HOOVER, Ala. — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said a recent report criticizing Penn State’s handling of sexual abuse allegations serves as a stark reminder to schools and athletic programs nationwide that they can’t let one individual “derail the soul of an institution.”
Slive briefly but pointedly referenced last week’s report by a special investigator in his opening address at SEC Media Days on Tuesday.
“We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration,” Slive said. “There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves.
“No one program, no one person – no matter how popular, no matter how successful – can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.”
Slive also used his address to emphasize the progress in hiring minority coaches since he was hired 10 years ago, when the SEC had never had a black head football coach.
Now, the SEC has three – Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. The league has eight black men’s basketball coaches and five more leading women’s basketball programs.
Slive pointed to Mississippi State’s hiring of Sylvester Croom to break that color barrier in 2004 as a highlight of his tenure.
VANDERBILT: Franklin appears to have made believers out of quarterback Jordan Rodgers and the Commodores. Steve Spurrier is sold, too.
Rodgers brushes off last year’s bowl trip – only the program’s third since 1982 – as “a marginal success.”
“We’re not going to be a one-year wonder, Rodgers said. “ We’re going to be confident. We’re not going to be the kind of team that people are going to glance over any more.”
“He’s got his guys believing at Vandy,” said Spurrier, the South Carolina coach. “They believe they can beat everybody they play. They almost did it last year. They almost had a shot at Florida, they almost had a shot at Georgia. They’re a very, very competitive, good team.” Play with a lot of energy and fire, like coach Franklin has.”
Franklin pulled in a Top 25 signing class according to at least one recruiting service. Vanderbilt is upgrading some facilities and building an indoor practice facility.
And Franklin never seems to stop selling. To the media. To the fans. Certainly to recruits.
He turns a question about whether the Commodores can contend for a title in the near future into a strong recruiting spiel.
“The sky’s the limit for us, I truly believe that,” Franklin said. “I think for the right kid from the right family, we can beat anybody. If you have a son, and he’s a Division I player, he’s coming to Vanderbilt. We have too much to sell.
“If you truly respect a world-class education, there’s very few schools that can compete with us. I know what Vanderbilt can do for your son for the next 40 or 50 years of his life. An opportunity to play in the best conference in America. If you’re truly the best and the brightest, where else would you go? You’ve got an opportunity to chase both of your dreams at the highest level.”
Franklin said there’s more buzz about the program than there has been in some time. He and Rodgers both said Vandy has gone from hoping and thinking maybe the team can win to really believing it.
Rodgers said the Commodores are in much better shape and have more command of the system this year.
“I think past Vanderbilt programs have bought into what people say, other people’s perceptions: We can’t be a contender in the SEC,” he said. “We’ve changed that. We no longer think like that.”
NO ‘BADBLOOD’: The Georgia-Vanderbilt game this year will have more anticipation than usual.
That’s because of how last year’s game ended with Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham having a heated on-field confrontation.
Someone asked Franklin on Tuesday about the “bad blood,” from last year.
“We have tremendous respect for all of the programs in this conference, all the coaches, all the players,” he said. He added: “You play Vanderbilt, you better be ready to play from the beginning of the game until the end.”
Franklin said he was hardly noticed when he walked through the Wynfey Hotel last year as a rookie head coach.
One big reason was he came in with Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“He was like a rock star,” Franklin said. “People were throwing babies at him.”
Vanderbilt went from 2-10 the previous two seasons to 6-6 in the regular season before losing to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl.
“We still have a long ways to go, but we’re taking steps in the right direction,” Franklin said.
Rodgers said the Commodores are “not going to be a one-year wonder … Everyone believes that we can contend in this league.”
THIS AND THAT: Another James Franklin, Missouri’s quarterback, is on track to be ready for the start of the season as he returns from a shoulder injury. “We expect, without question, for him to be a 100 percent,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. The Tigers play their first SEC game on Sept. 8 against Georgia. “He’s starting to throw the football around a little bit,” said Missouri receiver T.J Moe, who said Franklin is not yet taking part in 7-on-7 drills. … Spurrier on the four team playoff coming in 2014: “I would have eight teams go play.” He wants six conference champions and two at-large teams. … It will be a marathon today with six schools lined up for the day: Florida, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky, Auburn and LSU.