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VU Offers Malzahn Nearly $3M With Franklin Waiting In The Wings

Holy smokes!  (And if this weren’t a family website I wouldn’t have typed “smokes!”)

According to Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean, the offer that Vanderbilt has on the table for Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn — I repeat: for Auburn’s offensive coordinator — is worth nearly $3 million per year.

As we noted earlier this evening, it appears that Malzahn is waiting for other jobs that might pop up should Florida hire Bobby Petrino or Dan Mullen to replace Urban Meyer.

Hey, Gus, let give you some help here, buddy.  You lose your offensive line and Cam Newton next year.  Your stock’s as high as it’s going to get.

And $3 million in the hand is definitely worth two (MSU and Arkansas) in the bush.

Two sources have told us that the Vandy offer is also a seven-year deal.  (We suggested as much early on Wednesday.)

According to Lockridge, “… if (Malzahn) continues to pass, look for Vanderbilt to move on to (James) Franklin or perhaps (Greg) Roman in the very, very near future (and save some money in the process).”

Franklin is the offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting at Maryland.  Roman is the offensive coordinator at Stanford.  According to The Tennessean, both coaches “would quickly accept the Vanderbilt job” if offered.

The Washington Post reports that Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams — who is running VU’s search — met Franklin while he was an assistant at Kansas State.

“Even back then, he was putting into motion a plan of what it would take to be a head coach,” Williams said.  “The other thing is, we were aware that he is the coach-in-waiting at Maryland.  Obviously, somebody else recognized some of the same things that we recognized.”

It’s a bit surprising Williams would make such glowing comments just as a means of verifying someone’s candidacy for a job.  Reading those words, it almost looks like Williams has already been tabbed as Vandy’s next coach.

A few quick observations:

1.  First, let’s give a quick tip of the cap to Vandy officials if they are indeed willing to spend $3 million on a new head coach.  Rumors had swirled that VU might go as high as $2 million — it had paid Bobby Johnson about $1.2 million — but $3 million?  That’s jawdropping.  Expect the number for Franklin or Roman to be closer to $2 million.

2.  When you think of previous Vanderbilt coaches a line from an old Doors song comes to mind: No one here gets out alive.  But if the $3 million figure is correct, it would be very hard for a coach to say no.  Malzahn — who was coaching a high school six years ago! — would be the leagues’ fourth-highest paid coach nestled cushily between Les Miles and Mark Richt.  He would be making about $1 million per season more than seven-time SEC Coach of the Year Steve Spurrier, who also has a national championship ring in his possession.

3.  Despite so many outlets running with the $3 million claim, the fact that Malzahn isn’t crawling to Nashville on his hands and knees makes me wonder if that figure is legit.  Ah, ever the skeptic.

4.  While I salute VU for breaking the bank and trying to kick start a new “We’ve now got big TV money” age, I have to stand by my point from a couple of weeks ago: Malzahn is a risk for anyone.  It can’t be stated enough that he was coaching high school ball just a few short seasons ago. From Springdale High in Arkansas to a $3 million-a-year salary in the SEC in just five calendar years?  That’s a helluva jump.

5.  Malzahn’s offense looks awfully good now, but if you take a closer look, questions arise.  In his first year in the college ranks, Houston Nutt shackled him as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator.  The next two years his offense set records at Tulsa, but Tulsa doesn’t play in the SEC.  Last year his offense started fast at Auburn, but the Tigers dropped five of their last six SEC games.  This year, Malzahn’s offense rings up points like a pinball machine, but the presence of Newton has a lot to do with that.  Would AU’s offense be nearly as prolific with Neil Caudle or Barrett Trotter behind center?  And at Vandy, Malzahn would have a lot more Caudles and Trotters than he would Newtons.

6.  If Vandy is really offering that kind of cash to Malzahn, it goes to show that the point we’ve made all week — the one that got so many Commodore fans to say naughty things about us — was right.  Even with a great deal of cash and a good sales job it’s just not easy to lure a coach to Vanderbilt.  The track record is a killer.  Eventually, someone will have to change that track record to make Vandy an easier sell down the road.  I salute Williams and the Vanderbilt administration for apparently being willing to spend some dough to grab a man who they believe can turn things around.  But it was likely from Day One on that VU was going to have to settle for a coordinator or assistant rather than a proven head coach.  Not even Ricky Roma could convince a winning head coach to come to a school that’s gone 13-54 in the toughest conference in the nation in the last 10 years.

7.  While there’s a big on-field risk in Vandy grabbing Malzahn (especially for that much coin), his hire would be a great thing for Vanderbilt’s reputation and for the SEC’s.  You think Vandy hiring the nation’s hottest coordinator — and outspending every school in the league not named Alabama, Florida or LSU — wouldn’t create shock waves in the national media?


18 Responses to “VU Offers Malzahn Nearly $3M With Franklin Waiting In The Wings”

  1. TommyP says:

    I don't post much here anymore because of your overall pompous attitude on so many things, including misconstruing things people say in emails and then post on your website.

    That said, this article is simply ridiculous.

    What did Malzahn do at Arkansas when he was there? Completely turned that offense around and introduced to everyone the "Wild Hog." He put McFadden at QB and had Felix Jones in motion. He also ran plays that no other college team was running. The guy is innovative, creative and has a counter for everything the defense does.

    He goes to Tulsa and continues his offensive mastery.

    Once at Auburn, he runs the offense with crap at QB. Honestly, Auburn did not have much to work with when he got there. Newton comes in and the rest is SEC history.

    The guy is an offensive genius. I'm not an Arkansas, Tulsa and certainly not an AU fan. I know greatness when I see it.

  2. » Gruden as a Gator?; Mullen’s plans; Newton news John Clay’s Sidelines says:

    [...] - John Pennington of Mr. SEC hears that Vandy is ready to open its checkbook to get Auburn OC Gus Malzahn to take over the Commodores’ sinking [...]

  3. John says:

    The reason Malzahn left Arkansas is because he was not put in control of that offense. And the WildHog was not invented by Malzahn. Look up your college football history. But I'm glad you "know greatness" when you see it… and that you're not pompous.
    Thanks for reading,

  4. rd22 says:

    Most people close to the situation do not credit Gus with installing the wildcat… I am NO Nutt fan but supposedly the Nutt brothers were considering that weapon the season before Gus arrived at AR. He is a magnificent recruiter, though, that is for sure.

  5. Jason says:

    Do you think it is a coincidence that Ark won 10 games the year that Malzahn was the O.C. at AR and went to the SEC championship game? Yes, he had McFadden and Jones that year (their sophmore years), but Nutt had them for their freshmen and junior years and couldn't do anything with them those 2 years. Yes, he didn't have complete control of the offense, but you could see his influence on it. You are correct, Malzahn didn't create the WildHog, but when was the last time you have seen that run before Malzahn. I don't think Tommy P said that he invented the WildHog, he said he introduced it which means he could have brought it back. I think Malzahn would make a great head coach, BUT, I agree that I would certainly not pay him $3 mill a year to start.

  6. John says:

    I think Malzahn is a very good offensive coordinator. But, as I stated, I believe anyone hiring him as a head coach would be taking a healthy-sized risk. He was coaching in high school six seasons ago. And his offense — the one he runs, not what Nutt used at Arkansas — has not been proven enough (for me) in the SEC yet. Last year, the offense stalled as the season pressed forward. This season he's blessed with Cam Newton. Malzahn may be a sensational head coach and I salute Vandy for chasing him with such zeal, but I think he's a bigger question mark than a James Franklin. Hotter name, shorter collegiate track record. That's all.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, if you set aside all the awards he's won, and the total offense rankings his teams have put up, it's a very curious move.


    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

  8. TopShelfDore says:

    Vanderbilt has a $3 Billion (yes, that is a B) endowment…largest in the SEC…taking an exciting "risk" with $3 million is pocket change!

  9. [...] Latest Bama News 12/10112 VU OFFERS MALZAHN NEARLY $3M WITH FRANKLIN WAITING IN THE WINGS Homepage | Reply With Quote + Reply to Thread « Previous Thread | Next [...]

  10. John says:

    TopShelfDore… Agreed. This is a very good sign for Vandy and for the SEC. The better Vanderbilt becomes, the better the SEC becomes. Congrats. If these reports are true you have reason to be excited. VU appears to be turning over a new leaf.

