Vanderbilt Head Coach Search: Latest Rumors and Buzz After James Franklin's Exit

Alex KayCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2014

USA Today

Vanderbilt is on the hunt for its 28th head football coach in school history. The Commodores will have to work hard to replace former head coach James Franklin, who recently defected to Penn State after three seasons at the helm of the program.

Updates from Friday, Jan. 17

Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean reports that Derek Mason will be the Commodores' new head coach:

According to ESPN's Joe Schad, Mason has been offered the job:

According to Bruce Feldman of CBS, one candidate has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Vanderbilt job:

However, Shannon Terry of reports that a candidate has been decided upon:

Jeremy Fowler of CBS writes that while Mason is the front-runner and is having a second interview, the deal isn't done yet:

 Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason appears to be Vanderbilt's next head coach but the process is not yet done.

Mason has a second interview with Vanderbilt this morning and the Commodores will make the final decision this afternoon, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. reports that Mason will soon be named the head coach of Vanderbilt.The second interview could be a formality but Mason has not been offered the job yet.

Tennessean reporter Jeff Lockridge offers an update from Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams:

Updates from Wednesday, Jan. 15

Shannon B. Terry of (via Barton Simmons of reports Vanderbilt currently has a front-runner to fill its vacant head-coaching position despite interviewing additional candidates:

Ian Rapoport of later confirmed Schottenheimer's interview:

Updates from Tuesday, Jan. 14

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports on a coach from the NFL who is a potential candidate for the Vanderbilt job:

Updates from Monday, Jan. 13

ESPN's Joe Schad says Vanderbilt is considering a Pac-12 defensive coordinator to fill its vacant head-coaching position:

Updates From Sunday, Jan. 12

Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean provides the latest update on Vandy's coaching search: 

Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports reports on how the university plans on finding its next head football coach:

 ---Original Text---

It’s been three years since the university has had to conduct a coaching search, but it seems that athletic director David Williams is prepared to turn over every stone in order to unearth the best candidate for the opening.

According to, Williams sent out a press release that should help alleviate the doubts of concerned Commodores fans:

I want to assure our campus community and Commodore Nation that we are prepared to begin the process that we've used in the past to identify and hire our other very successful head coaches. We have every expectation to hire an outstanding new football coach to build upon the progress that has been made in recent years.

Atlanta-based firm Parker Executive Search will be assisting the school with the hire, but it won’t be easy to find just anyone to fill this position. USA Today’s Paul Myerberg listed a handful of potential candidates that Vanderbilt may consider for the vacancy:

  • Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson
  • Ball State coach Pete Lembo
  • Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason
  • Colorado State coach Jim McElwain
  • Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris
  • Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi
  • North Carolina State tight ends coach Tom O'Brien
  • Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop
  • Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart
  • Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson
  • Utah State coach Matt Wells

CBS' Jeremy Fowler says Vanderbilt will also be interviewing Herb Hand, who is already on staff:

As per, Williams has made it clear that there will plenty of responsibility and accountability involved for the candidate that is eventually hired:

Our objective is to hire an outstanding football coach, one capable of running the program like a CEO, and do so in a timely manner. We are confident in our process and ability to hire a coach that will be able to advance the tremendous progress our program has made over the past three years.                       

It’s important not to understate the impact that Franklin had on this program. The Commodores went from making one bowl appearance during a 28-year stretch that spanned the 1983 season all the way through the 2010 campaign to making three in a row under the now 41-year-old coach.

Franklin had his work cut out for him upon being hired, but managed to overcome the obstacles and engineer and incredible turnaround. He oversaw the rebuilding of a Vanderbilt team that went 2-10 in back-to-back seasons by guiding it to a 6-6 regular season record and a bowl appearance in his first year.

Oct 19, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores head coach James Franklin greets his players as they exit the field in a game against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Commodores beat the Bulldogs 31-27. Mandat
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The new Nittany Lions coach took things a step further by putting together back-to-back 9-4 outings that also included bowl victories—he was the first coach in school history to accomplish this feat—and rankings in the final Associated Press Top 25 polls.

To say the least, this will be a tough act to follow. However, Vanderbilt is no longer a perennial laughingstock that always finds itself at the bottom of the uber-competitive SEC.

This program is now garnering respect, wins and recruits. Bringing in a new coach ahead of Feb. 5’s National Signing Day will be absolutely imperative to the school's sustained success. 


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