If you're freaking out over rumors of James Franklin jumping ship to Penn State, just stop it right now.
We want these rumors to heat up, and we want Penn State and any other powerhouse programs with coaching vacancies to think they have a shot at Franklin — why would they think otherwise? — and to come calling.
Why? Because it puts Vanderbilt and Franklin in the national spotlight. All those four-star verbal commitments suddenly want to know if Franklin's staying, because they're not signing with the Commodores if he's not. And all the other blue chippers that Franklin's trying to woo suddenly want to know the same thing.
I bet the kids are Twittering up a storm about now. Sure, kids are saying they'll de-commit if he leaves. But at the same time, I guarantee you that kids are deciding they'll commit if he stays. It's great publicity, and we want the rumors to run wild.
That's because I believe Franklin stays. For the past year, he's been doing a lot of talking about how he's changing the culture at Vanderbilt and especially how much he loves his players. A coach who leaves after one year hasn't changed the culture and he doesn't love his players. But if James Franklin is a legitimate candidate for one of the best jobs in college football — and in his home state, no less — and he stays, then he's sending a message that:
1. He's staying in Nashville for the foreseeable future, and he believes he can win here.
2. He believes he is changing the culture at Vanderbilt.
3. He does love his players.
4. Some of the best players in America will realize that and will sign with Vandy.
5. He's the real deal.
I believe Franklin is the real deal. Of course, the administration has to pony up with an indoor practice facility, stadium improvements and a new football marketing plan to send HIM the message that they're serious about winning. I believe it will do that.
Might we be having this same discussion in four years, which happens to be the same amount of time it took Jim Harbaugh to turn Stanford into a national contender? Absolutely. I think Franklin will eventually be an NFL head coach. But if we are having this same discussion in four years, then Franklin has proven that Vanderbilt can win big, and he'll be leaving the program in good shape and in good hands.
So rest easy. And if Franklin does jump ship, then those comparisons to Lane Kiffin (young guy who'll promise you everything and then leave in the night) are justified and we didn't want him anyway.
That's not the case, as we're about to find out.