Do we have a legit interstate rivalry beginning to brew here in the great state of Tennessee? It certainly looks that way, and it is about time.
Yet, thanks to Coach James Franklin, the culture at Vanderbilt is changing. After more than a century of football futility, Vanderbilt has finally grown a backbone, and is no longer going to take the back seat to any SEC team, especially in state rival Tennessee.
If you need an example of this new found courage from Vandy, look no further than Coach Franklin’s tweets from late Wednesday night:
Ironically they came just hours before five star recruit Jalen Hurd, out of Hendersonville’s Beech High School, announced his commitment to Tennessee for the 2014 season.
Franklin can deny his tweets were meant for any one player or college institution, but it certainly looks like he is taking a subtle shot at Tennessee, and he has every right to do so. He has turned a perennial SEC cellar dweller into a program with expectations of making a bowl game every year.
In Frankiln’s two year tenure at Vandy, he has lead the Commodores to a bowl game in both seasons. Vanderbilt has only been to six bowl games ever, and Franklin accounts for two of them. On top of that, the nine wins Vandy had this past season was their first nine win season since 1915.
Last year, Franklin also led the Commodores to their first five win conference record since 1935, and a thorough beat down of the Vols at Vanderbilt Stadium (first time Vanderbilt beat Tennessee at home since 1982). As if the 41-18 victory was not enough, Franklin rubbed it in the Vols faces, taking a timeout after a penalty with 43 seconds left in the game, and Derrick Dooley was fired soon after.
That game might not have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for UT coach Derek Dooley, but at the very least it was the dirt that was kicked in the camel’s face after it went down.
Vanderbilt’s rise could not come at a better time, as the Vols have been on the decline the past five years. Tennessee still holds the advantage in tradition, with the Vols owning 16 conference championships and six national titles (that is 16 more conference titles and six national titles more than Vanderbilt).
However, despite all the history that Rocky Top has, the Vols, not the Commodores, are the ones currently looking to turn things around.
Butch Jones has taken over for the Vols, and has a stellar 2014 recruiting class, with two of the state’s top six prospects already committed to Tennessee. Will Jones be able to slow down the momentum that Franklin has built at Vanderbilt?
CJ Hurt covers the NBA for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.