James Franklin, in testy exchange on Nashville radio, doesn’t back down from ‘settling in life’ comment

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Vanderbilt coach James Franklin went on a Nashville radio station this week apparently expecting a softball interview about the Commodores’ upcoming spring game.

Instead, as you can hear for yourself, the interview on the Midday 180 show on 104.5 The Zone turned contentious about midway through.

Jonathan Hutton, Chad Withrow and Paul Kuharsky are identified as hosts on the show’s Twitter page. Update: A reader tells me that Kuharsky is the host who will not take evasion for an answer.

The origin of the exchange occurs when one of the hosts reads this Tweet to Franklin. 

Is someone really “settling in life” if they don’t choose Vandy, the host asks?

Franklin never answers the question. And to Kuharsky’s credit, he never backs down.

Franklin: If you look at the graduation rate, I think they speak for themselves. People can try to create this into a story. The graduation rates speak volumes when you look at what these schools are doing, other schools.

My concern about that whole thing is people came out, and it made stories, because people tried to say that tweet was in response to something that happened (the Jalen Hurd commitment). That tweet was sent out 18 hours before anything happened.

Host: OK, we’ll grant you that it had nothing to do with that (the Hurd commitment). Is somebody settling in life if they decide to go somewhere other than Vanderbilt? The kid that went to Princeton, is he settling in life?

Franklin: (Laughs) You’re (unintelligible…maybe “really interesting.”) What I’m telling you is Vanderbilt is an unbelievable opportunity and if you look at graduation rates — people should be ashamed of themselves when they look at graduation rates what’s going on in this country. And Vanderbilt can give you an opportunity like very few places can. That’s what I’m saying. You can put words — you can say whatever you want. That’s what I’m saying.

That’s what we all try to do. We show the things that we can offer in comparison to other schools. We’re going to sell those things.

For a lot of families, and for kids that are mature and are not going to make a decision based on the helmets or the size of the stadium or the weight room — and those things are nice, but they’re not going to get you a job 20, 30 years from now. That’s what we’re trying to educate kids and families on: Make a decision based on the big picture and not the shiny things that people get excited about in terms of weight room and size of stadiums and things like that. That’s what our message is.

People can be confrontational and try to flip it into something else and try to make a story out of it when it’s not, when all we’re trying to do is sell all the positives that Vanderbilt has. That’s what we’ve been doing from Day 1.

Host: I know it’s going to sound like I
‘m determined to get the last word, but in your tweet you said “settling in life.” That’s not me trying to put words in your mouth, that’s your tweet, correct?

Franklin: But you’re — relax, OK? I didn’t realize I was coming on this show to get jumped and try to create problems —

Host: You weren’t.

Franklin: Hold on a second, hold on a second. My tweet has been consistent with what I’m saying. I’m talking about graduation rates, I’m talking about what Vanderbilt can offer. All we’ve done since I’ve come to Vanderbilt is sell our product, and people are like offended by the fact that there’s a coach that will fight and stand up for Vanderbilt. That’s all I’ve done. That’s all I’ve done since I’ve arrived here.

Host: I’m not offended by it at all. I’m impressed by your enthusiasm and energy. But I’ll stick with my theme. I don’t think it’s settling if you go somewhere else.

Franklin: You’ve said it four times. You’re exactly right. You’ve said it four times.

Other host chimes in: Coach, you want to get the details out on the spring game?

Franklin: Yeah, yeah — and I appreciate you, I appreciate your professionalism. (Gives times of various events). It’s going to be awesome. Really appreciate the opportunity to be on your show today. This has been great, and appreciate your professionalism.

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