James Franklin Defends Vanderbilt Program From Headline Attack, Gigs Derek Dooley

Published on: January 11, 2012 | Written by: Clay Travis

Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin called our 3HL radio show on Nashville's 104.5 this afternoon to defend his program from attack. You can listen to that entire interview here. In particular Franklin was angry that the local newspaper, Nashville's "Tennessean," published a day old story dealing with the recruitment of four-star running back I'Tavius Mathers who has received scholarship offers from the likes of Tennessee, Oklahoma, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt, under a sensationalized headline.

The two time Tennessee player of the year, Mathers was a long-time Ole Miss commit who wavered upon the firing of Houston Nutt.

As Mathers wavered on his commitment to Ole Miss, Vanderbilt jumped to the forefront of the recruiting war. Then Ole Miss and new coach Hugh Freeze responded with a late push that seems to have comforted Mathers.

On Monday January 9th, a Gannett owned newspaper, the "Daily News Journal" in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, published an article about Mathers' recruitment with a simple headline: "Mathers plans to stick with Ole Miss." This made sense because the story was about where Mathers was choosing to go to school. Indeed, it wasn't until the 14th paragraph that Vanderbilt was even mentioned in the original story.  

The next day the "Tennessean," a fellow Gannett newspaper located 30 miles down the interstate, ran the same story, only with a new, sensationalized headline and no mention of the fact that the online story had been run in a different form under a different headline in the same city the day before.

Murfreesboro is a suburb of Nashville, located about 30 miles southeast of the city, and the two communities have grown to the point where they nearly connect.

But the "Tennessean" story a day later took a completely different direction using the same quotes from the original story. Only there was a new, drastically different headline:

Blackman's I'Tavius Mathers recommits to Ole Miss, says Vanderbilt not truthful.

Click on that link and you'll see the same quotes and the same article, just reconfigured so that what originally appeared in the 19th paragraph, Mathers's comments about Vanderbilt, now appears in the first paragraph.

Is that ethical, for a newspaper to run one article one day and then run the exact same article the next day in the same community under a new headline?

It seems pretty dicey to me but OKTC is clearly not the moral arbiter of anything. Of course, moral arbiter aside, even we've never run the same story twice with a different headline both times.  

And, in retrospect, it must seem dicey to Gannett editors too. Because they've removed the original online link that takes you to the "Daily News Journal" article and the second page of the original article that ran on the Murfreesboro website can now only be accessed it by clicking on the print view button.

The "not truthful" headline in the Tennessean generated a lot of Twitter traffic and attention and it infuriated Franklin, who called in to our radio show this afternoon to rebut charges that his program had been untruthful in any respects. He also took aim at the local newspaper.

"If you read the articles the articles were changed as well. The content was changed," Franklin said on 3HL.  

"The problem is not everybody reads the whole article," said Franklin. "They read the headline and that's the only thing they remember." He continued, "I have a problem with an article that's written out of context and I have a problem with a sensational headline to try to get hits on a webpage."

Despite calling the program and its coaches "untruthful" Vanderbilt received no telephone calls seeking comment, which also angered Franklin.  "No, not whatsoever," Franklin said of the newspapers attempt to contact him. "Any story that's ever written I think you ought to talk to multiple people...There was nobody that called anybody from Vanderbilt."

In reality, Franklin said, if anything his program had been too truthful. He wouldn't provide a guarantee of playing time to anyone.

Franklin went on to say, "The reality is this (recruiting) can be a dirty business at times."

Franklin then took a subtle potshot at Ole Miss and Tennessee: "Part of it was we were in a bowl game still playing and some other universities weren't and they were at home and they spent that time negative recruiting and bashing Vanderbilt and where we're going."

Franklin called in later that evening to Chad Withrow's Primetime Show on the Zone and when Withrow said that Volunteer football coach Derek Dooley and Franklin were similar in that both have to recruit and hire coaches over the next month, Franklin quipped: "We aren't similar. How many coaches does he have to replace?"

It's safe to say that the gloves are off in the Vanderbilt-Tennessee rivalry.

Personally, I love it.

You can listen to James Franklin's entire interview here.