Franklin, 38, was hired away from the University of Maryland, where in 2009 he had been designated as coach-in-waiting to Ralph Friedgen in addition to his duties as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Before arriving in College Park, he had worked as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kansas State since 2006 under Ron Prince.
The hiring of Franklin ended the 21-day search for the school’s 27th head coach, which began with a list of approximately 60 names of potential candidates, according to Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletics David Williams. Williams opened the press conference with a summary of the active role in the overhaul taken by the university’s executive leadership.
“We heard what you all said,” Williams said. “We heard what the fans said. We heard the fact that this community and this university and most importantly our players wanted us to take a different direction as it relates to football.”
On the morning of November 27, Robbie Caldwell announced that his resignation would become effective after the team’s final game of the season that night against Wake Forest, a 34-13 loss that capped off the program’s second consecutive 2-10 season. It was at that point that Williams announced the start of a national coaching search that would mark a shift in the university’s attitude toward football.
“One, we understood we have to change the culture, everything associated with football we needed to really think about and look at,” said Williams on Friday. “Two, we really needed to increase our effort as it relates to our facilities as it relates to football, as we’ve done in basketball and baseball. And three, we needed to hire a dynamic head coach. So today, we have accomplished one of those things.”
Williams then introduced Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, who offered additional insight into the past three weeks before ceding the floor to the new head coach.
“We want first of all someone who identifies and develops talent, someone who can connect to families and youngsters and bring them here and say, ‘You’re really good. I can even turn you into a better individual, a better athlete,’” Zeppos said of the search process. “We wanted somebody with passion, we wanted somebody who works hard.
“We looked for strength of character, integrity. We win the right way—that was very, very important to us. We can be best in football and best in academics. It can be done. And drawing on the unique resources, the unique traditions of this great university, we can be successful.”
Zeppos then introduced Franklin, who received a resounding round of applause as he took the podium, accompanied by his wife Fumi and two daughters, Ava and Addison.
“It became apparent to me right away when I came to sit down and talk with [Zeppos and Williams], the type of commitment they had to this program,” Franklin said of his interview process. “It was a sense of community that was very obvious to me. I’ve worked in a lot of universities across this country and professional football as well, and there’s a division. People struggle with how to have an unbelievable academic institution that’s respected around the world and also have a top-flight athletic program. And it was obvious to me right away that this place had something that was really special.”
Franklin, who was recognized in his previous collegiate positions as a successful recruiter, also spoke about the unique product that Vanderbilt offers, a product that he believes can bring talented football players to Nashville.
“You can walk into a young man’s home and you can offer something to his family that very few schools can, that he does not have to choose, that he does not have to sacrifice, that he can have the best of everything, which is a world-class education and an opportunity to play in the best college football conference in America,” he said. “And to me, that’s something to be proud of, that’s something to sell, that’s something to build on.”
Several current players attended the press conference and spoke briefly with the coach as he entered, including punter Richard Kent, left tackle Wesley Johnson, defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone, defensive back Javon Marshall, safety Micah Powell and cornerback Casey Hayward.