In his first few months as Vanderbilt’s new head coach, Derek Mason has trotted out a lot of James Franklin’s old talking points. And why in the world wouldn’t he? They worked. Tremendously. Recruiting, sales, and life itself is all about playing to your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses, and for Vanderbilt it’s that rare intersection of SEC football, a world-class city and elite academics.

“Kids want this brand,” Mason told SI.com in a recent interview. “There are probably five schools in the country with that academic reputation that play big-time football, and being one of those, we’re at an advantage.”

That is a fact Franklin harped on over and over again in his three seasons in Nashville. That Franklin is now gone doesn’t make it any less true, of course, perhaps just more amazing that Franklin was the first person to truly broadcast it from the top of Vanderbilt Stadium. 

But Mason did trot out an analogy I hadn’t seen before in his interview with SI. 

“Football is like a carton of milk,” he explained. “When it’s all said and done, there’s an expiration date on when that ends. Football is going to end someday. To have a chance to play in the SEC and get an education from probably the best academic institution in this area, and one of the best cities in this country, it’s something that’s easy to sell.”

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.