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Let the Interviews Begin

Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line.

Jeff Lockridge reports in today’s Tennessean that Vanderbilt has officially begun to interview candidates to become their next football coach. According to Lockridge, David Williams will meet with at least 10 candidates in his first round of interviews. The report mentions some of the “usual suspects,” including Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn and Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster (both of whom coach today and will not be contacted until their regular season concludes), but also specifically refers to Air Force’s Head Coach Troy Calhoun. Calhoun’s name has previously been mentioned in connection with this opening in passing, but he has not received as much attention as he gets in this piece. Calhoun informed the University of Colorado early this week he was not interested in becoming their next coach, causing one to wonder if he’s got his eye on the opening in Nashville. Last year, Calhoun, when linked to the Tennessee job after Lane Kiffin’s abrupt departure, emphaticly and publicly stated he was not going to be the Volunteer next coach. So far, Vanderbilt’s search process has not be mired or undercut by such statements from potential candidates.

According to Lockridge: “While Williams expects there to be a second round of interviews, he added that someone could ‘jump out’ to him in the first round of talks that would produce an offer.” During the coaching seach, Vanderbilt assistant coaches Des Kitchings, Herb Hand and Rick Logo and assistant recruiting coordinator Norval McKenzie have been traveling all week visiting the 14 recruits who have committed to the Commodores. Of those 12 commits reached by the Tennessean, 11 described their committment to Vanderbilt as “firm” or “pretty firm.”

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Caldwell Says He Has A Multi-Year Deal At Vandy, But Will That Matter?

From the time he was named interim head coach, Robbie Caldwell’s status has been the subject of great speculation in the Music City.  So Vanderbilt removed the coach’s “interim” tag just prior to the season and talked of handing Caldwell a fresh new contract. 

But many in Nashville still believed that Caldwell’s deal was something less than a guarantee of multiple years on the job.  Some believed it was more a reward for taking over in a pinch.  “Thanks for taking the job and here’s a payout for you at the end of the year if things don’t fly… and if they somehow do then we’ll keep you around.”

Caldwell told ESPN’s Joe Schad over the weekend that he “has been working under a multiyear contract.”  He also said that he is planning to coach the Commodores next season.

That puts things in a different light.  Or does it?  Does a multi-year deal really guarantee his return?  Remember, Caldwell and his staff are still in the midst of recruiting.  Announcing his departure now could hurt on that front… something Vandy can ill afford.

There might also be some evidence that Caldwell knows he’s still auditioning for the full-time job.  Just two weeks ago, Caldwell promoted Des Kitchings to offensive coordinator and demoted Jimmy Kiser.  If he really believed he had more than one year to patch up Vandy’s ship, would he have made such a drastic midseason move?  Most coaches would not.

The Commodores are currently 2-7 and just 1-5 in the SEC.  They have been decimated by injuries.  Example: With top running back Warren Norman already out of for the season, back-ups Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate both had to leave Saturday’s blow-out home loss to Florida with injuries. 

To be clear, Caldwell has caught zero breaks in his first year on the job.  It would be fair for Vanderbilt to give him another season.  But Commodore brass also must decide whether they believe their affable coach has what it takes to rebuild the school’s football program.  (Before you laugh at the word “rebuild,” remember that Vandy has been much more competitive in recent years under Bobby Johnson.)

If the powers-that-be in Nashville feel that Caldwell isn’t likely to improve the product in Vanderbilt Stadium then they need to make a move.  Multi-year contract or not. 

Caldwell was the obvious default choice when Johnson stepped down in July.  He was not someone VU hired and relocated to the West End.  If he had left another job, uprooted his family and moved to Nashville, then yes, Vandy should give him more time to build.  But that’s not what happened.  So if VU officials believe they need to move in another direction, a sizable buyout of his “multiyear contract” would be a fair “thank ya” after all.

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