Maryland's James Franklin is in the running for the Vanderbilt coaching job

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 10, 2010; 12:25 AM

James Franklin, Maryland's offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting, is one of two finalists for the head coaching job at Vanderbilt, which could make an offer to a candidate as early as Friday, a source with intimate knowledge of the search said Thursday.

Greg Roman, Stanford's offensive coordinator, is believed to be the other finalist.

Franklin has had two in-person interviews with Vanderbilt, the source said, and has been a serious candidate to replace Robbie Caldwell, who resigned following a 2-10 season, for at least one week.

David Williams, the vice chancellor for athletics at Vanderbilt, confirmed in a telephone interview Thursday that Franklin is a candidate for the position. He declined to specify how many other candidates remain under consideration.

Williams, who first met Franklin when Franklin was an assistant at Kansas State, has long been impressed with Franklin's focus and preparation.

"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 has recognized some of the same things that we recognized."

Williams said he will meet with Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos no later than Friday morning about candidates; the two will also rely on input from other unspecified individuals with knowledge of the candidates.

This is a critical juncture for the Maryland football program because of the uncertainty over who will coach the Terrapins after the 2011 season. The fan base is divided over whether head Coach Ralph Friedgen or coach-in-waiting Franklin - or neither - should coach the Terrapins in 2012. Kevin Anderson, Maryland's first-year athletic director, has said only that he would discuss the future of the program with Friedgen after this season.

If Franklin remains at Maryland, he is owed $1 million if he is not named head coach by January 2012. He was appointed as Friedgen's eventual successor in February 2009 in large part because he had received an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and garnered strong interest from other colleges, as well.

But Friedgen is not ready to retire following the 2011 season, the final year of his contract. He has repeatedly said he wants to continue coaching beyond that. He has been telling high school prospects that he plans on coaching for the majority of their college careers. And Friedgen said in a radio interview last week that not having an extension, at this point, "does not help me" and that while he has had some discussions with school officials, they are "not willing to commit to anything yet."

After a 2-10 season in 2009 that nearly cost him his job, Friedgen orchestrated the second-biggest turnaround in the country this season, leading the Terrapins to an 8-4 record and their seventh bowl appearance in his 10-year tenure. He earned ACC coach of the year honors for the second time.

The Tennessean newspaper reported Thursday that Vanderbilt is interested in talking to Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo about the position. Navy officials said Thursday that Niumatalolo has not and will not interview for the Vanderbilt opening, and that he remains committed to Navy.

Staff writer Gene Wang contributed to this report.

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