Vanderbilt coach James Franklin touched on a hot-button issue of recruiting when he recently said that players that de-committed from his program were “not men of honor” and “not men of integrity.”
Franklin made the inflammatory comments in front of a group of Vanderbilt supporters — and some thought they were specifically directed at UGA signee Josh Dawson. The defensive end from Tucker High School flipped to Bulldogs on signing day after being committed to Vanderbilt since last summer. Franklin told the AJC that his words were not directed at any one recruit (more on Dawson in a minute).
Some quick background: “De-committing” is when a prospect pledges to sign with one college and later switches to another school, an unpopular but common occurrence in recruiting. Georgia Tech was stunned to have a couple of prospects de-commit a few days before signing day after getting last-minute offers from competitors, while UGA had five one-time commitments not sign with the Bulldogs last week for one reason or another.
The strong words by Vanderbilt’s coach on the topic of de-commitments created a stir in recruiting circles. Franklin elaborated on the comments to the AJC:
“First of all, it really wasn’t written the way it was delivered. I think the biggest thing is when a kid commits to Vanderbilt, I go into great detail and make sure they understand what they’re doing – that they understand ‘commitment’ and ‘what commitment means.’ That I’d say if five other schools come in and offer you, would you change your mind? We make sure everybody is on the same page: the kid, the parents, and the high school coach. We explain it in real detail. I would just rather a kid not commit to us than commit and not be completely sure what he’s going to do. When you lose a kid, it hurts your heart. You feel bad, like all college coaches do, because you feel like your institution is the best possible place for that kid. So when you lose them, it hurts.
“I think I probably would’ve worded some things differently [that I said that day]. And I think it would’ve probably been reported a little differently than it was intended. But it is what it is. I have great respect for all the young men that committed to us. I have great respect for some of the men that changed their minds and went in another direction. They thought it was in the best interest for them and their family. But it hurts when you lose a guy when you’ve been recruiting him for a year.”
We asked some other coaches about Franklin’s initial comments about de-commitments being “not men of honor” and “not men of integrity.”
Note: Fedora’s stinging reaction was likely related to QB Patton Robinette, who was committed to North Carolina, showed up for classes to enroll early last month, and abruptly walked out of student orientation with the Tar Heels on a Sunday to rush over to Vanderbilt.
We asked Vanderbilt’s coach about that: If players that de-committed from his program were “not men of honor” and “not men of integrity” – then what about kids who switched from other schools to sign with Vanderbilt? Isn’t that a double standard?
“I think you get frustrated, and you get upset because kids commit to you,” Franklin said. “But you’re exactly right. It was like the year before, when we got in here at the last minute and only had a month left for recruiting, we got kids to de-commit to us. I think that’s a very, very valid point.”
What about Fedora’s comments? “I’m not going to comment about other colleges and what they said about us,” Franklin said. “I’m not getting into that. All I can talk about is what we do here.”
Back to Josh Dawson, the defensive end who flipped to UGA on signing day after being a longtime Vanderbilt commitment. Why does Franklin think he lost him to UGA?
“I can’t speak on that,” Franklin said. “I’ve probably spoken more about this more than I probably should have. That would have to be something you would have to ask them. I just know we had developed a very, very close relationship with the high school, the kid and his parents. You know, it’s like any other relationships in life. When the relationship ends or changes, it hurts your feelings. It sets you back and catches you off guard. So it is what it is. I wish him the best of luck. I know he’s going to have a great career. That’s why we were so excited about getting him here at Vanderbilt. But it didn’t work out that way. I don’t question any of those things about Josh Dawson or his family.”
“And let me say one other thing: I read a lot of things. I’m one of those guys, I read and watch a lot of videos, and all that kind of stuff. I never specifically said a recruit. We lost probably three or four recruits. For whatever reason, some newspapers or some media people directed that at one specific recruit. I never specified a recruit. We lost three or four recruits there at the end. And like I said, I was hurt by all of them because I feel we like we do such a thorough and detailed job of explaining what the word ‘commitment’ means here at Vanderbilt.”
On signing day, Dawson called his switch from Vanderbilt to UGA “the hardest decision I’ve ever made” after many hours of prayer, along with conversations with his family. When later asked about Franklin’s general remarks on de-commitments, Dawson responded, “I mean, everybody has their own opinion. I’m not going to sweat it. I’m with Coach [Mark Richt] now and I’m not going worry about what another coach says. As long as I’m faithful to my teammates at the University of Georgia, it really doesn’t matter what everybody else says.”
IT’S RAINING RECRUITING STORIES
INSTANT AJC RECRUITING CLASSICS
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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