It's not a stretch to think that when people look back at Vanderbilt AD David Williams' hiring of a young, positive, energetic offensive coordinator from Maryland named James Franklin, it may be talked about as the best athletic hire that the university has ever made.
However, when Franklin decided to leave Vanderbilt for Penn State, Williams not only lost his football coach, he lost a very close friend.
Ask James Franklin about the factors that helped contribute to his success at Vanderbilt, and I'd be willing to bet that the guidance and friendship from David Williams is one of the first factors that come out of his mouth. The two developed quite the bond during their time together in Nashville.
Williams and his wife Gail accompanied Franklin's wife (Fumi) during their house hunting adventure upon accepting the job, and when Franklin's oldest daughter Shola needed "grandparents" for an event at school, the Williams' were the first to lend a helping hand in what developed into a tradition year after year.
As Williams explained during a phone interview with PennLive, the whole process started with a great relationship.
“It was a very good friendship and it still is. It was bittersweet. We didn’t want to let James go, but that was a decision that really was about him and his family based on what they wanted to do and what they needed to do with their life. While it was not a decision I wanted to hear at that time, I still wished him well.”
“It was a friendship that developed. James and Fumi are about 25 years younger than me and my wife, but we kind of saw them as a young couple at a very high profile, highly demanding job and wanted them to be part of this community.”
That bond combined with Franklin work ethic, and his staff's ability to get the most out of their players were major factors in their turnaround.
“If you were working at a 97 level and the next person comes in working at an 89, well he’d say, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I never saw his staff work harder than him and it was a hard-working staff.”
Williams also talked about a few other factors that made Franklin a special head coach, and not just a good fit for Vanderbilt. Read the full article here.
The blueprint for success that Franklin and Williams laid out, and were able to execute, started with a friendship right out of the gates. While it certainly wasn't the only factor, and perhaps not even the biggest, those of you that are looking to take a rebuilding job might want to keep that in mind.