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Malzahn Says “No” To Vandy

And in the end, the word was “no.”

Chris Low reports that a source has told that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has decided to turn down the Vanderbilt head coaching job.

“Malzahn, in his second season at Auburn, had emerged as Vanderbilt’s top target and was offered a lucrative financial package.  After mulling it over for the last two days, Malzahn decided it was best that he stay put.”

If true, that’s great news for Auburn, devastating news for Vandy.  And it’s bad news for the SEC as a whole, too.  It would have been nice for VU to show the nation that it’s getting serious about football.  Hiring a proven head coach or the hot assistant in the nation would have done just that.

Alas, it looks like that won’t happen now.  Instead, the nation will see only that VU offered a man just six seasons out of high school ball more than $2.5 million per year… and he still said no.  That’s a different kind of message to be sending to America.  (That’s not Vandy’s fault, mind you, but it is the price to be paid for being so far down for so long.)

This has to be particularly disappointing to Commodore fans who had gotten their hopes up.  Their school will have to go back to the drawing board at this point and it will likely have to turn the keys to the program over to an assistant coach who nary a Dores fan had heard of prior to this coaching search.

Vanderbilt officials must have believed they had some sort of deal in place with Malzahn.  You don’t let other coaches fall off your search list unless you’re sure you’ve landed your top candidate (or unless you’ve run a bad search).  Unfortunately, it looks like VU did allow Option 2 and Option 3 to fall of the hook.

Now vice chancellor David Williams will have to rekindle the interest of either Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin or Stanford offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Both coaches now have leverage in their corner.  If VU officials decide to woo Franklin, for example, the coach will know that Vandy has already been publicly embarrassed by the Malzahn turn down (and turn downs from Al Golden, Troy Calhoun, etc).  As a result of Vandy wanting to ink a deal quickly, Franklin might be able to coax more money out of Vanderbilt than the school had initially wanted to spend.  Remember, the big offer was allegedly set aside for Malzahn, not a fallback candidate.

If Low’s report is true, the positivity surrounding the potential hire of Malzahn will quickly turn negative in Nashville.  Fair or not, some will mutter, “Same old Vanderbilt.”

A very disappointing outcome for the Commodores.

Especially considering the fact that Vandy got proactive in its decision to fire Robbie Caldwell.  The goal was to get out in front of other schools and hire a coach before several other jobs opened up.  But a number of jobs have opened — and closed — since Vanderbilt canned Caldwell. 

UPDATE — The Birmingham News is also reporting that Malzahn will remain at Auburn.

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Vandy’s Search – Predictably – Turning To Coordinators And Assistants

The idea of landing a hot name in coaching circles — like Temple’s Al Golden — briefly excited Vanderbilt fans last week.  Alas, Golden was apparently less enthused about the prospect of having to resurrect Lazarus for a second time.  Would you want to rebuild Temple only to be rewarded with the tougher challenge of rebuilding Vandy… in the SEC?

So now assistant coaches are bubbling to the top of Vandy coaching pot.  Just as we expected.

1.  Vandy has a tradition of losing.

2.  Vandy plays in the toughest league in America.

3.  Vandy has horrible facilities.

4.  Vandy’s football budget lags behind those of Stanford, Northwestern and Duke.

It should be no surprise then that the newest names on Vandy’s list are Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin and Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.  Assistants looking for a first-time gig — and a million-dollar paycheck — might be lured to Nashville.  Proven candidates likely will not.

ESPN’s Bruce Feldman tweeted this weekend that Watson was “slated to interview for the Vandy job” yesterday.  Nebraska lost 23-20 to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday night.

According to, Bo Pelini was asked about Watson’s job opportunities just a few weeks ago.  “He’s had opportunities at some other jobs in the last couple years that he didn’t feel were the right opportunities or right places.  He didn’t even give them any consideration.”

Feldman also tweeted that Franklin might be a candidate.  Franklin is Maryland’s coach-in-waiting under Ralph Friedgen.  The Washington Post reports that  Franklin is due $1 million if he is not named the Terps head coach by January of 2012.  He is not believed to be a serious candidate for the VU job.

The Post also says that Temple’s Golden remains atop the Commodores’ wish list though several sources have already said that he is not interested. 

