Learning management from Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin

I write a little thing every week about press conferences given by Southeast Conference (SEC) football coaches. For those not into the college football scene, the SEC is the top conference in the sport. One of its teams has won the national championship the past seven years; they have a shot this season but are probably going to be underdogs in that game.

Aside: To play in a national championship game, you have to be picked by a computer and a bunch of humans based on who you beat and who beat you during the season, so out of more than 110 teams, you have to be that good.

You're probably familiar with programs like Alabama and Texas A&M and Florida (the Gators, for whom Gatorade is named), just from existing in the world. You may not know much about them, but you've likely overheard a conversation somewhere, even if you're in the northeast. Or northwest, for that matter.

But unless you're an alum or from Tennessee, you're probably not too familiar with Vanderbilt football. I wasn't, either, until I started writing this piece every week, midway through the season.

Statistically speaking, Vanderbilt is middle of the road. But they make that work for them.

James Franklin is in his third year coaching the Commodores. With the announcement that they'll play the Compass Bowl this year, that makes three straight postseason appearances. That means more money for the school and more exposure for the football team. That's a huge deal in college football.

The press conference above took place two days after Vanderbilt won its sixth game of the season (that's the mark you need to reach to become eligible for a bowl game – you still have to get a bowl that wants you to play). So keep that in mind as you watch some of it. He's not real interested in talking about the future or the past. He does a quick review of the win over Kentucky (which was expected, given their injury situation) and looks forward to the upcoming game against Tennessee, and he's only interested in the task at hand. He jokes a little bit with the press, but he's not giving them any chance to think about the future – not to a bowl game, and not to the possibility that he might get some job offers after his success at Vandy.

Vanderbilt wound up with eight wins in the regular season, including over a Georgia team that was ranked 15th in the country at the time. Their four losses during were to teams that spent at least some time in the Top 25 (some of them spent time in the Top 10) over the season.

That's some pretty solid success for what isn't a tip-of-your-tongue football program, and I think that's a credit to Franklin's style. Here are some things you can take from it:

Take care of the task at hand. You hear him reference early on that he's excited about being "1-and-0" this week. In non-football terms, that means there was a complicated problem to solve that was just one in a four-month series of complicated problems, and they solved it successfully without worrying about their past successes or failures.

Give credit where it's due. You hear Franklin express shock that one of his players hadn't won any conference-wide awards yet. And when he did, the coach said, "great job," but then went on to credit the guy who gets Jordan Matthews the ball, the guys who block for him, and the assistant coach who works with him.

Have some fun. Why hadn't Matthews won any awards? "It's a conspiracy." Franklin manages to get at least a little humor in each press conference – even if he has to explain the joke, which he does sometimes.

And when you come out of it, you want employees, students, whatever, who will represent you, your company or school well. And it looks like Franklin has that. Keep in mind that this next video is a pep rally; the idea is to get people keyed up. Franklin comes out at about seven minutes in, and students come up about two minutes later.


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