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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

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The Homecoming Queen Jilts Vanderbilt

As you can see below, my earlier Gus Malzahn post jumped the gun — just a little. Yesterday, one day after allegedly saying yes to Vanderbilt’s offer to becomes it next head coach, Malzahn said thanks, but no thanks. This rapid reversal of fortunes doesn’t necessarily leave the university in a lurch, though it does leave player, fans and alumni wondering what if: what if Malzahn had taken this job? Better yet, what’s — or who’s — next now that the 2010 Broyles Award winner decided to remain at Auburn?

Prior to the surprising news that Malzahn agree to terms with the university, we were hearing three other names associated with the position: Maryland’s James Franklin, Nebraska’s Shawn Watson and Stanford’d Greg Roman. Like Malzahn, each are offensive coaches; Franklin and Watson are offensive coordinators, and while Roman does not carry that same title, he is an important figure behind Stanford’s offensive resurgence.

A nice threesome. Three good coaches, each of whom has paid their dues along the road to becoming an F.B.S. head coach. There’s little doubt that someday, each of the trio will achieve their end goals of piloting a program on the F.B.S. level. Today, however, should one of the three be named Vanderbilt’s next head coach, he would inevitably face the tough comparison with the one who got away: Malzahn.

In the span of 24 hours, give or take, Vanderbilt went from the ecstasy of hiring the nation’s finest assistant coach to regrouping with Plan B. From all accounts, the hire will be Franklin, Maryland’s lead assistant and the designated head-coach-in-waiting once Ralph Friedgen decides to step down.

As a quick aside, I think we can put the whole in-waiting tag to rest: should Franklin be hired at Vanderbilt, that will be two coaches with that designation who have been hired elsewhere in less than a week, joining Florida’s Will Muschamp.

Vanderbilt’s like a kid ditched on prom night by the homecoming queen. Yeah, there are other options available — Franklin’s pretty cute — but come on, she’s — this is getting weird — not quite the homecoming queen. So the university will call back the date it put off over the last few weeks, wondering if she still wants to join up, and try to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

Maybe Vanderbilt will find that Franklin is the real deal; he very well may be. Or that Watson has the goods to lead a program in the SEC, though I’m a little doubtful of that scenario. Or that Roman’s familiarity with bringing prospects to a strong academic institution ¬†comes in handy.

With all due respect to the three, they’re no Malzahn. They’re no homecoming queen. They are three nice head coaching prospects, but neither Franklin, Watson or Roman instills a sense of confidence when it comes to Vanderbilt’s future in the SEC.

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  1. M Meyer says:

    People are talking about Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’ Keefe. Vanderbilt needs to move on him fast lest he be snatched away.

  2. DMK says:

    Auburn won’t win too many more games than Vandy next year. Lots of rebuilding to be done. Seven losses is a possibility … Will Gus be such a hot commodity then?

  3. schedule nit says:

    Your metaphor was pretty wierd–did you hear those rumors about this year’s Vandy team too?

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