Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin has been a busy man this past week.
Maybe too busy for nervous Commodores fans who fear Franklin will land a Godfather offer at some other program. If so, Franklin would leave behind an unmatched legacy at Vanderbilt that includes three straight bowl games and back-to-back nine-win seasons.
That alone should be enough to catch the eye of college athletics directors searching for an energetic head coach that could transform their program.
“This is part of Vanderbilt’s culture now," Franklin said after his team blew a 24-0 halftime lead to overcome a 24-24 tie and win in the fourth quarter, 41-24, against Houston Saturday. “I think the thing that describes this team is that this team perseveres. This team is going to find ways to survive. … to overcome."
Franklin spent Sunday in California, appearing on a BCS National Championship preview show. Franklin is reportedly going to be interviewed by Penn State after Bill O’Brien took the NFL Texans job.
Franklin is a Pennsylvania native, as is recently fired Titans coach Mike Munchak. While Franklin played and graduated from Division II East Stroudsburg State in Pennsylvania, Munchak was an All-American offensive lineman at Penn State under the late Joe Paterno.
Munchak was scheduled to interview at Penn State Sunday, a day after he declined an offer to remain with the Titans.
While Franklin is not actively pursuing another job, there are still some jobs out there that might be more appealing to him than Vanderbilt.
What he has accomplished at Vanderbilt is simply stunning to thousands of long-suffering Commodore fans that, prior to Franklin, weathered decades of losing football.
The question remains how long can Franklin continue to produce winning teams at Vanderbilt, the only private school in the SEC and one that values high academic standards?
Believe me, Franklin has worked day and night taking the program to where it is now. He has been smart in scheduling four non-conference games that have been virtually automatic wins. It gives them a chance to get the six wins they need to be bowl eligible. But the flip side to that is opposing fan bases don’t travel for games like that. It leaves Vanderbilt Stadium with thousands of empty seats.
To continue an upward trend in the SEC, Franklin has to continue to successfully recruit against other SEC programs. That will become harder every year. They now present a challenge to the rest of the SEC teams that used to not bother about who Vanderbilt was recruiting. Franklin changed all that.
The frantic pace that Franklin keeps at warp speed has to catch up to him eventually. Can he maintain it three more years, six more years, nine more years?
If Franklin had the national reputation of a Penn State to bring into a recruit’s living room, it would be an easier sell than Vanderbilt. Overall, recruiting at Penn State would be easier than at Vanderbilt, if for no other reason than Pennsylvania has infinitely more high school players who are FBS prospects than Tennessee, which forces Franklin to leave the state for many of his players.
Can Franklin take it to the next level at Vanderbilt? Perhaps, but it will be easier to compete in the Big Ten than the SEC, which has produced seven straight national champions.
If Penn State offers, Franklin would be wise to take it.
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.