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Let the Interviews Begin

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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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Time to Talk Randy Shannon

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We know that Randy Shannon is on the short list and is the subject of an alumni email campaign supporting his candidacy. We know that when he was defensive coordinator at Miami, his squad was one of the best in the country. We know that he’s brought in top-15 recruiting classes the past few years running. We know his recruiting connections in the state of Florida run deep, which is partly why schools like Minnesota are interested in nabbing him. We know that he raised the academic (all teams in APR top 10) and disciplinary (no arrests during his tenure!) profile of a Miami Hurricanes program in which both were sorely lacking before he took over as head coach. And finally, we know that if his star QB hadn’t gotten injured and his team had won two games it should have won this season (UVA and South Florida), giving them a record of 9-3 instead of 7-5, that Shannon probably would not have been let go this past weekend after four seasons at the helm. (For what it’s worth, Bobby Bowden thinks Miami made a big mistake.)

Coach Shannon is about as good as you could ask for on paper, and I don’t have any inside information to this effect, but he sounds like a man of outstanding character to boot. His personal story, for those not familiar, is nothing short of inspiring.

I’m not as concerned as some might be about his overall record as a head coach (28-22, 16-16 ACC), nor do I care all that much about the decidedly strange tale of Robert Marve, in which Shannon was a key player. I’m not certain about this, but I think Shannon’s got the stuff that it takes to be a very good D-I head coach (though to the extent there are questions about that, there are similar questions about all the “unproven” offensive and defensive coordinators currently on the search list).

The main question I have about Shannon is unique to Vanderbilt’s situation. We’ve seen that he can take a program with discipline issues and an undistinguished academic track record and instill some positive values. But that hasn’t translated into success on the field, at least not the kind that they’re accustomed to at “The U.” Vanderbilt is a different animal. We’ve got the student-athlete thing down (to some extent, and let’s not be unrealistically arrogant about it) and we’re not constantly worried about which key player is going to get arrested from one week to the next (please join me in knocking on wood). In Commie Country it seems that fans are proud of the “clean and scholarly” reputation, but ready for something more. We’re ready for wins. At least enough wins to be competitive for a bowl game, any bowl game, year-in and year-out.

Is Randy Shannon a “winner”? I don’t know, but I certainly wouldn’t say he’s a “loser.” Looks like he may have gotten a raw deal at Miami and, as a consequence, it’s possible that he’ll be one of the best bargains on the market. Hard to know from the outside looking in. Also hard to know what kind of offensive staff he would bring in, seeing as he axed his previous OC who ran the spread attack in favor of an NFL-style offensive look. In any event, you’d be hard pressed to argue with the job he did recruiting at Miami (even though The U probably sells itself to a certain extent), and Vanderbilt could absolutely use (read: desperately needs) a guy who knows how to bring in strong recruits. For this reason and because everything I’ve read about his departure leads me to believe he is good at establishing relationships with his players (if not the bizarre Miami fan base), I am excited about the prospect of hiring a Randy Shannon.

This marks my newest tangent and at least the fifth time I’ve been stoked about a different coach in which DW is taking an interest. Other than me being fickle and nerdy, I’m taking that as a signal of the quality of coaches out there on the market. Vanderbilt needs to get this right, but as I see it they’ve got a lot to work with.

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2 Coveted Coordinators Would Listen to Vanderbilt: Tennessean

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Jeff Lockridge’s story in today’s Tennessean adds another name to the list of potential candidates to fill the now vacant head coaching position (Randy Shannon). Perhaps more importantly though, it offers quotes from Virginia Tech’s Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster and Stanford’s Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman indicating both would be interested in coming to Nashville. Shannon doesn’t bowl me over, but I am very intrigued by both Foster and Roman as potential hires for the Commodores.

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Another Joe Biddle Column I Hate

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Apparently Joe Biddle doesn’t read his own sports section, as he writes a column in today’s Tennessean trashing Vanderbilt football and calling it a dead-end job. Biddle argues that Vanderbilt is “in the wrong league for football,” and comes back to the familiar sportswriter troupe that Vanderbilt’s real problem is not having an “athletics director’s experience and contacts” to get the job done. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t disagree with Biddle more. Despite the cosmetic “title,” Vanderbilt has an athletic department, it just so happens that athletics at Vanderbilt is integrated in, not set apart from, the rest of the student population (imagine that).

Despite the Commodores’ 2 disappointing football seasons in a row (which proceeded their first bowl win since the Eisenhower administration), it is impossible to argue that Vanderbilt sports is not as strong or stronger now than they’ve ever been. David Williams hasn’t had to do a major national coaching search, because he’s been able to keep his quality coaches in Nashville. Essentially, Biddle is criticizing Williams for being an effective administrator. When you think about it, Biddle’s take actually makes sense given his treatment (or lack thereof) of Tennessee’s Athletic Director Mike Hamilton. Here’s a guy who, despite his “athletic director’s experience and contacts” went through 3 football coaches in 3 years while being publicly rejected by almost every candidate they targeted to fill that vacancy. Make no mistake about it Tennessee fans, Derek Dooley was not Tennessee’ first, second, or third choice. Yet somehow, because of his title, Hamilton gets a pass, and Williams gets scorned. Unlike last year’s Volunteer coaching search, Vanderbilt’s efforts are being done in a professional, quiet and methodical manner. There haven’t been any leaks, and no embarrassing public rejections. Maybe more schools should get rid of their athletic directors.

For some reason, I let Biddle get under my skin. I don’t really know why. I guess what I continue to take exception to, both from Biddle and the other Tennessean columnist David Climer, is the glee they seem to take in criticizing Vanderbilt. The lengths (uninformed at they might be) these columnists will go to slam the Commodores is astonishing (especially as compared to their treatment of the Volunteers, who are always on the ascendancy according to these scribes). Nashville is Vanderbilt’s home, yet the home-town paper’s columnists appear to relish when the team struggles. Do us all a favor Joe, head east to Knoxville, I’ll even throw in 5 bucks for gas.

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Roman and Foster Would Listen If Vandy Came A-Calling

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I really think the idea of Vanderbilt being some kind of place where successful coaches go to die is so over-blown and ridiculous. You get a good coach, who is willing to put in the work and surround himself with other coaching talent and Vandy CAN be successful. Period.
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20101202/SPORTS0602/12020325/2082/SPORTS

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Commodores Get Their Vengeance and Joe Duffy Gets a Standing O

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Well played by the Commodores tonight. While WKU seriously misses A.J. Slaughter, you can’t doubt the performance of the ‘Dores in the paint. Big Fez absolutely dominated down low and we saw a lot of great play from the perimeter as well. Jenkins had his 5th 20 point game of the season

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Thoughts on the First Half

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It’s fair to say that Western Kentucky has not brought their A-game, but Vanderbilt fans should be very encouraged by the team’s first half performance. Vandy shot 46.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. They are leading the rebounding battle and have doubled Western’s bench in points.

Lance has really impressed me in his minutes thus far. While he’s only scored one point, he is asserting himself defensively and has gotten two big boards, as well as three steals. Big Fez continues to impress me with his improved offensive skills. It’s like we’re not even watching the same person.
Rod Odom continues to be a valuable presence off of the bench and has really shown an impressive touch from the outside. He’s also done a great job on the boards with 5 rebounds. Kyle Fuller has shown a nice little spark with a good dish to Jenkins towards the end of the first half.
This team has continued to function well despite the fact that Taylor hasn’t played his best yet. Taylor is 2-8 from the field, but hit a nice three pointer earlier in the half.
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VSL Gets you Ready: Previewing Vanderbilt vs. Western Kentucky

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The Commodores welcome, but don’t really welcome, Western Kentucky to Memorial tonight. Without doubt this early season match-up should leave a bitter taste in the team’s collective mouth. Western Kentucky represented what I would consider to be the “rock bottom” game which seems to be indicative of Stallings most talented squads: the point at which the team realizes they need to get things together to avoid a lost season. Last year the Commodores ripped off ten straight after losing to WKU in the Sommet Center, including big wins over Florida at home, and Tennessee and South Carolina on the road. The only thing that could be better than that performance? Ripping off ten straight…while maintaining the current winning streak by beating Western Kentucky.

Make no mistake, Western is not a slouch team. They took a scrappy South Carolina squad to 2 overtimes and seemingly get themselves into the NCAA Tournament conversation on a yearly basis. That being said, this Western Kentucky squad is 3-3 and the only quality performance was that South Carolina game. They too participated in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, losing to eventual tournament champion Minnesota in the first round, and then falling to Davidson in the consolation bracket. Given the fact that this game is not at a neutral site and is in the friendly confines of Memorial, Vandy should win this game. Vegas agrees by giving WKU 14 points in the game.
Players to hate immediately for Western are 6’5″ seniors Steffphon Pettigrew and Sergio Kerusch. In addition, 6’6″ senior Juan Patillo is averaging a double-double with 16.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Patillo had a MONSTER game against South Carolina, scoring 24 points and grabbing 18 boards. Pettigrew is averaging 16 points per game as well. Kerusch has a reputation as a high energy power forward and is certainly capable of going off. He dropped 34 on St. Joseph’s at the beginning of the year.
Vandy seems to struggle rebounding against undersized athletic forwards who work for position, but the monster play of Fez in the paint and the improvement of Lance Goulbourne should give Vandy fans reason to believe that they can start winning some of these battles. After battling an unusual cold streak, John Jenkins has found his stroke again, hitting 5 for 8 from three against Appalachian State and going 4 of 9 against Grambling. He is leading the Commodores in scoring at 19.7 ppg. Everyone is still waiting for Jeff to demonstrate that he’s broken out, but he’s averaging 11.3 ppg in what has become a pretty balanced Vandy offense between an inside and outside game. In addition, new guys seem to demonstrate their contribution on a game-by-game basis. When this team puts it all together….and they will…..they will be very dangerous. But in the meantime, Vandy fans need to hope that they don’t need a sleepy performance to wake the team up for the stretch run. Western is experienced, tournament tested, and knows how to win. This is the kind of team that can easily knock off an unfocused group, and Vandy needs to avoid mental lapses in order to win.
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VSL Poll: Who Should Vanderbilt Hire as their Next Head Football Coach?

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Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line.

Who Should Vanderbilt Hire as their Next Head Football Coach?customer surveys

Explanation: This list includes the 5 names currently reported as active candidates for the vacancy. Phillip Fulmer and Al Golden (Temple) are apparently no longer candidates, and despite Anchor of Gold’s letter writing campaign, no media outlets have mentioned Mike Leach as a potential hire.

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Why I Love that Bud Foster is on the Rumor Mill

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On Monday, Football Scoop reported that Vanderbilt plans to talk with Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster after Saturday’s ACC Championship Game. Hokie fans have heard this tune before, as Foster is perennially in the conversation as a prime candidate for a BCS conference head coaching position. Is there any reason to think the rumors will materialize into a contract this time around? Here are just a few of the reasons why VSL Nation should be psyched about the prospect of that happening.

First of all, Foster is a brilliant defensive mind and is universally regarded as a phenomenal coach. The proof is in the pudding. Here’s how his teams have ranked nationally in total defense the past several years:

2009 – #12 (#2 ACC)
2008 – #6 (#1 ACC)
2007 – #4 (#1 ACC)
2006 – #1 (#1 ACC)
2005 – #1 (#1 ACC)
2004 – #4 (#2 ACC)

Yes, it’s the ACC, but those numbers are eye-popping. Foster is a Broyles Award winner and has coached a team into the national championship game. His bona fides are not in question.

Foster also has the plus-factor of recruiting connections in Virginia and the surrounding states of Maryland and North Carolina. These are areas that send kids to the SEC but are by no means the primary recruiting battlegrounds for our conference opponents. That could translate into opportunities to entice some talented players who otherwise would be bound for ACC schools.

Of course, I recognize that this may be a stretch. There has been speculation that Foster has a “coach-in-waiting” deal at VaTech, making him the heir-apparent should Frank Beamer retire in the next five years or so. But based on what Bud himself has said, as much as he loves his situation in Blacksburg, being a head coach is something he’s always wanted. He already knows every detail of how he would do it, right down to his academic policy and the assistants who he would hire (safe money is on his offensive coordinator being a sicko). Apparently he just hasn’t been willing to self-promote to get there.

If Foster is going to become a head coach, now is probably about the time. His agent told the Washington Post in November 2007 that Bud was about a year or two away from being a head coach somewhere. He says he’s wanted to wait for the right opportunity, not just any opportunity.

Maybe Vanderbilt isn’t it. After all, we do have the unfortunate reputation of being a “coach killer” school. But as we have stated numerous times in this space, that label need not be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Moreover, when you look at a guy who has seriously considered non-BCS conference jobs like Southern Miss and Northern Illinois, it makes you wonder: Why not Vandy?

Would the academic standards disrupt his ability to recruit the kind of talent and speed (particularly on the defensive side) that have made Foster-coached teams successful? Maybe. But it sounds like Bud would embrace a commitment to strong academics and building success through great coaching more than relying on lights-out recruiting. As successful as the Hokies have been this decade, they’ve done it mostly with recruiting classes ranked in the 20s, 30s and 40s. Only one class in the past ten years has cracked the top 15 (according to Rivals), and none have been top 10. Compare that to the Hokies’ final AP rankings throughout the decade, and it appears that Foster is part of a staff that knows what it’s doing. And again, the possibility of stealing some 4-stars out of the coastal regions is one not to be dismissed.

I personally think the Vanderbilt job would be perfect for a guy like Bud Foster. It’s the SEC, the top flight of the coaching profession. He’s by all accounts a great guy who is young enough (51) and energetic in spades. Nash Vegas is an easy place to fall in love with and, like Blacksburg, it’s relatively close to his roots in Kentucky.

Word on the street has it that the administration is willing to shell out the cash this time around. At the moment, I can’t think of a better person to spend it on.

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