There's no sugarcoating things when it comes to academics and athletics. The two have not always been on the same page, especially when it comes to college football.
In a perfect world, there would be higher academic standards across the board for student-athletes before and after they get to college. Unfortunately, we don't live in that world, so it's made it tough for institutions known more for work in the classroom than on the gridiron to consistently compete in the football world.
But in the past few years we've seen more from the world of both academics and athletics. Notre Dame is fresh off of a BCS title game appearance, Northwestern won 10 games and its first bowl game in ages, and Duke went to its first bowl in 18 years.
The self-described nerds are rising up, but there's more.
Stanford has gone 35-5 in the past three seasons and last season won its first Rose Bowl in 41 years. The Cardinal will likely begin the season in the top 10 or even the top 5. With the job David Shaw has done, it doesn't look like Stanford is going anywhere anytime soon.
The same can be said about James Franklin and his Vanderbilt Commodores. Talk about a major turnaround. Vandy was the traditional SEC Eastern Division cellar dweller before Franklin and his energy and attitude stepped on campus.
He's gone 15-11 in his two seasons with the Commodores. During that time, Vanderbilt has gone to back-to-back bowls for the first time in school history, including a 38-24 win over NC State in last season's Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Last season, the Commodores went 9-4, which matched the school record for wins in a single season (1915), and finished the year with the longest winning streaking in the SEC (seven games). That was the longest winning streak for the Dores since 1948.
Vandy also went 5-3 in SEC play, marking the most conference wins for the program since 1935.
And no, the academic requirements aren't dropping at Vandy. Franklin is just finding a way with excellent coaching and motivating skills. He's also scooping up some top talent along the way. Franklin's 2013 class ranked 22nd nationally, according to ESPN's RecruitingNation, while his 2012 class spent time ranked in the top 25 until the very end.
Franklin signed one ESPN 150 member (wide receiver Jordan Cunningham) and four more ESPN 300 members in the 2013 class. He had just one ESPN 150/ESPN 300 member in 2012.
Colleague Ivan Maisel dove deeper into the merger between academics and football, as he discusses how prospects can thrive athletically at elite academic programs.