Vanderbilt has already interviewed Stanford offensive coordinator Greg Roman.  The two parties got together Friday in Atlanta according to The Tennessean.

There are several other names that have been connected to the Vandy job:

1.  Former Miami coach Randy Shannon

2.  Former Miami and current Texas-San Antonio coach Larry Coker

3.  Tulsa head coach Todd Graham

4.  Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst

5.  Former Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden

And three candidates for the vacant job at Indiana are also believed to be in the running at Vandy:

1.  Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson

2.  Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell

3.  Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren

The Tennessean reported Friday that Vandy is still interested in interviewing Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, too.

Uh, yeah.

So Vandy’s next coach will either be:

Al Golden or James Franklin or Shawn Watson or Greg Roman or Randy Shannon or Larry Coker or Todd Graham or Paul Chryst or Tommy Bowden or Kevin Wilson or Don Treadwell or Dave Doeren or Gus Malzahn or Bud Foster or Troy Calhoun. 

Or not.

Either a) Vanderbilt is putting out a big smokescreen of disinformation over their search process or b) the Commodores are casting a very wide net in the hopes of finding anyone who might actually be interested in taking their job.

Judging by the school’s plan to interview 10 candidates before moving to a second round or interviews, it looks like b is the answer.

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Vandy Search Creeping Along

We chose the words in our headline carefully for this one.  To make a point.

Doesn’t it feel like Vandy is taking its time in its search for a new head coach?  Other schools are making headlines — Miami, Colorado — but VU’s search appears to be much more quiet, much more deliberate.

In reality, the Commodores have been looking for a coach only since Sunday.  That’s it.  We’re less than a week into this thing.  And the future of the program depends on VU officials’ decision.

We’re so used to seeing ticker crawls and tweets that anything that takes longer than 15 minutes now feels glacially slow to us.  Or maybe that’s just me.

At any rate, The Tennessean discusses a number of names on Vandy’s apparent wish list today:

* Stanford offensive coordinator Greg Roman says he’ll listen if Vandy calls.  While Roman said he has not been contacted, he did campaign for himself a bit:  “I would find it very interesting however, because of my experience bringing another academic institution to the top of the BCS football world.  Vandy is very similar to Stanford!”  (No doubt Vandy grads will be turned off by the coach’s liberal use of an exclamation point in his email to The Tennessean.)

* Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster says he’ll listen if Vandy calls.

* Former Miami coach Randy Shannon is now on VU’s list according to a “source.”  Shannon led the Hurricanes to a 7-5 record this season.  UM will also go bowling for the third straight season.  Shannon led an unbelievably clean program, too, with great graduation rates and few police run-ins.  That proves, of course, that such things matter little when compared to winning.  Shannon is also on Minnesota’s list of candidates and he has voiced interest in the Gopher gig.

* Temple head coach Al Golden remains high on Vandy’s list.  Several reports have indicated that Golden is not interested in the Vanderbilt position.

* Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn continues to say nothing about the rumors connecting him to Vanderbilt.

Joe Biddle — also of The Tennessean — writes that whoever accepts the Vandy job will face a “third-and-long upon arrival.”  In his view the school simply doesn’t spend enough to win.  (Something we, too, pointed out earlier this week.)  In Biddle’s view, someone will eventually take VU job because it’s in the SEC.  “That’s the same reason it’s an albatross.”

Even the site for Vanderbilt — — admits that the school’s football facilities will be a major hurdle to overcome in this coaching search.

“Dark, dingy and decidedly uninspiring, Vanderbilt Stadium is a relic of times long gone by in SEC land.  It’s hardly the kind of jewel that makes fans’ hearts pound, to say nothing of the collective yawn that potential recruits let out when they get their tour on official visits.

Vanderbilt’s game day atmosphere has been the butt of jokes for as long as they have struggled through 45 losing seasons in the last 51.  Despite having just 41,448 seats — by far the smallest in the conference — Vanderbilt rarely fills it.  Even less so with its own fans.”

And that’s from a site called

As we’ve noted (again and again), unless Vanderbilt promises to invest some of its new SEC television money back into the program, the only kind of coach VU will land will be:

* An assistant just looking to land any head coaching job

* A small college coach just looking to land any BCS conference head coaching job (and the money that goes with it)

* A re-tread head coach who has no other prospects

It’s all about the money in Nashville.

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