James Franklin understands the obstacles Vanderbilt faces. No where is this more apparent than his efforts to "sell" the Commodores. Saturday Down South's Kevin Duffey had a great story last week discussing Frankin's "savvy" strategy to increase Vanderbilt's national profile.
Vanderbilt has always had a very good web presence thanks in part to the tremendous efforts of the VUCommodores.com staff. I have always been impressed with how Vanderbilt Athletics has embraced social media and YouTube. Franklin has embraced these tools in a way that has paid extraordinary dividends. By inviting cameras to trail him and his coaches on National Signing Day, having cameras capture Herb Hand doing the Worm, or awarding walk-on Marc Panu a full-scholarship, Franklin is trying to transform Vanderbilt into a college football destination. And based on his recruiting, it appears to be working.
In yet another example of Coach Franklin (and the rest of the athletic department's) PR-savvy, Vanderbilt will honor the Goodlettsville Little League team that made it all the way to the Championship Game in this year's Little League World Series during the 2nd quarter of Thursday night's game. It's a small, but important gesture. It is a way for Vanderbilt and the football program to embrace the larger Middle Tennessee community while seeking to get the larger community to embrace them. It's also a great way to get additionally butts in the seats. Little Leaguers have parents, siblings, friends, and families who might like to be there when their sons, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews are honored during the kick-off game to the college football season. Thursday's game isn't sold out (neither are season tickets), and any chance to get people to the game predisposed to rooting for the Commodores makes sense, especially if there's a chance they'll keep coming.
Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will the program that Franklin is trying to build. Based on his comments during yesterday's press conference, Coach Franklin understands how important "branding" is for this team. In the meantime, Coach Franklin, David Williams, and the rest of the Vanderbilt Athletics Department are leaving no stone unturned.