By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2010; 12:26 AM
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.
Maryland will keep its most valued recruiter and the man who in February 2009 was appointed to eventually succeed Coach Ralph Friedgen. As a result, the coming weeks and months promise to be a pivotal time for the program, as first-year Athletic Director Kevin Anderson attempts to chart the course for the Terrapins beyond the 2011 season.
Anderson announced on Nov. 18 that Friedgen would return for an 11th season in 2011, the final year of his contract. After a 2-10 season in 2009 that nearly cost him his job, Friedgen orchestrated the second-biggest turnaround in the nation this season, as the Terrapins finished 8-4 and reached the seventh bowl game of his 10-year tenure. He won ACC coach of the year honors for a second time.
Friedgen wants to coach beyond 2011 and has been telling high school prospects that he plans to coach them for the majority of their college careers. Franklin, meantime, is owed $1 million if he is not named Maryland's head coach by January 2012.
Anderson had said that he planned to discuss the future of the program with Friedgen after the season. It may come down to deciding whether Friedgen or Franklin - or neither - is the best choice for the program's future after 2011.
Complicating matters is a diminished fan base. Season ticket sales declined at Maryland for a fifth straight season, and school officials fell more than $500,000 short of season ticket sales projections each of the past two seasons.
Despite finishing in a three-way tie for third in the ACC, Maryland dropped to the eighth slot in the ACC bowl pecking order in large part because of concerns about attendance issues. The Terrapins will play East Carolina (6-6) in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium on Dec. 29.