    Anonymous… If you can't see that Malzahn has a short track record and only one season of SEC success, then that's your problem. He might turn out to be a great coach. But the last time he was head coach was in high school. And that was just six years ago.

    Again, I applaud Vandy's efforts — if my sources and all these other reports are correct — but I wonder if they're directing their energies at the right guy. I'm not sure how many Cam Newtons Malzahn will be able to sign in Nashville. And the defenses he'll face will be a tad stronger than those he faced at Tulsa.


  11. paoloswallows says:

    John, Malzahn has three (THREE!) seasons of SEC success. One at Arkansas, two at Auburn. If you can't see that, then that's your problem. Oh, and the other two years he spent at lowly Tulsa, his offense led the nation in total offense.

    One more thing, none of the other guys Vandy is looking at have head coaching experience. Gus Malzahn does. He coached Springdale HS in Arkansas to State Championships, while serving as the school's Athletic Director. He has all the managerial experience he needs to run a big-time college program.

  12. John says:


    Feel free to get mad at me for my opinion. No skin off my back.

    FYI… Malzahn's offense was not employed at Arkansas. That's why he left. Hard to credit a man for an offense that he didn't control. Ask anyone in Arkansas and they'll fill you in on all the behind-the-scenes hullaballoo.

    Now, his offense at Tulsa DID lead the nation. In 2008, they did so against the following schedule: UAB, North Texas, New Mexico, Central Arkansas, Rice, SMU, UTEP, Central Florida, Arkansas, Houston, Tulane, Marshall, East Carolina and Ball State. Will his offense work against SEC defenses without Cam Newton? I think that's a fair question. Especially since we can now see that Urban Meyer's spread offense didn't work as well in the SEC without Tim Tebow as it did with him.

    But I've had my say on this topic. You can post that Malzahn — if Vandy lands him — is a sure-thing winner. I admit that he might be. But I'm also objective enough to know that there are still questions surrounding him. Some bigger questions than what some other candidates might have brought to the table.

    But if you and others think he's the perfect hire, more power to ya. I hope he is. It'd be good for Vandy and the SEC. (Oh, and if a lot of dominoes start to fall and Malzahn somehow winds up at Mississippi State or Arkansas, I'll be making these exact same points about him.)

    Great offensive coordinator. Limited college coaching experience. One year of SEC greatness (last year his offense put up fewer points as the SEC season wore on).

    Thanks for reading,

  13. sec_fan says:

    Malzahn is a risk but one Vanderbilt needs to take. Vanderbilt is unlikely to attract a head coach with Florida, Miami, and Colorado available. A name coach, which Malzahn now is, could bring a lot of excitement around a program.. A true spread could make a team that academics restricts from getting number one talent more competitive. It is a big risk but one worth taking for a program that only can go up. Bobby Johnson put a lot of excitement into this program. Both season ticket sales and attendance rose during his tenure. It is the time to strike while the iron is hot.

  14. me2 says:


    I don't know you, and no offense, but your statement on Malzahn is one of the silliest things I have ever seen! He is an ENTIRELY proven commodity, and will be a great HC if he has a decent DC. PERIOD! But keep claiming the sun does not set every day if you want.

  15. me2 says:


    To add some detail…Auburn ranked 117th out of 121 in the NCAA in 2008. In 2009, with basically the same players and no Newton, they moved up to the top TWENTY. This year, they are second only to Oregon. Cam has a lot to do with that, but so does Gus. But forget this year, the change from 2008 to 2009 is all I need to see. He is as proven as it gets.

  16. [...] 2. VU offers Malzahn Nearly $3M With Franklin Waiting In The Wings [...]

  17. Peter says:

    Malzahn is not ready for a head coaching job. That's why Florida is not interested in him. He'd be nothing this year without Newton. Next year Auburn will be a 7-5 or 8-4 team.

  18. VANDY89 says:

    Vanderbilt should hire the Navy coach if he is willing. Malzahn will not be able to recruit the athletes he needs to run his offense at Vanderbilt. The Navy coach has already proven he can recruit and get the athletes that can meet the academic standards at Vanderbilt. He has proven he can win with those athletes based on his system. Why grab a big name guy, Malzahn, who will be unable to get the guys he needs to make his system work. How successful was he before Cam Newton??

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