Vanderbilt enjoyed historic success in James Franklin’s three years in Nashville, reaching a bowl in every season and winning nine games in 2012 and 2013.
Franklin is off to Penn State, opening up the Vanderbilt job. It’s not an easy place to win — just about every coach before Franklin can confirm that — but it is an SEC job. Franklin was a master recruiter, managing to bring in Rivals’ No. 19 class in 2013 as well as the No. 29 class in 2012 and No. 26 in 2014 (before he left). For a private, academic-oriented school of about 12,000 without any football tradition prior to his arrival, those were impressive feats.
What Franklin proved is that it’s not impossible to win at Vanderbilt. Contending in the SEC is a different story, but those back-to-back nine-win seasons accounted for half of the program’s nine-win seasons in its 110-year history. And Vanderbilt has never won more than nine games in a season.
So the bar is a lot higher for whoever takes over than it was when Franklin came to Nashville. An early list of speculative candidates:
- San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman
- Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris
- Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth
- Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop
- Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason
Of course, then there’s this thought that’s been floating around Twitter: What about Mack Brown?
There are a few connections: Brown got his start in college football as a running back for Vanderbilt from 1969-1970, after which he transferred to Florida State. His brother, Watson, coached Vanderbilt from 1986-1990 and graduated from there in 1972.
Barring anything completely out of left field, Vanderbilt will be the last significant job opening to be filled at the college level in this cycle. That should give Vanderbilt AD David Williams a good-sized pool of candidates to sort through in the coming weeks.