. We're just starting.
But I wouldn't say friendly rivalry, but I will say that we're both competitors. We're both competitors. I have tremendous respect for what he's been able to accomplish and what he's doing there. I hope that he feels the same way about us, as well.
He travels to away games with us, as well. I'll tell you a great story about Tim and the type of commitment he has for not only the university, but the football program. Two years he traveled with us. We had a tough loss on the road that we needed to become bowl eligible. We had one game left. Maggie and Tim canceled their Thanksgiving plans to come travel with us and the team and see us get that bowl eligibility. That year, it was against Wake Forest on the road. That shows you the commitment that Tim and Maggie have for the whole community as well as Vanderbilt football.
Q. Two open dates this year. Can you talk about how does that affect your planning and how much of an advantage is that for a team, knowing you have a couple of open dates during the season?
COACH FRANKLIN: I love the open dates. I'm actually going to talk to Commissioner Slive and find out how we can get six to eight open dates, play every other week. I think that's a tremendous opportunity for us to get a break throughout the year, get your guys an opportunity to recover, making sure they've got the time to spend on all the academic requirements as well.
For us, it's an opportunity to get on the road and recruit, which is always a challenge to do during the season. It's probably one of the things coaches struggle with most, is how to balance making sure you're doing everything making sure you're taking care of your team, have them be successful, but also prepare for the future in recruiting.
I think the open week is a real positive for us and we're really excited about what it's going to enable us to do.
Q. Do you feel sometimes off‑the‑field issues too often come with success on the field?
COACH FRANKLIN: I haven't done enough studies to talk on that and be able to say. When those things pop up, I do think they're probably magnified. A little bit more success you have, things are magnified. I couldn't get into the details or specifics. I haven't done any studies.
Q. Y'all are hosting a couple of regular‑season high school games this year. Are you involved in trying to get that done for a different take on recruiting? Were you involved in that at all?
COACH FRANKLIN: There's been discussions. When we took the job, now that we've been there, we've tried to do some studies and look at what's happened in the past at Vanderbilt when it comes to football.
The state championship used to be in Nashville and on Vanderbilt's campus. From talking to the high school coaches, that's what they would like. It's centrally located, makes it easy for a lot of the different schools to get there. Nashville, what a great opportunity, experience.
This is a start for that. High schools have approached us about using the stadium, renting it out when it's not a conflict. That's the start of discussions down the road about bringing big‑time high school football back to Vanderbilt campus. The turf has been a big part of allowing us to do that.
I'm an old school guy. I would prefer to have grass. I also understand the challenges that grass presents. Turf has allowed us to do a lot of great things.
Q. Do you think to compete at the highest level of college football you have to sometimes take chances and recruit kids of questionable character?
COACH FRANKLIN: I can't speak for other places or other institutions, but not at Vanderbilt. It's never been that way in the past. It's not that way presently. It will never be in the future. That's not what we're all about.
Q. Commissioner Slive addressed player behavior earlier in the week. Several coaches have spoken to that point. Going forward, what can be done as a head coach to prevent incidents in the future?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think what you can do is what I know we do on a daily basis, which is make sure that we're talking to our players constantly about making great choices, and educating them, and giving them the tools to be successful and make great choices both on and off the field over and over and over again. That's really what you can do, on a daily basis, weekly bases, yearly basis, is equipping your guys to make great choices.
Q. Obviously you're going to face some hurry‑up offenses. There's been debate throughout the last two days, injuries, is that part of it? What are your thoughts on substitutions to try to avoid injuries against those who run the hurry up?
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't really have a strong opinion about that. This is what I would say. I think coaches have the ability to make tactical decisions to allow their players to be successful, to put their kids in position to be successful. If that's hurry‑up or if that's the wishbone or the spread, whatever it is, that's fine.
The only thing that I have an issue with is I want to make sure we're all playing by the same rules. What I notice time and time again when you're watching the film is that the officials are not in position to officiate the game. You watch time and time again, not everybody's set when the ball is snapped, and they can't officiate that because the pace of the game they can't keep up with.
I don't really have a concern with the styles. I just want to make sure we're all playing by the same rules and that the officials have the ability and are put in position to officiate the game all by the same rules for all of us. That's my only concern.
