One person found it hard not to fall asleep during Friday afternoon's press conference to introduce James Franklin as Vanderbilt's new football coach.
Soon after the proceedings began, Franklin’s 2-year-old daughter Addison drifted off in the arms of her mother, Fumi.
“She was very enthused,” Fumi joked as her 3-year-old daughter Ava bounced around the Board of Trust Room in the Sarrat Student Center at Vanderbilt.
While Addison slept, her father spoke with a strong confidence about his plans and expectations for the Vanderbilt program. The 38-year-old native of Langhorne, Pa. has never been a head coach before but has jumped around to seven schools as an assistant over the last 16 years and most recently he was Maryland’s offensive coordinator.
He is the football program’s 27th head coach and the first African-American head coach of a major sport at Vanderbilt.
Franklin, who wore a black and gold tie and a Vanderbilt pin, will be asked to turn around a program that has had just one winning season in the last 28 years. He thinks he has a plan to do it, saying he has been working on being a head coach “for at least 10 years.” He added he had a thick head coaching manual filled with information that “has been well thought out.”
“This is not a stepping stone for us. This is a destination,” Franklin said. “This is an opportunity for us to raise our family in an unbelievable community and really just immerse ourselves here.”
Franklin had a head coaching job set up at Maryland. In 2009 he was named Ralph Friedgen’s successor and was to be paid $1 million by that university if he wasn’t named the Terrapins’ head coach by January 2012.
“I had a really good job so I didn't need to leave so it was going to have to be something to blow me away,” Franklin said. “That's what happened. ... To me it is time that this football program starts reflecting everything else that is on this campus and that is a commitment to excellence.
"I'm not a 6-5 guy. I'm not a 7-5 guy. There is going to be very, very high expectations from day one. I'm not going to tell you it is going to happen next year. We are going to work for everything in our power to get there but what I am going to tell you is that no part of this program will settle. Everything that we do will be about championships. It will be about competing. It will be about having a great attitude on and off the field and developing men for the future.”
Franklin was joined at the press conference by Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos and Vice Chancellor David Williams, who is in charge of athletics. Both men headed up the search for a new coach after Robbie Caldwell resigned on Nov. 27.
Zeppos exuded enthusiasm, cracked jokes with Franklin and Williams and was firm in his belief Franklin, who he called an “unusually gifted leader” can guide Vanderbilt out of the Southeastern Conference cellar.
“It is a new day at Vanderbilt football. We win everywhere at Vanderbilt. We win academically. We win athletically and there is no darn reason we can’t win at football,” Zeppos said as he pounded his fist on the podium. “And we are going to do it.”
Vanderbilt’s last four coaches have either resigned or been fired. In fact, Steve Sloan is the last Commodore coach to compile a winning record while at the school. He went 12-9-2 during the 1973-74 seasons.
But Williams said he wants to change the culture, adding that upgrading facilities was discussed in the negotiations with Franklin. He said there are plans in place to renovate the weight rooms, training rooms and locker rooms, among other areas.
“Obviously my time, on campus, being able to look around and see what we need to do, we are going to have discussions,” Franklin said. “I am just very confident we are going to do whatever it is going to take to get there.”
Franklin said he has a core group of assistant coaches in mind that he wants to bring in for his staff but did not count out retaining some of the current assistants.
“For me to not sit down and talk with some members of the current staff wouldn’t make sense,” Franklin said. “We are going to do whatever we have to do to make sure that we can bring the best possible people here, wherever they are. That is either at Vanderbilt or anyone else across this country.”
Franklin said the support can’t just stop there, though, as he reached out to Vanderbilt fans.
“We are going to do some special things at Vanderbilt University but we can’t do it alone. We need everybody to be all in,” Franklin said. “It is time for this community, it is time for this program to unite as one and I’m very, very confident that I am the man to get us there.”
Hopefully, for Vanderbilt fans that is the case and the football program will soon be awoken from its long slumber.