It would be hypocritical of me not to respond to "The Other Anonymous"'s comments from 10:10 this morning to the "Why This Time is Different" post after both Douglas James and I jumped down another anonymous poster's throat for insinuating that David Williams or Vanderbilt were motivated by James Franklin's race when deciding to hire him as the Commodores new football coach. As far as I'm concerned, it is just as irresponsible to accuse those fans who have voiced opposition to the hire of CJF as being racially motivated, as it was to say he was hired because of his race. There is no evidence to suggest either contention has any merit whatsoever.
"The other anonymous" makes the point that Commodore fans were not jumping down CBJ's throat for winning just 18% of his SEC games and getting off to a sluggish start with multiple 2-10 seasons. Since this blog wasn't started until 2007 and I wasn't checking other message boards while I was a student, I can't speak to (nor do I remember) the reaction Commodore fans had when CBJ was hired. I do remember CBJ getting some latitude in trying to build the program, and I will be the first to admit that CBJ pretty much got a pass not only for the Commodores' 2-10 2009 campaign, but also for leaving Vanderbilt in the lurch by announcing his retirement 7 weeks before the season. With that said, there is probably a better explanation for Commodores fans' reaction to CBJ and CFJ other than race: expectations. Vanderbilt's 2008 Music City Bowl win gave Commodore fans hope that the program did not have to be a perpetual doormat in the SEC. The insinuation that the criticism of the Franklin hire is racial in nature ignores a very important differences between 2010 and 2002 when CBJ was hired: the team went to (and won) a bowl game.
Now, unlike many Vanderbilt fans who have voiced their displeasure with the hiring of Franklin, I am firmly on board and think he has the potential to be a great leader for the program. However, the arguments made against the hire: mainly that he has never been a head coach, and Maryland's offense wasn't exactly setting the ACC on fire the past few years, are not without some merit. Fans have a reason to question the decision, it's the thing fans do best. But just as some fans can point to reasons to be skeptical, so to can those of us supportive and excited about the hire, point to reasons why Franklin might be the right man to help Vanderbilt football take the next step: a) he is clearly a fantastic spokesman for the program, b) he has a reputation as a fantastic recruiter, c) he is young and energetic, something the program could certainly use.
But here's a modest proposal: let's stick to the facts and not assume, without any evidence either way, that Coach Franklin's race had anything to do with the decision to make him our next coach. We can debate the merits of the hire and argue whether he'll be a) the savior of the program or b) a bad hire who will give fans more of the same. Personally, I think either conclusion is premature. Regardless of which side of the divide you come out on, I think the vast majority of us can agree that race doesn't belong anywhere in that conversation.