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Auburn’s Malzahn Still Tied To Kansas Search

Despite telling friends that he would likely be back at Auburn next season, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn remains a contender or the head coaching job at Kansas.  How serious a candidate he is depends on who’s talking.

A couple of coaching rumor sites report that Malzahn is the frontrunner as KU races to wrap up its search.  But other reports claim Malzahn is just one of many interviewees — along with Northern Illinois’ head coach Dave Doeren and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.  Just this morning, some online reports had Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis getting some backing at Kansas.  Ditto ex-South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt. 

Even earlier this week Phillip Fulmer and Houston Nutt were rumored to be candidates and/or interested in the job in Lawrence.

In other words, the Kansas reports are all over the board.  But this much we do know –  a year ago Malzahn turned down advances from Vanderbilt and Maryland.  Is a traditional cellar-dweller in the Big 12 more of a draw than traditional cellar-dwellers in the SEC and ACC?

Perhaps, if you consider the fact that Malzahn’s resume isn’t as sparkly as it was a year ago when he led Auburn’s offense to the top of most statistical categories and earned himself the biggest salary for an assistant in college football.

Maybe this time around the gettin’ is good.

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Vandy Search Nearing Its Conclusion… Maybe

A tip of the hat to Vanderbilt’s David Williams.  Vandy’s vice chancellor might not have “athletic director” in his title, but he can toss out the smokescreens as well as any AD in the country.

That or he’s flailing aimlessly to find someone to take the Vanderbilt job. 

See, we never really know what’s true and what isn’t until after these processes plays out.  Example: In late 2008, the Tennessee job was open and everyone from Bill Cowher to Butch Davis was supposedly “interested” in the Vols’ job.  Turns out, UT’s AD had his eye on Lane Kiffin all along.  But smokescreens weren’t involved earlier this year.  Tennessee officials really did talk to half a dozen candidates before finally finding one — Derek Dooley — who would take their job.

Sometimes there are smokescreens.  Sometimes there are just no takers.

For now, we’ll give Vandy and Williams the benefit of the doubt.  For one, folks covering the search can’t even decide if VU is close to making a hire or not.  And that’s a pretty good smokescreen.

We’ve spoken with two sources in Nashville in the last two days and each told us with great certainty the top two names on VU’s list.  Unfortunately, their lists included four completely different names. is reporting this morning that “a source” tells them “that Vanderbilt will make a decision today.”

Ah, but The Tennessean is reporting this morning that Vanderbilt might slow its search down and wait to speak with Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo.  He won’t speak to anyone until after Saturday’s Army-Navy game.  (Niumatalolo would be a good “get” for VU, but certain people here at MrSEC would not look look forward to typing his name on a regular basis.)

Jeff Lockridge also reports:

* Kyle Whittingham of Utah had little interest in the job.  (The man might be on Florida’s short list for gosh sakes.)  Williams strongly denied reports that Vandy actually made Whittingham an offer.  “I can tell you no offer has been given to anybody as of (Wednesday).”

Sidenote — The above report states that Vandy’s advances toward Jim Harbaugh and Al Golden have also been rebuffed.

* Wisconsin defensive coordinator Paul Chryst has interviewed.

* There is communication between VU and Gus Malzahn but “minimal headway” has been made on that front.

* Williams acknowledged that Florida’s opening could have a trickle-down effect on Vandy.  “Are Vanderbilt and Florida looking at the same people for head coach?  Probably not.  But whoever they go after, that may have an impact on who becomes a coordinator or what a coordinator does somewhere else.”

Finally, The Washington Post reported last evening that Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin — also the Terps’ coach-in-waiting — and Stanford offensive coordinator Greg Roman are the two finalists for Vanderbilt’s job.

Franklin was expected to take over the Maryland job by January of 2012.  If he doesn’t, the school will owe him $1 million.  Ralph Friedgen has “repeatedly said that he wants to coach beyond 2011.”  Maryland’s AD has said he plans to talk to Friedgen about the future soon. 

Would Maryland force out Friedgen in order to hang onto Franklin?  Vandy’s interest could be the best thing for Frankin’s leverage.

So there’s this morning’s news:

1.  Vandy could make a hire today…

2.  Or not if they decide to talk to Navy’s Niumatalolo…

3.  And the finalists appear to be Franklin and Roman (two of the four names I was told by people near the search this week)…

4.  Even though Vandy has tried to reach out to some proven head coaches.

Got all that?

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