Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vanderbilt Fans and Stockholm Syndrome

Vanderbilt fans were taken prisoner some time last week by Gus Malzahn. I'm not exactly sure when it happened (probably around Thursday when it was reported Vanderbilt made Malzahn an offer approaching $3 million dollars to coach the Commodores), but it did. In Vanderbilt fans' defense, we didn't know we were being held hostage Vanderbilt fans, we were just the stupid kid who got into a stranger's van because he offered us candy (remember that Diff'rent Strokes episode?). But make no mistake about it Commodore fans, we were held hostage.

Vanderbilt supporters were released Monday when Auburn announced they had reached an agreement to keep their offensive coordinator by raising his salary to $1.3 million dollars a year, as well as promising to read him a bedtime story whenever he had trouble sleeping. Yet for some reason, Vanderbilt fans seem to be identifying with their capture rather than directing their anger at him. This is known as Stockholm Syndrome. Wikipedia says (so it must be true): "In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, essentially mistaking a lack of abuse from their captors as an act of kindness." I get that the analogy isn't perfect (a fact Seamus has already pointed out to me, thank you very much), but I think it might be applicable here.

Commodore fans have spent the better part of the last two days bemoaning David Williams' efforts to land Malzahn as if there was more Vanderbilt could or should have done to woo him. All reports seem to indicate (although we've all become skeptical of "reports" these days) that Vanderbilt was willing to meet Malzahn's demands (salary, staff, facilities), and every time they'd meet them, he'd have another. This indicates to me, uninformed as I am, that Malzahn was never really coming to Vanderbilt; that he was looking for a reason not to take the job. In the end, he was probably hoping to use the Commodores either to leverage a better position from another school, or get Auburn to pony up to keep him. The "Gus, we'll do anything to get you," mantra seems a little misguided if for no other reason than we did everything we thought we had to do to get him, and it still wasn't enough. How fans can blame David Williams for Malzahn deciding he'd rather stay a coordinator than take on the challenge and responsibility of being the head coach is beyond me. It's also classic Stockholm Syndrome (if one were trying to apply a very serious condition to a sports scenario that, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that serious at all).

Now, Commodore fans are unhappy with the apparent #2 choice, Maryland Offensive Coordinator James Franklin, because well, I don't actually know why. Some have raised questions about his "readiness" or what he brings to the table. They question his success as an offensive coordinator at Maryland, doubt the recruiting prowess he is supposed to have, and claim that because his recruiting ties are limited to the Mid-Atlantic Region, they won't translate down South. Alternative names are thrown about like David Williams and the search committee missed someone a guy who happens to read a blog has heard of and thinks would be a "great hire." Maybe Franklin won't be successful, but I don't think we'll know that for some time. As I'm sure will be said many times on this site once a new hire is announced, Vanderbilt fans are going to have to be patient.

The idea of Vanderbilt hiring Malzahn was too much for Commodore fans to bear. We were so excited with the instant credibility, name recognition, and sex-appeal we thought he'd bring, that we lost site of what actually happened: he held us hostage. When Malzahn was done playing his game, he re-upped with Auburn, causing Commodore fans to be despondent , and Vanderbilt University to be held up to public ridicule yet again when it comes to football. Yet there are some who say we should have done more for Malzahn? That what happened with Gus was somehow David Williams or someone at Vanderbilt's fault? Patty Heart just emailed the VSL Newsroom and thinks you guys are off-base.


Vandygal78 said...

Exactly. In my opinion the problem was that Gus never notified Vandy that he was pulling out of the negotiations and was going to stay at Auburn. Williams didn't mess this up, Gus did this. A 30 second phone call would have been a good ending for each party. While talking about Gus as being such a wonderful family and faith guy ( and what's next a Nobel?), the press has completely missed the fact that he used us. Didn't his mom teach him any manners? For the most part SEC coaches have treated Vandy coaches and players with respect. Gus has not. And we are continually subjected to on going praise. The best thing that ever happened to him was walking away without a word of thanks but no thanks. Auburn did nothing wrong to try to retain him (and they too will eventually get screwed) but Gus used us. What a great guy.

Anything but Gatorade said...

Wait, Vanderbilt fans need to be patient with the new coach, whomever it may be? What, being patient with one winning season and one bowl game in 20 years isn't patient enough? Williams's responsibility in this process is (or if not, should be) to find a coach with a proven record of success, which has a greater possibility of translating to success at Vanderbilt than a coordinator who's never been a head coach before. Granted, Gus Malzahn doesn't fit into that category, but I have yet to see one name (aside from Mike Leach, who is being bluntly ignored on all sides) that actually does fit the hole that Vanderbilt must fill.

