Vanderbilt coach elaborates on controversial comments … on recruit lost to UGA

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).

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin (AP photo)

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin (AP photo)

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.”

  • Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher: “No, I don’t buy that. They’re all young kids. They’ve all got to make tough decisions in a crucial time of their life. They may not have committed [initially] for the right reasons. [As a coach] you don’t say something like that. They are 18-year-old kids. They learn lessons as they go through the recruiting process. Recruiting can be tough and I think it’s different than it was years ago. The pressure, for instance, from social media, recruiting services, coaches … I think there’s a ton of more pressure on these kids now than there ever was before. They are 18-year olds. That’s the thing you have to remember. I would love to not have any kids de-commit. For the most part, we did this year except for one [DE Dante Fowler switched to Florida on signing day]. He’s an outstanding young man and will be a great player. That’s a choice he made, and he had to make it for his own reasons.”
  • USC’s Lane Kiffin: “You’ve got to realize how young these kids are and they go through emotions. They go back and forth. Publicly, [de-commits] change their minds a couple of times sometimes. But in their heads, they may change their minds more than that. They’re young. I don’t have any issues with that. It’s just part of recruiting … It’s no different than when a fan base gets extremely upset at a coach leaving for another school. They say ‘He should’ve honored his contact and that other school stole him.’ But then they’re going to turn around and hire a coach and steal him from another school? It’s sort of the same kind of story.”
  • North Carolina’s Larry Fedora: “What does [Franklin] say about the kids that were committed elsewhere and de-committed from their places to go to his place? That’s my comment. What is his comment on those people? He’s got someone in his recruiting class that did that very thing. He’s saying those guys are not men of honor? Basically, he’s saying he has got kids in his own recruiting class that are not men of honor. He said that, and I didn’t.”

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?

Josh Dawson's last-minute switch to UGA may increase tensions with Vanderbilt. Last season, UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vanderbilt's James Franklin got into a heated post-game confrontation. Ironically, Grantham was the UGA recruiter that convinced Dawson to the flip to the Bulldogs.

Josh Dawson's last-minute switch to UGA may increase tensions with Vanderbilt. Last season, UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vanderbilt's James Franklin got into a heated post-game confrontation. Ironically, Grantham was the UGA recruiter that convinced Dawson to the flip to the Bulldogs.

“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.”

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550 comments Add your comment

Bjohndawg

February 10th, 2012
8:25 am

Go dawgs
and thanks Josh
for the switch

Max Sizemore

February 10th, 2012
8:26 am

Maybe his initial comments were based more on emotion than reason, but you gotta love Franklin. He’ll make Vandy more competitive than it’s ever been.

East Repeat (We Run the East)

February 10th, 2012
8:28 am

South Carolina Best in East. Also jumbo shrimp, tallest midget,…

ptrepdaa

February 10th, 2012
8:29 am

ptrepdaa

February 10th, 2012
8:30 am

No not 1st so sad go dawgs

East Repeat (We Run the East)

February 10th, 2012
8:31 am

3rd, I dare not hoped for FIRST. Franklin is a spirited young coach who has his program on rise. We know he has emotion (ask CTG, another emoticon!). Can’t blame palyers for switching, its a part of the process.

it's called a Commitment !!

February 10th, 2012
8:32 am

I’m in agreement that these are 17 and 18 year old kids and subject to change their mind so……until your mind is completely made up, dont call it a commitment, say that one’s leaning in a certain direction or one school is the favorite….still think it’s important for even teenagers to realize the magnitude and weight a “Commitment” carries….unfortunately, from the looks of the divorce rate (more than 50%) and other social situations, people aren’t nearly as sincere when giving their word…I’m only 44 but, with my Dad’s generation, your word (and maybe a gemtleman’s handshake) meant everything…

Jerry

February 10th, 2012
8:40 am

Commitment is your word.. When you break it you have brought dishonor upon yourself. Franklin’s initial resposne was the right one but our do whatever feels good culture will not tolerate someone that stands up for what is right. This process needs to be changed so that when a kid commits he signs and is bound to that commitment immediately. That would put an end to all this bull crap and hat ceremonies.

sogadog

February 10th, 2012
8:40 am

With Franklin its always somebody else’s fault. Now he is blaming the media for his ridiculous comments. He doesnt deny making the statements though.

Fedora makes a great point, Franklin had no problem poaching one of UNC’s committments.

Sandman771

February 10th, 2012
8:40 am

Funniest part of this article was that you asked Kiffin about commitment? WTH? That is like asking mark Richt about Satanism….

It was good while it lasted!

