Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)
In an interview with The Tennessean, Franklin elaborated on his strategy for building a strong rapport with younger – considerably younger – players:
“If I see a 6-foot-6 man walking in the mall with his wife, and she’s 6-2 and she’s pregnant, I’ll go up and offer their unborn child,” Franklin said.
“I’m not exaggerating. I do that all the time. If I go to speak at an elementary school, if I’m out at a restaurant, we kind of have fun with it. It’s about developing a relationship with people. It’s about getting them connected with Vanderbilt. It’s about making people laugh and telling a story and having fun. It’s about having a sense of humor and not being some robot coach that I don’t want to be.”
We discussed this earlier in the month when looking at the trends of offers going to younger and younger players, and while it’s kind of creepy, it’s also relatively harmless. The offers and commitments don’t mean anything, as both the school and recruit are welcome to say whatever they want until signing day in February of the player’s senior year.
If Franklin wants to build early relationships with growing fetuses or middle school kids (MaxPreps reported in April that Vanderbilt offered seventh grader Jahlen Jack), that’s his choice. Could it backfire? Definitely, but if it helps him lock down one or two meaningful recruits during his Commodores tenure, Franklin will find his glad-handing worth the effort. Will outsiders like us continue to find it rather unsettling? You bet, but Franklin isn't trying to recruit us.
You may remember Franklin’s comments from last year, when he suggested that it was important for his assistant coaches to have attractive wives. A refresher:
"I've been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant coach until I've seen his wife. If she looks the part, and she's a D-I recruit (one of the nation's best-of-the-best), then you got a chance to get hired. That's part of the deal."
"There's a very strong correlation between having confidence going up and talking to women, and being quick on your feet and having some personality and confidence and being fun and articulate, than it is walking into a high school and recruiting a kid and selling him."
Franklin later semi-apologized for that comment on Twitter:
My foot doesn't taste good, I hope I did not offend any1, I love & respect ALL,have a great day, enjoy the fam & don't forget 2 #AnchorDown
— James Franklin (@jamesfranklinvu) May 31, 2012
All of Franklin’s semi-unconventional thinking has paid off so far, as he took Vanderbilt to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history and is getting some love as a potential preseason top 25 team. If his goal is to not be seen as some robot coach, mission accomplished.
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