Vandy fans have been patient enough, if you ask me. They should be demanding results instead.

Anonymous said...

James Franklin is a terrible candidate. Point to one success he has had....oh he coached Josh Freeman on an thoroughly mediocre Kansas State team, yippee! All you need to know about him is that he was named Maryland's coach in waiting and Maryland is making zero effort to keep him.

If David Williams hires Franklin, David Williams must be fired before I subject myself to the agony of being a Vanderbilt football fan again.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I agree. Given the inconsistent and unreliable reporting on this search thus far, how do we know that Malzahn really took us for a ride? I have heard the opposite, that DW was unwilling to guarantee the facility upgrades that Malzahn wanted. Who knows if that's true, but I have no reason to believe it's any more or less true than what the Washington Post or anyone else has to say about it. I guess my point is, we don't really know what happened (and probably never will). So while I'm not ready to pile criticism on DW for the way he handled the Malzahn situation, I'm not sure I'm ready to blame Malzahn for it either.

As far as Franklin goes, I'm more than willing to give him a chance to succeed. But we needed this hire to really make a splash, to excite the fan base and get people to fill up the stadium for Elon next fall. Malzahn would have done that. Leach would do that. I'm almost sure Franklin won't.

Seamus O'Toole said...

I don't often disagree with Bobby, but this is one time when I think he is completely off base. I'm with him that Vandy fans need to give Coach Franklin a fair shake, but to me the only people who can be blamed for making Vandy fans feel like they were "held hostage" are the media outlets that reported on this thing prematurely and inaccurately.

I think it's absurd to impute ill motives to Malzahn for having explored a deal with us instead of saying "no" as soon as he was approached. The argument is based on the assumption that a guy with whom we had contract negotiations was faking his interest at every turn, which is a pretty bold accusation. Assuming the veracity of reports about a back-and-forth negotiation process (which are contested, as Anonymous 1:56), why does any of it indicate that we "got played"? Seems just as plausible, or more so, that Gus was concerned about whether Vandy was the right place for him from the outset but was willing to give the offer serious consideration if the administration was willing to make some strong commitments to helping him succeed. So DW made the commitment, but it still wasn't enough to prevent cold feet -- particularly after his own school made sticking around a much more attractive proposition. To me this explains it as least as well as the conspiracy theory that Malzahn is just a villain (a notion, by the way, that has been refuted by journalists who know him personally).

Despite what Mr. SEC would have us believe, it's no shame at all for Vandy to have made a strong push for Malzahn that fell short. DW will get his second choice, and it's no shame to Vandy or to James Franklin that he is the second choice because the first choice is arguably the hottest name on the coaching market and Vandy isn't exactly the hottest coaching position (something I thought we all used to agree on but apparently have forgotten in the midst of being rejected).

It's easy for us on the losing end of the deal to feel used when we thought we had a marquee coach and it turned out not to be the case, but I haven't heard a single credible report that leads me to believe that's what happened. To the contrary, nearly every report seems to say that the guy cares more about winning than money. Hard to fault him for that.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I've witnessed so many losing seasons that it really doesn't mean that much to me.

Andrew Smith said...

Here's the simplest possible statement of why I object to Franklin (and you should too):

I would say the Vandy head coaching job is about the 40th best college football position in the country -- no tradition of success but the SEC weighs heavy.

This means the school should be able to get one of the top 40 most able coaches working in all of college football.

Actually, given that some of the folks at better schools will make dumb choices with their coach, that actually means that a Vandy administration making smart choices should be able to land one of the 30 most capable people in college football.

Is there anyone on earth who really thinks that Franklin -- a guy who runs a mediocre offense, at a middling school in a lousy conference -- is one of the 25 or 30 most capable people out of all the thousands of people coaching in college football?

Maybe his mom. No one else. Next.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I think your assumption that we are the 40th best coaching position in college football may be flawed. Please list your top 39.

Being in the SEC makes us more high profile, but I don't think any coach (and in particular Malzahn...gut feeling here) that has middling success will stay. The last coach I can recall that did reasonably well was Gerry DiNardo and he parlayed a few 5-6 seasons into the LSU job. To me, that puts us more in line with solid CUSA or other middle tier conference teams as far as prestige rather than a top 40 position. That's the reality right now.

Seamus O'Toole said...

I've seen Vandy ranked as the #69 most desirable head coaching job by a college football magazine. We were one behind Northwestern and one ahead of Iowa State. As I recall the blurb about the job was "Glamor of the SEC, but so many hurdles." Of course, that's just like, one opinion, man.