Besides that, I have no other issue with what coaches are doing to allow their guys to be successful.
Q. I know Coach Spurrier spoke very highly of the Thursday night games. You're starting one this year against Ole Miss, having a couple days extra to prepare for that second‑week game. Is that something you also view in a positive light, maybe opening future seasons with a Thursday night game?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, for a couple things. We like to open the season with a Thursday night game because it allows me to bring my guys into camp a little bit earlier, gives me more time on the back end for that next week.
In most cases, you would want to play a Thursday night game when you had a bye week the week before, because you don't want to play on a short week, and it's always going to give you more time on the back end to follow it. Between that and the exposure you get.
If you play on a Saturday to open college football, you're competing with at least 60 other teams. You play on Thursday night, for us, we're going to be playing at 8:00 when everybody's getting off of work, getting home in time to see the game. Players are going to be home from practice. We're going to be the only show in town.
I think that's an unbelievable opportunity for us to be able to go out and change the perception of Vanderbilt when it comes to college football across this entire country.
Q. Can you talk about your quarterback situation going into fall camp. Have you got the starter? Talk about the position as a whole.
COACH FRANKLIN: We have not named a starter at any position. I don't believe that. I don't think that's right or that's fair. You go out and recruit all these kids and you promise them an opportunity to come in and compete, then you name a starter before they arrive on campus. It doesn't make sense to me.
We won't do that until at least a couple weeks into camp. Based on where we're at right now, Austin Carta‑Samuels after spring ball has kind of distanced himself from the pack. We'll see what they've done over the summer to change all that.
But you're talking about a guy, he's going to be a first‑time starter in the SEC if he wins the job. You're also talking about a guy that started at a previous institution. You can get on YouTube right now and watch him play against Texas, Boise, things like that. I think that gives him a distinct advantage. He's been in our program now for three years.
I think whenever you have a Boyd and a Matthews on the outside, that's going to help whoever the quarterback is. I think the other thing is the fact that we have a chance to average at least 300 pounds across the offensive line, which we've never done in the past, I think is really going to help whoever the quarterback is.
Q. Given past history, you can argue it's harder to go to a bowl game at Vanderbilt than it is to win a national title with Alabama, to win nine games even, because it's been 98 years. Alabama has won a lot of national titles in that time. How significant do you think what you're doing is and what would it mean to go to a third straight bowl game?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's really significant. We're very, very proud of it.
But once again, those things are in the past. I think if we spend all our time focused on what we've done in the last two years, then we're not going to be able to achieve what we're able to achieve this year.
I think it's significant. We notice it probably the most when we go around to high schools for recruiting and the high school coaches that are very, very obviously knowledgeable about the game, but also knowledgeable about the SEC, and Vanderbilt's history, I think that's really helped us. That now high school coaches across this country can offer an opportunity to their kid and reinforce an opportunity that, look, not only can you go to Vanderbilt and get a great education, but you can have an unbelievable experience on the football field as well.
That's what high school coaches are looking for, they're looking for great opportunities for their kids to further their opportunities both academically and athletically. Right now we're a great option.
Q. I don't know if I'm crossing over into the wrong area here, but was the decision to dismiss the four players from the team a university decision, a football program decision, or a mutual decision?
COACH FRANKLIN: I can't get into it. It's an ongoing investigation. I cannot get into any of the details.
Q. In the aftermath of that, you've continued to recruit very well as judged by commitments coming in. Have you had to change your approach because of the incident and the dismissals to continue that recruiting momentum?
COACH FRANKLIN: Not whatsoever. We've been very up front and honest with people, giving them the information that they needed to have.
Then from that point on, you know, people know who we are. They know what we represent. People have been unbelievably supportive.
I think that shows in the type of success that we're having. When you're able to sit down with a mom, with a dad, and their kids, talk about all the opportunities that Vanderbilt presents, haven't spent 15 minutes with us, they've spent hours and hours with us, they know who we are, what Vanderbilt is about, and what Vanderbilt will always be about.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Thank you for your time.
COACH FRANKLIN: Thank you so much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports