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Reports Suggest Vandy’s Williams Searching High And Low For New Coach

Binoculars-300x197Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams is apparently leaving no stone unturned in his search for a replacement for James Franklin.  Just three weeks from signing day, Vandy’s AD is up against the clock and an ex-coach who’s attempting to flip the kids he’d recruited to Nashville to his new home at Penn State.

So can Williams really afford to take his time on this hire and interview numerous candidates?  With National Signing Day fast approaching?

You bet he can.  And he should.  For all the worrying about a recruiting class, finding the right head coach is a hundred times more important.  The right head coach can win with the talent his predecessor left behind (as Franklin did with the redshirt juniors and seniors Bobby Johnson and Robbie Caldwell left him).  The right coach can recruit well and eventually make up for one disappointing class.

Reportedly, at least three candidates appear on Williams’ interview list:  Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.  Many view Mason as the favorite to land the job as he’s already a college recruiter and he’s already worked at a school with somewhat strict admission policies.

Others on Williams’ list appear to be Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.  Offensive line coach Herb Hand is the leading internal candidate for the job.

We believe the Commodores should reach out to former Rutgers and NFL coach Greg Schiano.

Meanwhile, reports claim that Vanderbilt secondary coach George Barlow is expected be named cornerbacks coach at NC State.  In other words, the man Williams eventually hires will have to basically piece together an entire staff.  One more reason Williams should worry more about finding the right head coach than salvaging a single recruiting class.

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Like Spurrier On Day 1, Bielema Closes Out Day 2 On Fire

bret-curlyjoeYesterday, as the final coach into the main media room, Steve Spurrier stole the show at SEC Media Days.  Today, Bret Bielema did the same.  The coach who looks more like Curly Joe DeRita of “The Three Stooges” than we’d ever noticed, brought the curtain down on Day Two with an impressive turn at the podium.

Sure, he probably got too fired up over a Gus Malzahn quote that he seemed to take too personally.  But even his heated rant served as a “Get to know me!” moment for one of the league’s four new coaches.

The lesson?  This guy ain’t gone bite his tongue.

Whether it was explaining his recruiting tactics — get into Florida and make a big push into Texas — joking about who might help him make said push — “We have a certain alumni who built a stadium in the middle of Dallas that’s very big” — or having a little fun with how low his team will be picked in the SEC West — “The lower the better.  The same group that’s gonna vote us a certain place tomorrow is the same group that a year ago today had us in the top five.” — Bielema was on.  He was engaged.  He was darned entertaining.

Now, does putting on a good show at Media Days mean much when it comes to on-field success?  Of course not.  Robbie Caldwell was worthy of an invite to an improv club in 2010, but he lasted just one year as Vanderbilt’s coach.  On the other hand, there have been mannequins that’ve shown more personality than Gene Chizik did… and he won a BCS championship.

But this event is as much for the fans as it is for the media.  And Bielema gave the media a number of good quotes while also firing up his own fanbase.  You think Hawg fans didn’t love Bielema’s heated response to that Malzhan’s quote?  Please.

So hats off to the last speaker of the day.  Again.  Beilema won Day 2 of SEC Media Days.

Watch video of Bret Bielema at SEC Media Days


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UGA’s Next Opponent Talks Cats And Dogs

This weekend, Georgia will face FCS-level Coastal Carolina.  If you watch the game — yeah, right — you may recognize the Chanticleers head coach David Bennett.  Earlier this month, ESPN picked up this one-minute clip from a Bennett presser and aired it repeatedly.  From there the video went viral on the internet.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s Bennett’s explanation for why he wants his players to act more like dogs and less like cats:

Man.  Wouldn’t you like to spend 15 minutes in a room with Bennett and former Vandy coach Robbie Caldwell?

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SEC Headlines – 7/22/11 Part One

Let’s get Day Three of SEC Media Days kicked off with some news and notes from around the league…

1.  Ivan Maisel of writes that the Cam Newton story just won’t go away… and that the court of public opinion will have the final say in the matter.

2.  Here are some highlights from Day Two of Media Days.

3.  Gene Chizik simply said, “Oh, Danny Sheridan… there you are,” when he ran into the accusatory oddsmaker in Hoover.

4.  There are still a lot of questions for Auburn’s Tigers.

5.  LSU’s Russell Shepard will miss Media Days today for “personal reasons,” and the school says he has not been suspended.

6.  Georgia’s Mark Richt validated Boise State yesterday.

7.  Now he needs to beat the Broncos to right UGA’s ship.

8.  Andy Staples of says the Longhorn Network is setting off “another Big 12 Missile Crisis”… and that a large chunk of the Texas A&M fanbase wants to move to the SEC.

9.  Aggie AD Bill Byrne commented on Texas’ TV network yesterday.

10.  Auburn tipsters have led to a possible Alabama rules violation involving star tailback Trent Richardson.

11.  There will be no entertaining monologue from Robbie Caldwell this year and that’s just fine with him.

12.  Crazy, but true: For just $12,000 Florida fans can by themselves a Tim Tebow statue.

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VU Players Say They’re Better Than Last Year Already

Maybe James Franklin is going to be the next Mark Fox.  When Fox was hired from Nevada, most folks around the SEC — including some basketball vets — shrugged their shoulders and said, “Who?”  Two years later and Fox is currently one of the first names you hear when “up and coming” coaches are mentioned.

Granted, taking over a roster with two potential NBA first-rounders and landing in a fertile recruiting zone like Georgia gives Fox a leg up on Franklin, but the early returns are positive for Vanderbilt’s unheralded new football coach.

If nothing else, Franklin has brought a new energy to the Commodore program and that’s a positive.  A better Vandy is good for the SEC.

And according to Franklin, his players believe they are better: “Talking to our kids, I say where are we at right now?  They say that we’re a better football team right now than we were at any point last year.”

(That doesn’t say much for the work of interim Robbie Caldwell, of course.)

“Whether that’s true or not, they believe that and that’s important,” Franklin added.  “Were we perfect out there (during yesterday’s spring game)?  No.  We’ve got a long ways to go.  But they believe, and from talking to people, we’re much further ahead at this point than we were last year.  I just want to build on that.”

As Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean points out, however, “better” is a relative term.  The Commodores have finished 2-10 in each of the past two seasons.

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Malzahn Waiting For The Right Place; Vandy Fans Just Waiting

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn — he of the new $1.3 million per year salary — spoke yesterday about his desire to someday be a head coach.  Someday, “somewhere down the line.”

“If it’s the right time, right place.”

Malzahn wouldn’t talk about the Vanderbilt job that he allegedly/obviously turned down, saying only, “I’m tickled to death to be here.”  Here being Auburn… where he’ll coach the Tigers in the BCS title game next month.

As for Vandy, well, their search continues to chug quietly along.  Vice chancellor David Williams came out yesterday to tell a Nashville radio audience that the process of hiring a coach at Vandy is a slow one.   Obviously.  When Malzahn backed away from the negotiating table, it was reported by The Washington Post and ESPN that a deal with Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin was imminent.  Four days later, we’re still waiting for confirmation.

Franklin certainly thought he had the job. 

Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen told on Tuesday that he anticipated Franklin being hired.  “I talked to him (Tuesday) morning, but it hadn’t been finalized.  Life goes on.  I wish him the best of luck.  I think he did a great job for us.  I congratulated him.  I’ve got to see what the fallout is and go from there.”

It clearly looks like the hang-up is on Vanderbilt’s end.  You don’t leak to The Washington Post and tell your boss that you’re thisclose to landing a job unless you’re planning to take it.

Now, why would Vandy be taking their time with Franklin?  If the school is still trying to gather information on one of its main candidates then someone needs to ask what they’ve been doing since November 27th when they pushed out Robbie Caldwell.  Vanderbilt hired the Parker Executive Search firm to help with information-gathering.  What have they been doing?

Williams said yesterday that while Jeremy Foley at Florida can land a coach with a single phone call, things aren’t so simple at VU.  Why not?  It sure sounds like Franklin is ready to say “yes” if Vandy calls.  At this point he’s made that quite clear to everyone who’ll listen.

So why hasn’t this deal been finalized?  Might it be an issue that we pointed out on Monday — that by going all in with Malzahn VU officials gave all of the leverage to their fallback candidates?  Perhaps Franklin does want the Vandy job… but the salary Malzahn was offered.

At this point no one knows what’s going on Nashville’s West End.  And anyone telling you that they do “know” is lying.  If Franklin doesn’t know what’s going on, then I don’t believe a Vandy blogger or Twitterer does, either. 

The Commodores — ironically enough — seem to be circling the waters in a rudderless ship.

(Sidenote — Some Vandy backers aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of hiring Franklin in the first place.)

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Vandy “Talking” To Franklin, But No Deal Yet

Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams has told The Tennessean that no official offer has been extended to Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin.

“Been talking to him, still talking to him.  That’s where we’re at.  There are so many moving parts and you have to come to that agreement.  You have to talk to (candidates), then you have to talk to the people that represent them.  Sometimes that goes good.  Sometimes it doesn’t go good.  But we’re talking.  It can go a little slower sometimes, and it can also go faster than you think.”

Vandy fans, we at wish you the best of luck.  But we’re done with the VU search until someone actually accepts the job.  No more of Mr. Williams’ double-talk for us.

Yesterday, ESPN’s Joe Schad reported that a source told him Franklin was set to accept Vandy’s offer.  (Maybe his source really was Dan Mullen’s wife.)  The Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell wrote that “two sources close to Franklin” said he was expected to take the job.  (Just as Gus Malzahn was “expected” to take the job a day earlier.)