February 10th, 2012
8:40 am

Good job Franklin…You had the program going good now kids will never trust you again! You will be known a a cry baby with little respect for the young men you recruit. UGA owns you now!

Frank Lane

February 10th, 2012
8:42 am

they are non-binding verbal commitments. they are not contracts even when they are letters of intent.

think of a commitment as a directional leaning. that’s all until they actually enroll, not just sign and LOI.

Reggie Ball

February 10th, 2012
8:44 am

Let me get this right there is a group of Vanderbilt supporters ???

Hank

February 10th, 2012
8:46 am

Good story…..

Sandman771

February 10th, 2012
8:49 am

Kiffin talking about commitment is like Steven Garcia talking about sobriety.

rico43

February 10th, 2012
8:50 am

Seems that Franklin’s point is that he’d rather have a player not commit at all rather than pull a de-commit. But his comments, which certainly sounded classless at the time, are doubly bad considering the Patton Robinette end run. Ironically, Robinette is the only Vandy signee who enrolled early.

ole dawg

February 10th, 2012
8:52 am

Sorry it “hurts your feelings” Coach Franklin. This is the best indicator we have of what happened on te field after the UGA-Vandy game last season. Apparently your feelings were hurt and you tried to take it out on a student athlete… just like you tried to take out your hurt feelings on Josh Dawson. Proud that Coach Grantham didn’t let you by with that crap. Put on your big boy undies Coach. This is the SEC. Maybe you should move to the Big 10 where only Urban hurts peoples feelings!

J Dub

February 10th, 2012
8:52 am

Can you say “back pedal”?
Franklin realized if he didnt amend his comments, he wouldn’t be getting many early ‘commitments’ anytime soon.
He’s a hothead. Good for Vandy’s team, but bad for Vandy’s image. I don’t think Vanderbilt accepts the old credo – any publicity is good publicity; even bad pubilicity. I bet they end up firing him after another season or two of running his mouth, and just barely losing to the other SEC teams.

@Sandman771 – LOL….you nailed it!

dawgfan

February 10th, 2012
8:55 am

Good grief what a crybaby. The bottom line is that Franklin got his wittle feelwings hurt by de-commitments Do we need to call your mommie coach? GROW UP you little baby. This guy is a joke.

This guy would be a great fit at Georgia Tech. Their fans think running your mouth in the media is what makes you a great coach.

Thanks.

Lakedawg

February 10th, 2012
8:57 am

Should be interesting when he shows up in Athens this year. Take no prisoners.

Joey

February 10th, 2012
8:57 am

Great questions for Franklin, Michael Carvell. Those remarks and his double standard make him look Kiffin-ish.

Recruiting is a cut-throat business, and every program suffers signing-day “flip” disapointments.

JB

February 10th, 2012
8:58 am

Also, I’ve never seen a Head Coach, after the game, rather than walking to mid field to shake the other coach’s hand, charge after an assit. coach on the other team, 25 yards away from mid field, and start a fight. You can spin that away. It’s class 101. That and then these comments will keep him from landing a better job one day.

81Dog

February 10th, 2012
8:59 am

James Franklin = Paul Johnson 2.0

Gorilla Biscuit

February 10th, 2012
9:01 am

Grantham 2
Franklin 0

Safety!!!

glass houses are everywhere

February 10th, 2012
9:01 am

Ask James Franklin this question: How many kids did you continue to recruit after they committed to another school. The answer is plenty. You were trying to flip kids until they signed their LOI. A commitment is a commitment on both sides, coach and athlete. Honor and Integrity are just words without the actions to back them up, people see through the smoke and mirrors fairly quickly.

Joey

February 10th, 2012
9:03 am

Franklin’s obviously a good coach, judging by how many opponents Vandy gave fits in ‘11, but his remarks were Kiffin-ish.

Great questions for M Carvell, by the way.

T

February 10th, 2012
9:04 am

No wonder why no one likes this guy. Goes after Shaun Williams( a player), verbally dogs an 18 year recruit for having a change of heart. No wonder everyone wants to kick his butt. He coaches dirty and everyone knows it. He may have Vandy on the map but for all the wrong reasons. UGA wasn’t the only team who almost had it with his team last year. Go back and watch the Vandy/Florida game. Vandy was doing the same dirty cheap hits. He is a punk and his players play like it too.

Big Crimson 75

February 10th, 2012
9:05 am

James Franklin & Jim Swartz — must be something in that Nashville water!

