Vanderbilt Hires Gus Malzahn as Head Coach; Update: Premature Report?; Update II: WaPo Doubles Down

Good thing Auburn still has head assistant coach Gene Chizik and pay-for-play, right? I never thought this one had a chance in hell of happening, but indeed it has come to fruition. According to the Washington Post:

The Post's Eric Prisbell has been told that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has accepted Vanderbilt's offer to become the Commodores' next football coach.

Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin was a candidate for the Vanderbilt job, and was seen as the Commodores' second choice after Malzahn.

Shocker.

First thought, is this news legitimate? I know the New York Times is part of the vast REC conspiracy, but I don't know if we've taken control of the Washington Post just yet. This may just all be a bunch of propaganda because us Bammers are so scared and all, so we'll see.

In all seriousness, though, this one is a big surprise to me, and it will be very interesting to hear the contract terms. I would not blame Malzahn one bit if the three million per year offer was legitimate -- hell, he'd make more in the next twelve months with that than he's made in his entire coaching career to date -- but if he took a more "normal" offer, then I think it's fair to say that there may be more to this move than meets the eye. Either way, give Vandy a lot of credit for pulling this one off, this is probably the biggest splash hire they've made in decades. You could have made a lot of money betting on them being able to reel in Malzahn.

And for what it's worth, I think it's a great hire for Vanderbilt. You can criticize Malzahn's offense as gimmicky, and as true as that may be the goal is to score points and move the football, and in that regard his offense is nothing if not effective. Besides, from the perspective of a school like Vanderbilt, you are never going to out-talent anyone -- or, hell, even get on their level in the first place -- so this type of a hire makes perfect sense. You need a bit of a mad scientist who can do some crazy things and who can turn guys like Chris Todd into highly-productive passers. I think a hire like Malzahn makes infinitely more sense for them than a more conventional coach.

Meanwhile, what happened to all of those plans Jay Jacobs and company had for keeping Malzahn on the Plains for a long time? Losing a guy to Florida is one thing, but Vandy? Nice. We'll see where Auburn goes from here, but unless they get a legitimate home run hire as a replacement OC, this one has got to hurt them very badly moving forward. Losing Newton, rebuilding the offensive line, and replacing almost the entire defensive front seven was going to be tough anyway, but losing Malzahn could be a real back breaker in that regard. Further NCAA investigations or not, all I can say to Auburn fans is that they should enjoy the next month because 2011 does not look to be shaping up as a very good year on the Plains.

Update: According to Joe Schad, this report may be a tad bit premature. No denials by anyone yet, but apparently Malzahn is refusing to confirm for now:

Yes, Gus Malzahn has a Vandy offer. But he's telling folks he hasn't taken it just yet.

Update II: Some might not be convinced just yet, and I suppose nothing is technically official until the introductory press conference, but the Washington Post has doubled down on their previous report.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn's offensive coordinator, is expected to be introduced as the next head coach at Vanderbilt as early as Monday, which means James Franklin, Maryland's offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting, will remain in College Park barring an unforeseen turn of events, a source familiar with the search said Sunday.

Franklin had two in-person interviews with Vanderbilt officials and had emerged as the next realistic option for Vanderbilt had its hopes of landing Malzahn fallen through. Vanderbilt had reportedly offered Malzahn a contract that would pay him close to $3 million per year. He has verbally accepted the job, the source said, but had yet to sign a contract.

Obviously, WaPo seems totally convinced this one is happening. For what it's worth, I wouldn't make much of the fact that Malzahn has not signed a contract yet, as honestly most of the time contracts aren't signed until a few months after the fact anyway. If there is a legitimate hold-up on this one, I imagine it probably involves a couple of potential issues: (1) whether or not Malzahn would start at Vandy or coach in the BCS Championship Game, or (2) more time is required to inform all current Auburn players before the news comes official. Both could potentially be in play -- keep in mind that Vandy would definitely want hm to start right away, and there is precedent here (Mark Richt left FSU before the 2000 BCS Championship Game for Georgia) -- and I figure one of those two issues is at the source of any hold-up.

Update III: Per the Tennessean, Vanderbilt is denying this one for now, but it kind of sounds like the deal is basically done and they are just waiting to make an official announcement:

Vanderbilt denied a report Sunday that it had hired Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn as football coach.

But director of communications Rod Williamson said Vanderbilt hopes the report would be accurate very soon.

Vice Chancellor of Athletics David Williams, who has headed up the search process, did not return multiple phone calls.

Vandy players expressed excitement at the prospect of landing Malzahn. Running back Wesley Tate welcomed him on his Twitter account, although Tate said Sunday night the players had not been told Malzahn took the job — only that they had heard reports he was coming.

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