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Malzahn Gets Money, Vandy Begins Again, And The Commodores Need An Athletic Director

It’s not a great day to be a Vanderbilt fan.  In addition to losing out on the one assistant coach who might excite its fanbase, now VU officials get to spend a day hearing everyone say Gus Malzahn was wise to turn down their lucrative offer.

That’s doubly rough.  (Especially considering how angry some Vandy fans got what when someone just tried to warn them that the job was a tough sell.)

While Malzahn walked away from — reportedly — $2.5 to $3 million in Nashville, he did get his current salary at Auburn doubled.  At $1.3 million per year, Malzahn is now believed to be the nation’s highest-paid assistant coach.

The Birmingham News also points out that Malzahn’s new salary makes him higher paid than about half the FBS head coaches in America.  For now, he’s even higher paid than Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.  Not bad a payoff for simply flirting with Vandy.

The new pact is believed to be longer than the three-year deal he has been working under.

“Gus Malzahn has played a large role in the success of our football program the last two year and we’re very pleased to be able to give him a raise and extend his contract,” Gene Chizik said via press release.  “In my opinion we have the best staff in the country, and while we want our coaches to strive to become head coaches, retaining them as long as we can is important.”

Mike Szvetitz of The Opelika-Auburn News says Malzahn made the right call:

“Money is not what (Malzahn’s) about.  He’s about his faith and his family.  Oh and, of course, football and winning.  And he’s been doing a lot of that lately.  Especially this season.

Could he do the same in Nashville?  I think we all know the answer to that one: Not on the level he’s doing it on the Plains.  Not even close.”

Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News agrees that Malzahn was wise to pass on Vandy:

“With the right staff and schedule, you can win at Vandy, though not big or often.  After all, two years ago, Vanderbilt beat Auburn.  The Commodores went to a bowl that season.  The Tigers did not.

And still, despite the possibilities, and his faith in his own abilities, Malzahn turned down the opportunity.  It’s another genius move.”

No doubt, some Vandy fans will accuse Malzahn of being “scared.”  When someone passes on a rebuilding job, jilted fans usually say the candidate is chicken.

More likely, Malzahn — like all football coaches — simply hates to lose.  And everyone knows that Vanderbilt has been a place where coaches lose.  Big.  And a lot. 

Someone can change that.  With the right hire and the right money spent on the program, Vandy might someday reach a Northwestern-level of success.  (Stanford’s BCS-level success is a product of the Pac-10.)  But finding the right guy — someone willing to drink a lot of Mylanta during the building process — will be the hard part.

We at MrSEC have not taken the obligatory shots at Vanderbilt over the years for the school’s decision to drop the athletic director position from its program.  The Commodores have done quite well in just about every other sport and the football team even went to a bowl game under Bobby Johnson.

But this latest search suggests that a serious, big-time, A-1 winner of an AD is needed for one thing — bagging a serious, big-time, A-1 coaching candidate for football.

Vanderbilt is a tough, tough sell.  That requires a top-flight salesman.  The old “sell Popsicles to an Eskimo” kind of guy.  Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletics David Williams is apparently not that guy.  And that’s not his fault.  He wasn’t hire to be the world’s slickest AD.

But now he’s the man who’s forced to go back to the drawing board.

“This process is very, very, very much a moving-target thing, and you’re trying to figure out how to play it,” Williams told The Tennessean.

“I can’t tell you that (James Franklin) will be my next call because I don’t know.  I really don’t know.  Certainly I would suggest I would probably be talking to him.  But I had a list of people this (Monday) morning I planned to talk to.  He was on that list, but there are other people on that list.”

Well, that must sound great to Maryland’s offensive coordinator. 

Williams says he wants to hire a coach by week’s end.  And Vandy Board of Trust member John Ingram tells VU fans not to fear.

“A lot of people are really wound up about one guy.  But we have several good guys.”

Perhaps.  But none of those guys believed to be on Vandy’s list have any name value with fans.  They’re just assistants.  Assistants no one in the SEC had paid much attention to until they popped up on VU’s list. 

Now, one of those coaches might be great.  But Commodore fans wanted a name hire.  They thought they had one in Malzahn.  And now they’re going to have to get charged up over a fallback choice.  They will, of course, because that’s what fans do.  But the excitement level Malzahn (or a proven head coach) might have brought is likely unattainable.

To land Malzahn or a proven head coach, it appears Vandy needed an ace athletic director with some snake oil salesman in him.  And that they don’t have.



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