NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt is trying to prove the Southeastern Conference's smallest and only private university is serious about competing in the power conference of college football.
The Commodores rewarded coach James Franklin with another new contract for leading the Commodores to their best record in 30 years and to consecutive bowls for the first time in school history. Vanderbilt does not discuss contract details, but athletic director David Williams called it a "long-term" contract that will keep Franklin here "a number of years."
"We hope very soon we'll be playing in Atlanta for the SEC championship," Williams said.
Vanderbilt chancellor Nicholas Zeppos was on hand for the news conference about an hour before the Commodores celebrated their selection to the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 a few miles away from campus. Since Franklin was hired two years ago, Vanderbilt now has gone from only four bowls in the program's history to six.
Franklin also helped post three sellouts on campus for the first time since 1996. Vanderbilt finished the regular season with six straight wins, the first such streak since 1955, and the Commodores' five SEC wins matched the school record of five set in 1935.
That had him being mentioned as a potential candidate for other schools, including Arkansas. Williams said they started talking to Franklin's agent two weeks ago before the first call but the athletic director still was contacted by "everybody in America" wanting permission to talk to Franklin.
But Williams said they are determined to keep Franklin as their coach because Vanderbilt officials know they needed someone to help them know what to do to compete in football.
"He's as much as Nick or myself setting the landscape of what we need to be a quality program, what we need to be a championship program," Williams said. "We wish we could do it all in one day. We wish we knew what to do all in one day. But it's taken a little time. This is a real big difference in what Vanderbilt has ever done."
Franklin said this new contract helps as he tried to focus first on Wake Forest, which Vandy beat 55-21 in the regular season finale, and now recruiting.
"Last night my phone's blowing up people are saying I'm here and I'm there and I'm getting on a plane," Franklin said. "I'm at Sambuca's with some recruits and our staff. So there's all types of speculation. You like to come out with a strong voice and be able to say it's over, but I wanted to make sure everything was in place before we did that."
The details Williams shared includes Vanderbilt making improvements to the training room with other renovations likely for the team's locker room at the stadium and the equipment room.
Franklin also got more money to help keep his assistants. Members of his staff were offered head coaching jobs last year and already have been approached about interviewing for head jobs and for defensive coordinator positions this year.
The contract apparently includes more money for Franklin, even though they won't say how much.
"James has been a tremendous success here and by any right he does deserve a raise anyway," Williams said. "We've tried to put him in a position where he and his family will be very, very happy and very comfortable here in Nashville, and I think that's the case."
The contract also apparently includes taking a close look at Vanderbilt Stadium, the SEC's smallest stadium with a capacity of 40,350. Williams has said he and Franklin will be looking at Stanford and California, which built new stadiums, and at Wake Forest, which is renovating its stadium.
"My goal and our goal is to be competitive to our peer institutions," Franklin said. "I think that's very, very important that we want to be the best in our peer institutions."