Phoneguy71

February 10th, 2012
9:05 am

Haha….Kiffin talking about commitment is like: Paul Johnson talking about the forward pass

Dawgs97

February 10th, 2012
9:06 am

Jerry, you say Franklin’s initial response was the correct one, but what about the kid he got to switch from UNC? Franklin even acknowledges in the piece that makes him look phony.

No, the best and fairest comments were from Jimbo Fisher. Every school plays the same game. Far worse than Franklin is Paul Johnson. Coach Man-Boobs is the king of righteous indignation about “commitment at Tech” yet he was trying to get at least 4 other committed players to Tech ON Signing Day.

What Franklin & Man-Boobs need to do is recruit, keep their traps shut, and look at coaches like Richt & Fisher who are savvy enough to NEVER denigrate a kid, because other kids see that.

ike

February 10th, 2012
9:08 am

An early signing period would stop alot of this dishonor. Committment is committment, doesn’t matter how old you are. Just another black mark on our society when people defend this kind of behavior. Nobody is making them commit. If they are not sure, wait for Pete’s sake. Don’t put these coaches in this kind of situation on signing day and they don’t have time to recover. And don’t let coaches accept committments that they don’t have scholarships for.

RedandBlackDawg

February 10th, 2012
9:10 am

The SEC doesn’t need anymore coaches to speak before thinking and then try to explain their way out of the mess they have caused. Miles and this guy both mucked it up and made the SEC look like we have a few coaches that are cry babies. With the rest of the college football world already gunning and hanging on every word that comes out of the SEC, negative publicity is not needed. Thanks heavens Meyer rescued us along with the coach from Wisconsin and Michigan, with their childish remarks as well.
Having a kid sign as soon as he verbally commits is not the answer either. Suppose the coaches have a big change over and suddenly, the one coach the kid was close to leaves. Does that mean the kid is still contractually obligated to that school, but the coach can just leave when he feels like it. They are kids and they are going to be about as committed as most politicians are to solving this countries problems.
Coaches will just have to get over these kid that switch and change their minds at the lase moment. A bunch of these kids have NFL stars in their eyes from the day they sign onto a college program. They are going to go with the teams that give them the best chance to achieve that goal.

ATL Sports Fan

February 10th, 2012
9:11 am

One thug no body realizes is when these Kidd are on campus the coaches are pushing then to commit. I’ve been in these situations, they press and press to get you to commit.

As for Franklin. His philosophy hasn’t stopped him recruiting kids that are committed to other schools.

ATL Sports Fan

February 10th, 2012
9:12 am

Oops, meant thing and Kid. Sorry for the confusion.

FL Jacket

February 10th, 2012
9:13 am

“I would just rather a kid not commit to us than commit and not be completely sure what he’s going to do”

Dawgs97…I find it funny that this ethical approach is so foreign to an area of the country that prides itself on its morals and ethics. Where are the parents to say “No, don’t commit unless you’re absolutely sure”?

collegeballfan

February 10th, 2012
9:14 am

I see no difference between a school changing its mind at the last minute and a kid changing his mind at the last minute.

Josh Dawson and Nick Saban are two peas in the same pod.

Loyal Dawgs

February 10th, 2012
9:17 am

Now we have it confirmed Franklin is a huge whiner. Now I’m glad Coach G gave him heck after the game last season. What a jerk!

FL Jacket

February 10th, 2012
9:19 am

collegeballfan…well said

So it’s either got to be one of two ways…

1) Everyone acts slimy, commits until they can find a better commitment to jump to, and everyone has just the same chance to screw others as to get screwed

2) Everyone honors their commitments. If they change their mind, de-commit first and give the school the ability to fill that slot.

Any combination of the two, and you get people like CPJ and CJF catching the heat for trying to enforce an ethical policy.

JB

February 10th, 2012
9:20 am

An early signing period would kill Saban’s methods, so don’t for that to happen. Signing a kid in October of his Senior high school year , and then he tears up a knee would not fit fit the Saban policy of delay and replace. Saban would be stuck to rehab the guy. Getting 35-40 commits and weeding through them works best for him. I’m not bashing, It’s just the way it is. If kids want to do that, go for it.

GoForTwo

February 10th, 2012
9:20 am

Wonder what he will tell his players who committed and signed when he leaves to coach at another school. Most likely, sorry guys, but I have to do what’s best for me.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 10th, 2012
9:20 am

When an out of state school goes after a player that is a native Georgian expect the home state schools to defend their borders. Franklin came in to Georgia. As for Franklin’s confrontation with Grantham. Don’t attack Grantham’s players – he is going to protect them. They are family. A commitment should be the final word in a perfect world but this is ObamaNation.

