Auburn's Gus Malzahn turns down Vanderbilt coaching job, reopens door for Maryland's James Franklin

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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 1:07 AM

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn reportedly declined an offer to become Vanderbilt's next head football coach on Monday, a decision that re-opened the possibility of James Franklin, Maryland's offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting, leaving College Park for his first head coaching job.

As of Monday evening, there were no indications that Franklin, who has had two in-person interviews with Vanderbilt officials, had received a job offer. Franklin and Greg Roman, Stanford's offensive coordinator, emerged as the school's two finalists last week, but Vanderbilt made a long-shot attempt to land Malzahn, who was the Boyles Award winner this season as the nation's top assistant coach.

Vanderbilt reportedly offered Malzahn a contract that would have paid him $3 million per year. A source familiar with the details of the search said Sunday that Malzahn had orally agreed to take the Vanderbilt job this weekend, but that he had yet to sign a contract.

By remaining at Auburn, Malzahn now will more than double his $500,000 salary with a new multiyear deal that will pay him $1.3 million per year, according to ESPN.com, making him the highest paid assistant in the Southeastern Conference.

In a statement, Malzahn said: "I am very appreciative of Coach [Gene] Chizik and the entire administration for their support. My family and I love Auburn and right now my main focus is helping Auburn win a national championship."

The Tigers will play Oregon in the Jan. 10 national title game in Glendale, Ariz. ESPN and the Birmingham News reported Monday afternoon that Malzahn had turned down Vanderbilt's offer.

When the Nashville Tennessean asked David Williams, Vanderbilt's vice chancellor for athletics, about sticking points that derailed negotiations with Malzahn, Williams said: "I don't see negotiations as sticking points. I see them as trying to get to a point where everybody is comfortable. Sometimes you can't get there. That doesn't mean anybody was unreasonable. Sometimes, no matter where you go, there is a factor that has nothing to do with negotiations that [comes into play]."

Vanderbilt is expected to shift its attention back to Franklin. Williams said in a telephone interview last week that he has been enamored with Franklin since meeting him during Franklin's stint as Kansas State's offensive coordinator (2006-2007).

"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."

Franklin, 38, was appointed head coach-in-waiting in February 2009. If he remains at Maryland, he will be owed $1 million if he is not named head coach by January 2012.

Maryland's coaching situation is complicated by the fact that Coach Ralph Friedgen wants to continue coaching beyond the 2011 season, the final year of his contract. He has been telling high school prospects that he plans on coaching them for the majority of their college careers.

On Nov. 18, first-year Athletic Director Kevin Anderson announced that Friedgen would return in 2011 for an 11th season at his alma mater. After finishing 2-10 and nearly losing his job in 2009, Friedgen orchestrated the second-biggest turnaround in the nation this season, leading the Terrapins to an 8-4 record and their seventh bowl appearance in 10 seasons. He won ACC coach of the year honors for the second time.


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