Monday, December 20, 2010

Leave Race Out of It

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.


Seth said...

Franklin said he would be the CEO of the team and those make the best coaches. If he doesnt try to micromanage we should be in good shape. I personally we believe we are past "race" hirings in this country, especially at Vanderbilt. If Alabama were to hire a black football coach then that might be a story. However at Vanderbilt I just dont think us hiring a black coach is a big deal. I like Franklin and hope he gets a good staff together, recurits well, and wins. Thats all I really care about.

Anonymous said...

I do remember when Johnson was hired in 2002 how disappointed I was. I thought he'd set the program back to the Stone Age.

Now obviously, I was wrong. But what's funny is that back then, a lot of us wanted Charlie Strong as coach. At the time, he was the DC for Florida. He'd never been a head coach, but he was young and energetic, and yes, he was black. That's a mirror image of Franklin in a lot of ways.

And yet a lot of us -- myself included -- can't get fired up for Franklin. I don't know if it's because we have so many questions about Maryland's success vs. Florida's with Strong. Maybe it's due to MSU and Sly Croom taking the sheen off hiring the 1st black coach in SEC history. Or maybe it's something more undefinable.

Me personally, I think I'm reserving judgment until I see his coordinators. I know he hit a home run in his initial press conference. The problem is, so did Robbie Caldwell at SEC Media Days last year. I don't want to get burned again based on one speech, and I'm guessing I'm not alone. Hiring a well-received staff will go a long way toward winning support.

Anonymous said...

What Caldwell did was a bloop single in a cow pasture after school before going off to help bail the hay before the dinner bell rings.

He said virtually nothing about football and proceeded to coach like that. I have a thousand times more confidence in the current hire.

even more anonymous said...

As far as Maryland's success goes, I suspect they might have done better if Franklin had been running the whole show.

Anonymous said...

Really good post and very logical in your arguments. It is unfortunate that this much space must be devoted to matters of race. There are many solid young Black head coaching candidates that get overlooked each year (when these positions become open)for some reason; yet the same good ole boys (Mike Leach, ect) are recycled each year and it is never an issue (for them) even with spotty backgrounds and character flaws. However, when Black coaches go the route of NFL assistants, then coordinators at the college and pro level, some critics on this blog say "...but he has no head coaching experience...". It's very frustrating to hear some critics drag out tired arguments and raise the bar higher for some candidates (Franklin) without even giving him the opportunity to hire a staff and bring the program much needed credibility. Most people who post on this blog are smart enough to know that the administration would not hire an unqualified coach to run this program regardless of color....Go Dores !

In between Anonymous said...

I saw a comment of one of the other VU sports forums that said a couple of our fans unfortunately fall politically somewhere between Glen Beck and Adolph Hitler (something like that) and that it taints their views on things.

On the other hand, 98 or 99% of our fans are NOT that way. I agree with that post on that other forum - there is no need to let people's right wing fringe politics taint their ability to be objective on something as basic as a new coaching hire. They should save it for rush limbaugh or stormfront instead.

Anonymous said...

I am fully supportive of James Franklin and agree that he merited consideration for the job regardless of his race. But to believe that Vanderbilt did not even consider CJF's race and the potential benefits of increased diversity does not mesh with my experience at Vandy. One of the departments in which I was student was searching for a new professor and asked students to evaluate classes presented by a number of candidates. At least two professors involved in the search admitted to students that the race/gender of candidates was an important factor that would be considered when making the hire, because the department's current faculty was all white males, with the exception of two white females.

Vanderbilt, like most of our society, has decided that increased diversity is a benefit to the institution. As a result, the inherent characteristics (such as race/gender/ethnicity/etc) of job candidates must be considered. This is the reality.

Many commentators have brought up the race dynamic in a classless and ignorant fashion. However, in the press release announcing his hire, Vanderbilt itself mentioned that CJF was a "minority" candidate.

I just don't think it is fair to call anyone who acknowledged that this hire increased the diversity of the VU coaching ranks a "Hitler"