Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams has told The Tennessean that there never was a deal in place to make Gus Malzahn the school’s next football coach.
Amazingly, Williams also told the paper that he will have to phone Malzahn’s people to find out if the coach really is pulling out of Vandy’s search. “I don’t want to say a deal is dead because there was no deal to be dead,” he said.
Williams even told Jeff Lockridge that Malzahn remains a “person of interest” along with Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin and others.
“There still are discussions (with Malzahn),” Williams said. “They may feel they don’t want to talk anymore. I haven’t been on the phone with anybody for the last hour and a half. I don’t know where they stand. They may not want to be interested enough anymore.”
Oh, boy. Where to start?
* First, Vandy fans, you might want to turn away because those of you who view objective opinion as “anti-Vandy bias” aren’t going to like some of this…
* From Day One, we at MrSEC have said that a) it’s good that Vandy is showing a willingness to spend money — if it really did — and b) it would likely make little difference in the end. Most coaches view Vanderbilt as a dead-end job and no amount of money could lure them into what has become the graveyard of the SEC. We were ripped for that (of course). “Can’t wait to hear what you say when we hire a name coach.” To the guy who wrote that — you may be waiting for a while.
Williams had a tough job selling the VU program. Just check the history books and you’ll see why. But…
* How can Williams actually tell a newspaper that he doesn’t know if Malzahn is in or out? If that’s the case, then allow me to ask, “What the heck have you been doing for the past 72 hours?” It’s called a phone. Put it to your ear and call.
* If VU didn’t believe a deal was in place, why have Commodore officials been in silent mode since Saturday? That’s what happens when folks hunker down to talk cash, buyouts and bonuses. And Williams never denied that the two parties were working on a deal until it was reported that Malzahn had turned Vandy down. Only then was there “no deal in place.”
* Williams had better hope that Malzahn really is still a “person of interest” because he’s now given VU fans reason to get their hopes up. Again. By commenting publicly on this he’s also backed Malzahn into a corner from which the only escape might be a loud shout of: “I don’t want your job!” Dumb.
* In all likelihood, Vandy did believe they had Malzahn interested in their job. As they chased him, other candidates removed their names from the search because no one wants to be the guy who isn’t chosen. And Williams saying “no deal was in place” is probably just a cover because no school wants to be the school that isn’t chosen, either.
* None of this — from a perception standpoint — looks good for the Commodore program. Their search has dragged on longer than most other searches. The head coaches they approached were not interested in their job. The man at the top of their list apparently turned them down despite what most believed to be a jaw-dropping offer. And now the man running their search tells the press that he doesn’t know if his top candidate is interested or not. Trust me — unless Williams lands Malzahn or another surprise hire — there will be a lot of talk about the fact that Vandy didn’t have an athletic director to run this search.
* Last Monday we wrote that with so many names popping up in the press, either Williams was laying down a lot of smokescreens… or he was scrambling in all directions to find anyone who would accept an offer from Vanderbilt. If Williams doesn’t know if Malzahn is interested (or that Greg Roman and Franklin have reportedly pulled their names out of the hat), then it looks more like that latter than the former.
* Here’s hoping VU officials can still work some magic. Commodore fans deserve better than the emotional roller-coaster and “I don’t know if he’s interested or not” confusion they’ve been treated to for the past 24 hours.