Vanderbilt is staying put — and so is coach James Franklin. At least for the time being.
On the same day the Commodores found out they are headed to the Music City Bowl, Vanderbilt announced a new “long-term” contract for Franklin on Sunday.
It marks the second time in as many years the second-year coach has received a contract extension. As a private university, Vanderbilt does not disclose terms of contracts but athletics director David Williams said the deal assures Franklin of a raise, improved facilities and more money to retain assistant coaches.
“When we hired Coach Franklin we made a commitment that we were going to be serious about improving the football program,” Williams said. “The first step was to hire a good coach. The second step is to keep a good coach. We are real proud to announce ... we have entered into a new, long-term contract with Coach Franklin that will help keep moving our program forward. Second, we are reaffirming our commitment to providing Coach Franklin and his staff and these young student-athletes with the facilities and things they need to be champions.
“We hope very soon we will be playing in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.”
In two years, Franklin has compiled a 14-11 record and led the Commodores to two straight bowls for the first time in school history. This season, Vanderbilt is 8-4, matching the most wins since 1982 and takes a six-game winning streak into the Music City Bowl.
The announcement comes after multiple reports that Arkansas was interested in offering Franklin its head coaching job. His name has been linked to several other coaching rumors as well but he dismissed the reports. He said he hasn’t had any contact with any schools or administrators about vacant positions.
“[Saturday] my phone is blowing up. People are saying I’m here and there and I’m getting on a plane,” Franklin said. “I’m at Sambuca’s with some recruits and our staff. So there is all types of speculation. You’d like to come out with a strong voice and be able to say it is over. I wanted to make sure everything was in place before we did that. I never questioned it but I wanted to make sure everything was in place.”
Williams said his phone has been busy too, with athletic directors and interested schools calling about his 40-year-old head coach.
“Everybody in America” has called, Williams said. “We told them he’s our football coach. Go get somebody else. ... As James said, this wasn’t really about putting more money in James’ pocket. I think James and his family are happy with what we are doing. This was really about the kids and the program, giving him the opportunity to win a championship and all the things he needs to do. But James has been a tremendous success here and by any rights he does deserve a raise any way. So I think we’ve tried to put him in a position where he and his family will be very, very happy and very, very comfortable here in Nashville. I think that’s the case.”
Terms of the contract also include improvements to the McGugin Center and Vanderbilt Stadium. Both facilities have received facelifts and additions over the last year. But Williams also wants improvements to the training room, locker room and equipment room.
This summer Williams hopes to see the beginning of several projects at Vanderbilt Stadium, including adding seatbacks to the bench seating and improvements to the press box, suites, restrooms and concessions. He said increased seating won’t be a part of the immediate improvements but also didn’t discount the possibility, if attendance keeps rising.
“It’s really not about James Franklin. It is really about Vanderbilt. It is really about our kids and being able to hold onto my staff,” Franklin said. “Last year, my staff was offered head coaching jobs. This year they’ve already been approached about head coaching interviews and defensive coordinator interviews. Being able to support my staff as well and allow them to be able to look out for their family and things like that. That’s what really this is all about it is about Vanderbilt at as a whole. I couldn’t be more proud that we’re continuing to move in the right direction.”