James Franklin had been the Vanderbilt football coach for a couple of days in December of 2010 when he gathered his new team together for a pre-Christmas vacation message.
“The first thing I told them was to really enjoy Christmas with their friends and family because it was the last time they’d be home for Christmas for a long time,” Franklin told a standing-room-only crowd at the Chattanooga Quarterback Club luncheon Monday.
“Then I told them that when they were home and a little cousin came up to them and wanted to play checkers, that they were to beat his [behind]. I wanted our guys to understand that we compete as hard as we can in everything.”
The crowd laughed. Franklin laughed, too. At least a little bit.
But the message was clear. So has been the improvement in a program that had gone 2-10 each of the two seasons before Franklin arrived from Maryland, where he had been the Terrapins’ offensive coordinator.
Now two years into one of the most remarkable building (not rebuilding, building) jobs in NCAA history, Franklin’s Commodores are yet to go home for Christmas, having improbably reached bowl games both years.
Even more impressive, when the 2013 college football season begins, Vanderbilt will have the longest winning streak in the Southeastern Conference. It has won seven straight games, including 38-24 over North Carolina State in the Liberty Bowl.
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