Former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, Sacrifice for the Game

Greg Arias

The name James Franklin is met with sneers and criticism when mentioned around fans of the Vanderbilt Commodores football program. 

Franklin unceremoniously dumped the Commodores in 2013, after just three seasons at the helm in Nashville. Those three seasons, however, were successful as under his direction, Vanderbilt posted 24 wins against 15 losses, with seven of those losses coming in his first season in 2011 where the team finished 6-7 and lists to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl. 

Things got much better the following season as the Commodores posted a 9-4 record and won the Music City Bowl, defeating N.C. State. They would follow that up in 2013 with another 9-4 record and a second consecutive bowl win, knocking off Houston in the BVBVa Compass Bowl. 

Franklin was a rock star on West End and in college football, having transformed the historically worst program in the SEC into a solid, winning team in short order. 

That ended when Penn State came calling before the 2014 season, luring Franklin off to Happy Valley and leaving Commodore fans angry at his departure. 

Now entering his seventh season with the Nittany Lions, Franklin is preparing to face the toughest season of his coaching career. 

No, the schedule isn't much tougher than usual, but the personal obstacles in his way could prove to more formidable than Ohio State or Michigan. 

Mark Wogenrich of Sports Illustrated's Penn State site, AllPennState, explained Franklin's challenge in a recent article on his website. 

"Among his program's four core values, Penn State coach James Franklin quite often references "sacrifice." Should there be a college football season this fall, Franklin and his family will make one."

"Franklin told Bryant Gumbel on HBO Real Sports that his wife Fumi and daughters, Shola and Addison, will live temporarily at the family's Florida home while Franklin coaches Penn State. They're doing so to protect Addison, their youngest daughter who has Sickle cell disease, from being exposed to the novel coronavirus."

Anyone who has ever spent time away from family or loved ones knows just how challenging it can be. Add to that having a child shouldering the weight of such a disease and the thought of being apart is likely incredible. 

This study monitored patients in the U.S. between 1978 and 1988 and estimated the median life expectancy of women with this disease to 48 years and men 42 years.

While that's not a short time, it's also not a long life, especially when it comes to a parent and their child.

No one is expecting Vanderbilt fans to forgive Franklin for departing to his home state, but this story should touch the hearts of everyone and cause them to cheer for Addison. 

Follow Greg on Twitter @GregAriasSports and @SIVanderbilt or Facebook at Vanderbilt Commodores-Maven

Comments (2)
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Greg Arias
Greg Arias


He absolutely proved it can be done. Had he gotten a better commitment to the program from the university, he might still be here. It’s speculative of course, and will will never know.


James Franklin is proof that Vandy can have winning seasons in Football. I hated to see him go, but I have no Ill feelings towards the man, it was just smart business.