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Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Franklin apologizes for 'Nicky Satan' joke

By Chris Low

Maybe there's something in the air this time of year.

Recruiting is heading down the home stretch, and national signing day is a week away.

Coaches are jumpy. They're running on overdrive, and most of them are looking to make the kind of splash that will help them close with a bang.

And in doing so, they occasionally say things they probably wish they wouldn't have and things that go viral.

Vanderbilt's James Franklin is the latest example. While speaking Monday in Macon, Ga., at a high school sports banquet, Franklin referred to Alabama coach Nick Saban as "Nicky Satan" and boldly stated that he was going to outwork Saban. There's a video of Franklin's comments making the rounds, which prompted Franklin to apologize Wednesday.

James Franklin
James Franklin called Nick Saban to apologize Wednesday after his comments about the Alabama coach went viral.
Franklin said he was only joking and added that he called Saban personally to apologize.

"(I was) really talking about the work ethic that he has a reputation for and that we’re going to outwork them," Franklin said. "I made a joke, and in today’s society with all the media and social media and people with tape recorders and things like that, it doesn’t come off that way. I know people have tremendous pride in Alabama, and their fans are fanatical. So I understand. But it was a joke, and I didn’t mean to offend anybody."

It's not the first time that an SEC coach has made waves with something he's said in and around the recruiting season.

Go back to some of the things former Tennessee coach (and current USC coach) Lane Kiffin said after wrapping up his first and only signing class with the Vols. He accused then-Florida coach Urban Meyer of trying to cheat by calling eventual Tennessee signee Nu'Keese Richardson while Richardson was on his visit to Tennessee.

The only problem was that it's not an NCAA violation to call recruits while they're on visits to other schools.

Kiffin said a few more bone-headed things, too, around that same time and has since admitted that he made some mistakes at Tennessee with some of the things he did and said.

In Franklin's case, he's naturally a little brash and has an edge about him that has been good for Vanderbilt's program. He's completely changed the culture there, which is reflected in the Commodores' back-to-back bowl appearances and their first nine-win season this past year since 1915. But he's also said a few things that have caused him to back-pedal.

Remember the line last May about hiring assistant coaches based on how hot their wives were?

Franklin apologized for that one, too.

A lot of us in the media complain about coaches who are boring and would rather spend two hours in the dentist's chair than to say anything that might end up on another team's bulletin board.

In that sense, Franklin is refreshing.

Come on, the guy's winning at Vanderbilt and talking a little smack. When did you ever think you would see that?

But there's also the matter of talking the talk and walking the walk ... and doing it over time. That's a slippery slope in this league, especially at a place like Vanderbilt, which had suffered through 28 losing seasons in the last 29 years prior to the 9-4 breakthrough this past season.

Franklin has raised the stakes. He's certainly raised expectations in Nashville, and he's raising a little ruckus, too.

Something says that's exactly the way he wants it.

The best theater of all will be seeing where he takes it from here. We all know it won't be dull. That's a given.

Here's another given: Nobody's going to overlook the Commodores any time soon, at least not with Franklin running the show.

And one other thing, just for the record. Vanderbilt doesn't face Alabama next season.