Maybe Franklin is ready to accept.  Maybe Franklin thinks the process is further along than it actually is. 

Or maybe Vanderbilt’s search has simply turned into a train wreck.

Nearly a month ago, VU forced out Robbie Caldwell in order to get a jump on other schools whose jobs would also soon come open.  Since then, Minnesota, Florida, Miami, Indiana, Colorado and others have all come open… and been filled.

Vandy decided to spend more money on its football program and targeted several “name” candidates for the job this time around.  We praised that decision.  But we also said no “name” candidate would likely accept a job that came with Vandy’s baggage (ie: decades of losing).

Turns out, no “name candidates” — Al Golden, Troy Calhoun, Gus Malzahn — were interested enough to actually put pen to paper.

Over the weekend, VU officials allowed rumors to spread regarding their pursuit of Malzahn.  Commodore fans got excited.  Other candidates pulled out of the running (which is a sure sign a deal was believed imminent). 

And then Malzahn backed away.  Williams told The Tennessean that he didn’t even know that Malzahn had backed away.  Result: Most Vandy fans were disappointed/angry… while Vandy officials looked clueless.

Now it appears we’re in the rinse/repeat mode with Vandy and Franklin.  Well, no thanks.

To the Vanderbilt administration, best of luck in finally landing a coach.  (Though at this point, it looks like going without an AD and football coach might be a possibility.)

To Vandy fans, we feel for you.  You deserve better.  Those of you who have been loyal to VU through the years — in both attendance and donations — shouldn’t be treated to an emotional roller-coaster such as this. 

Vanderbilt’s search has gone on longer than any of the other schools’ searches mentioned above.  It’s been littered with more turndowns and dead-ends than any of the schools’ searches mentioned above, too.

Well, until Vandy finally inks Franklin or someone else, we’re done with the rumor mill of VU’s search.

We want to cover SEC football and basketball.  Not train wrecks.

UPDATE — Here’s The Baltimore Sun’s take on the Franklin situation.  The Washington Post — wisely — has decided to walk away from this story this morning.  Meanwhile, ESPN’s Chris Low has reiterated Schad’s report from yesterday.

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Report: Franklin Expected To Be Vandy’s Man

That didn’t take long.

According to The Washington Post, Maryland offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting James Franklin “is expected to become the next head football coach at Vanderbilt,” according to two sources close to the coach.

The Post reports that contract details are being worked out today and Franklin could be introduced at Vandy in the next 24 hours.

There is no word on whether or not Maryland will make a last-minute try to keep Franklin.  He was originally scheduled to take over the Terps’ program by January of 2012, but current coach Ralph Friedgen now wants to coach past that date.

Attendance and fan support have dropped in College Park in recent years and it’s possible that Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson still might force Friedgen out in order to keep Franklin.  However, how excited would the Terrapin fanbase be to simply promote one of Friedgen’s aides?

If you want an idea of the “this was the guy we wanted all along” spin that’s sure to come out of Nashville, here’s some bio information on Franklin from the time he was announced as Maryland’s coach-in-waiting.  It’s a solid resume.

Look, the guy may turn out to be the next Nick Saban.  And Vandy fans can rightly say — if David Williams can close this deal — that they stole Maryland’s next head coach.  That’s a good thing.  But truth be told this is exactly the type of hire most people expected VU to make when Robbie Caldwell was forced out nearly a month ago: An up-and-coming assistant with very little name recognition.

If Franklin’s the guy, is there any reason to believe he is a better hire than Bobby Johnson was?  He may be.  But is there any reason to suspect that?

And while Al Golden or Troy Calhoun or Gus Malzahn would have garnered “SportsCenter” coverage for the Commodores, will Franklin’s hire get much more than a blurb-type of mention?  Here’s guessing more attention is paid to Malzahn’s turn-down than Franklin’s hire.  Sadly, that’s not the kind of press Vandy officials wanted — or deserved — in opening up their checkbook and aiming for some big name guys.

So here’s hoping VU can ink Franklin and that he does well in Nashville.

(But to those of you who chose to get ugly and angry when we told you things would go in this direction… uh… we told you so.)

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Report: Ex-VU Aide Lands Furman Job is reporting that former Vanderbilt defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Bruce Fowler has officially landed the head coaching job at Furman.

Robbie Caldwell was also a finalist for the Paladins’ job.

Fowler (and Caldwell) are both Furman alums.

The Tennessean reported last night that Caldwell might have an offer on the table for an assistant coaching job at Clemson.

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Good Luck Robbie Caldwell and Bruce Fowler

Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line. is reporting that Furman likely plans to hire either Robbie Caldwell or Bruce Fowler as head coach. VSLNation wishes both former Commodore coaches the best.

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