With James Franklin being hired away by Penn State, the search for a new head coach to continue the momentum at Vanderbilt is officially underway. Fortunately for the program, Franklin helped make the job a more attractive one to the next coach.
“There is no question that James Franklin’s outstanding work has helped put Vanderbilt football on the national stage,” Vanderbilt vice chancellor and director of athletics David Williams said in a statement released following Franklin’s departure. “Because of James, Fumi, Shola and Addy Franklin, our program is stronger in every way than it was just a few short years ago.”
Vanderbilt had compiled back-to-back 2-10 seasons before prying Franklin away from Maryland, where he was considered the coach-in-waiting under Ralph Friedgen. Maryland’s loss may have turned out to be Vanderbilt’s gain. Franklin had an immediate impact on the Commodores, winning six games in his first season in Nashville and leading them to back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in program history.
“We have every expectation to hire an outstanding new football coach to build upon the progress that has been made in recent years,” Williams said. He will certainly have some attractive options to consider.
Will Vanderbilt be able to sway a head coach away from their current school to guide their program? The one name to keep a close eye on in this discussion would be Mark Hudspeth, the current head coach of Louisiana-Lafayette. Hudspeth has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to three consecutive 9-4 seasons and has ended the year with a bowl victory each year. If Vanderbilt is looking for a head coach who is ready to take the next step, Hudspeth should be the name at the top of the list.
Hiring a top assistant coach is certainly a path likely to be explored by Vanderbilt.
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has the SEC pedigree down and has been mentioned as a potential future head coach when the right opportunity comes along. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is currently one of the hottest names in the assistant coaching world. So is Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Vanderbilt could do worse than any of those names of course. Morris would probably be the best fit among the potential assistant coaching candidates.
Whether the next head coach succeeds to the level Franklin managed to do at Vanderbilt or not, or whether the next head coach can build upon the foundation laid by Franklin, remains to be seen. Perhaps the next coach will see Vanderbilt take a step back. Whatever happens, the position is a much more desirable one worthy of consideration by a number of top candidates that may not have given the job much thought four or five years ago. It is still likely to be a stepping stone position as opposed to a destination position, but it is not as slippery as a stepping stone it once was.