TheTruth

February 10th, 2012
9:22 am

the patton robinette deal was a completely different situation. robinette committed to butch davis’ staff. when unc made the change, robinette publically opened his recruitment back up and took three official visits before enrolling early (and, no, he was not the only early enrollee). not to mention, he left unc with an entire month (as opposed to pulling a switcheroo the night before signing day) of official visit weekends to recruit another qb, which they ironically used to successfully “flip” a kid who was also previously committed elsewhere.

PrimeTimeJr

February 10th, 2012
9:22 am

1- Frankly (pun intended), Coach Franklin is a coach who cannot control his emotions. That’s why his team didn’t win many games.
2- He’s had run ins with more than 1 opposing coaches, he is a hothead.
3- He didn’t have as strong of a relationship with Dawson as he said, otherwise, Dawson would be at Vanderbilt. A lot of coaches leave kids behind, once kids commit, and take them for granted. Looks like that’s what happened here.
4- UGA has a better coach, better facilities, better program, and gets a ton more guys into the NFL. It was in Dawson’s best interest to pick UGA over Vanderbilt.
5- Franklin is a hypocrit, he has taken players from other teams.
6- Franklin’s integrity is shaky, he has poached committed players, and he has broken a previous coaching contract, he does not keep his word, he does not live by his espoused values.
7- Franklin misled the fans, alumni, and recruits last pre season by promising how good Vanderbilt would be in 2011, and well, they didn’t live up to Franklin’s promises.

Big Commode Door

February 10th, 2012
9:23 am

You should have come to Nashville .. we got Goo-Goos in Nashville.

digboy

February 10th, 2012
9:23 am

Georgia dirty recruiting is nothing unusual. They will tell a player anything, Richt must, he will be gone in a couple of years. Very dishonest coaches like Grantham will say anything to steal players.

FL Jacket

February 10th, 2012
9:25 am

GoForTwo…

If a kid commits to a College choice because of a Coach…that’s a whole other issue. Hopefully he’s committed to the school and the coach was just a small part of that.

DawginLex

February 10th, 2012
9:27 am

Franklin is going to miss all those seniors he had this past year.

Folks think he is all great and wonderful.

Let’s see him go 6-6 at Vandy with his own recruits.

Brian

February 10th, 2012
9:28 am

A thing many of us are failing to realize is this:

1. Franklin’s “commitments” are not your typical ones. I’ve heard that once they commit to Vandy, that they aren’t allowed to visit any more schools. We take commitments like fat kids take candy… He doesn’t.

2. Regarding the kid they stole from UNC; their staff had just been fired. He was committed to a staff, not the university. When the OC got fired, he simply chose the backup school. (even though he waited to the last second) That QB has stated in an interview that Franklin did not speak to him after he got an campus, it just wasnt right.

3. Another example on Franklin’s “commitments”.. It goes both ways with him, when Robinette chose Vandy; he told him that he was his QB no matter what. Well what isn’t being told is that two days later, Gunner Kiel called him and asked if he still had a spot at Vandy. Franklin told him he was a man of his word to his commit, and wished him the best. Funny how no one speaks of that story huh?

4. I love what he has done for Vandy! Guys we are talking about Vanderbilt in February, we keep talking about ” just wait until they come to Athens this year”… THAT’S WHAT HE WANTS!! He is putting Vandy on the map. They had a hell of a recruiting class, even without JD.

Dap01

February 10th, 2012
9:28 am

The Vandy coach needs to realize that he is a football coach. He is ONLY a football coach. He is no expert in life, he is a football coach at the worst football school in the SEC. Shut up and lose.

Sugar Hill Dawg

February 10th, 2012
9:28 am

Obviously, as a UGA alum I was excited to hear of JD’s decision, but I do have to agree to some extent with CJF at Vandy. Some schools (I thinks UGA’s one) doesn’t offer a kid unless they intend to take him. Some (Western Division rival. perhaps?) offer everyone in hopes of a few accepting. I haven’t really paid attention to what position Vandy’s taking in regards to commitments, but if a kid has a true understanding of what the word “commitment” means, he shouldn’t make a commitment unless he’s absolutely sure. (The only exception I think is valid is the kid committing to the coach (say, CLK at UT) and the coach bolts. In that case, the kid should have the right to reconsider. I’m afraid I’m in agreement with Coach Franklin and Coach Johnson on this one. (I taught history in the Gwinnett system for 34 years – I’ve come to know a ton of kids having to make this decision. It can be a difficult decision for a lot of kids, mostly because everyone’s so nice to them during the process they hate to hurt the coaches they turn down.)