James Franklin has played the role of salesman since he took over the Vanderbilt program less than two years ago.
And he’s starting to get more and more buyers. Saturday’s game against Auburn will mark Vanderbilt’s first back-to-back sellouts since 1996.
Now Franklin wants to teach. The second-year coach says he wants to educate the Commodore fan base about when to get loud and rowdy in order to create a hostile environment.
After Saturday’s 31-17 loss to No. 4 Florida — the first sellout (capacity of 40,350) at Vanderbilt Stadium since 2008 — Franklin thanked the fans for showing up. But he said the atmosphere “could be better.”
On Monday, at his weekly press conference, Franklin didn’t back down from his comments.
“I’m not calling anybody out,” he said. “I’m educating, and I’m very appreciative of the fans, how they’ve been behind us since we’ve been here. But I want more. Just like they want more from me and our team, I want more from them.
“… The students, we need them. We have our challenges — only 6,800 [undergraduate] students here. Twenty percent of our students showing up is not the same as 20 percent of 50,000 like some of these other schools have. So we have our challenges and it's much better, but it can get better.”
For starters, he said the fans should be in their seats 45 minutes before kickoff to create a “buzz” early in the game. He also wants the noise to be deafening when opposing teams line up for a third down or is backed up in its own end zone.
“Third down, we need a homefield advantage like we face when we go into other teams’ stadiums,” he said. “Third down — the place is going crazy. Not one person sitting down. Not one person with their mouth closed. I don’t care if you’re 95. I don’t care if you’re four. You’re screaming like crazy for the ’Dores.”
Vanderbilt gives every SEC school an allotment of 6,000 tickets. Florida took only 4,176 while Auburn didn’t return any tickets.
The Commodores (2-4, 1-3 SEC) and Tigers (1-5, 0-4) last met in 2008. With ESPN’s College GameDay on campus, a crowd of 38,773 packed Vanderbilt Stadium to watch the Commodes upset No. 13 Auburn.
“We just want a hostile environment with the fans,” defensive end Johnell Thomas said. “Anybody that plays the game knows that fans play a huge role in the momentum shift of a game. When you hear the crowd and you hear everybody pumped up it gets us pumped up and ready to go as well. I think that’s huge for us.”
• Third toughest: According to Sagarin’s College Football Ratings, Vanderbilt’s strength of schedule is the third toughest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Only Missouri and Washington had a tougher first-half of the season, while Auburn ranked fourth.
The Commodores played three ranked opponents, all in the top 10 at time, including then-No. 5 Georgia and fourth-ranked Florida. The Gators are now ranked third in the Associated Press writers poll and are second in the first BCS rankings that came out Sunday night.
Vanderbilt’s first five FBS opponents have a combined record of 26-7. The four losses have been to teams with a combined record of 23-3 (Florida, Georgia, Northwestern and South Carolina).
“We played really good people. We’ve been competitive every week, except, you can make the argument maybe once [in a 48-3 loss to Georgia],” Franklin said. “… I went over that with my team [Sunday], ‘Let’s keep that in perspective guys. We’re doing some nice things. We need to get better.’ We lost to a good team last week but for us to get where we want to be as a program you can’t make the type of mistakes that we made against that type of an opponent.”
• Game time: Vanderbilt’s homecoming game against Massachusetts on Oct. 27 will kick off at 6 p.m. and will be aired on Fox Sports Net (Channel 28).