BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
HOOVER, Ala. — Vanderbilt coach James Franklin was asked 18 questions on Thursday during his time with reporters at SEC Media Days. One-third of queries aimed his way dealt with player behavior.
The line of questioning comes as no surprise, of course, after four Commodores were kicked off the team last month as police in Nashville, Tenn., continue to investigate whether a sex crime occurred at a campus dormitory.
Franklin refused to offer any updates on the case, other than to repeatedly say it is an “ongoing” process.
Instead, the coach made sure the discussion centered around the players still on the team.
“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,” Franklin said. “We have taken classes in June and July. We had some guys study abroad in May, which is an unbelievable experience for them.”
One reporter asked whether success on the field and trouble off it have a direct correlation. Vanderbilt’s third-year coach replied that he hadn’t “done enough studies” to lend any insight on the matter.
“When those things pop up, I do think they’re probably magnified,” he said. “A little bit more success you have, things are magnified. I couldn’t get into the details or specifics.”
Franklin also disputed that to “compete at the highest level of college football,” as one reporter phrased it, teams have to take chances on recruits with questionable backgrounds. While he couldn’t speak about other programs, Franklin made sure to emphasize he didn’t allow Vanderbilt to operate that way.
“It’s never been that way in the past. It’s not that way presently,” he said. “It will never be in the future. That’s not what we’re all about.”
Franklin doesn’t rule out Commodores playing at LP Field — eventually
Sharing a city with an NFL team, the Commodores are in a situation that sets them apart from their SEC brethren. In other cities, such as Pittsburgh and Houston, college teams play in the same stadiums as their professional counterparts. The Commodores play their homes games at Vanderbilt Stadium, which is located on the grounds of the university’s main campus.
Franklin was asked about the possibility of the Commodores hosting a game at LP Field, the stadium used by the Tennessee Titans.
Right now, it’s just that: a possibility.
“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,” Franklin said. “But we want to make sure that the nucleus, at least seven games, are on our campus every year.”
Saban fires back at Miles’ schedule complaints
Before finishing his time in front of media members on Thursday, LSU coach Les Miles once again expressed his frustration over the SEC’s unbalanced schedule, which will see his Tigers play both Florida and Georgia in cross-divisional matchups this season. Those two teams went 14-2 in conference play in 2012. Alabama, on the other hand, will play SEC East teams Kentucky and Tennessee, two teams that combined to go 1-15 against league competition last year. (The lone win was the Volunteers’ 37-17 victory over the Wildcats in the season finale for both teams.)
“I’d have to say there’s a repeated scheduling advantage and disadvantage for certain teams in this conference based on tradition and traditional matchups,” the LSU coach said.
Saban heard Miles’ remarks loud and clear — and responded every bit as forcefully.
“There can never be an equal path to the championship,” he said. “Unless everybody plays everybody, that’s the only equal path to championship.”
And Saban even got in one last dig at both Miles and his former school.
“I understand where Les Miles is coming from. I coached at LSU,” he said with a smile. “We played Florida every year, too. So if anybody understands it, I understand it.”
Media’s prognosticating futility turns into fun for Saban
Saban also found some time to poke fun at media members, noting their abysmal record picking the eventual SEC champion.
Media members have correctly picked the champion only four times in the last 21 years, Saban said, and the two-time defending national champion coach couldn’t help but point out what that type of record would mean in his profession.
“Now, if I was 4-17 as a coach, I would be back in West Virginia pumping my gas at my daddy’s gas station,” he said. “We don’t really want to go there.”