If there was any sign that Same Old Vandy is quickly becoming an antiquated mantra, it was the scoreboard at Wake Forest's Groves Stadium.
Buttressed by three second-quarter touchdowns, Vanderbilt handled the Demon Deacons easily, and that scoreboard read 41-7 at the end of Saturday's game.
But here's the part that left the 'Dores faithful rubbing their eyes: There was no drama. There was no lead squandered and no comeback needed.
Instead, in a game they needed to win, The Commodores took care of business in a way that was brutally efficient — and hence wholly un-Vandy-ish.
Under first-year coach James Franklin — a man who would be a shoo-in for SEC Coach of the Year, if only LSU and Alabama hadn't come on like Rommel's Panzers at Gazala — Vanderbilt will go bowling for only the fifth time in school history. Toddlers and newly minted Vanderbilt fans can be forgiven if they think playing in December is a regular occurrence for the Black and Gold, what with this recent run of relative success and two bowl games since 2008.
For winning exactly as many as they lost — an outcome no one not named James Franklin foresaw before the season started — Vanderbilt gets rewarded with a post-season trip. More likely than not, that will be a short jaunt down I-40 to Memphis for a Liberty Bowl tilt against whichever school crawls out of Conference USA.
Upon the team's return from Winston-Salem Saturday night, the Vandy faithful gathered at the McGugin Center. Someone fired off the boat horn at Dudley Field. Chancellor Nick Zeppos hinted at an extension and raise for Franklin — a done deal now, one that includes extensive facility upgrades, a top-of-the-wish-list item for the innumerable men who have led the 'Dores in recent decades.
Smart move, Chancellor. College coaches around the country turned into roasted turkeys over Thanksgiving weekend. Jobs opened up at Kansas, Ole Miss, Memphis, Arizona State, Akron, Illinois and New Mexico. Presumably, Penn State will be looking for a coach too — although it will take the humblest or craziest of men to take control of that Dumpster fire.
That means Franklin will surely draw the attention of athletic directors. Never has Vandy had such a chest-thumper at the helm. His feud with UT coach Derek Dooley inspired YouTube clicks that made Keyboard Cat take notice. And he has made believers of Dudley Field's dispirited naysayers on the back of six wins.
That's a 6-6 year when most predicted two or three wins. A 6-6 year when a few touchdowns or different play calls or, yes, better officiating could have made it 10-2. A 6-6 year parlayed into verbal commitments and official visits from heavily touted recruits — such as perfectly named top-rated quarterback prospect Gunner Kiel, who will make an official trip to Vandy. His only other official visit will be to Notre Dame.
These things do not happen at Vandy.
Vandy takes its lumps. Vandy scares one or two other schools each year. And Vandy finishes 4-8 (at best). First-year Vandy coaches don't go to bowl games. Heck, 10th-year Vandy coaches don't go to bowl games.
Franklin promised a culture change, and he delivered. In exchange, he's secured a promise of better facilities.
Now, Vandy fans will expect more. They'll expect to be in the mix on high-schoolers like Kiel. They'll expect the regular bowl trips that have eluded them. They'll expect a chance to finish in the top half of the conference.
They'll expect Same Old Vandy to be a painful memory, the edges softened by the mists of time, the way Red Sox fans see Buckner's Blunder viewed through the lens of two world championships.
They'll expect it because Franklin achieved so much so soon.
And they'll expect Franklin to stay in Nashville.
If the university holds up its end of the bargain — and if the school's billionaire boosters are willing to keep their prodigious checkbooks open when the more tradition-laden programs inevitably begin their seductions — there's no reason to think he won't.
Same Old Vandy is over. And now, Brand-New Vandy has promises to keep.
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