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James Franklin expected to leave Maryland to become Vanderbilt football head coach

By Eric Prisbell and Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 17, 2010; 12:07 AM

James Franklin, Maryland's offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting, is expected to become Vanderbilt's next head football coach, a source close to Franklin with knowledge of the details of the offer said Thursday.

As of Thursday evening, Franklin had yet to sign the contract, the source said, but he was expected to travel to Vanderbilt on Friday. John Ingram, a Vanderbilt Board of Trust and search committee member, told the Nashville Tennessean, "We're about to have this all wrapped up."

Franklin has offered positions on his Vanderbilt coaching staff to four Maryland assistants - none has yet decided whether to accept - according to a source with direct knowledge of the offers. Coach Ralph Friedgen, who has been on the road recruiting, has called a staff meeting for Friday morning. John Donovan, Maryland's running backs coach, is the most likely candidate to assume offensive coordinator duties in Maryland's game against East Carolina in the Military Bowl on Dec. 29.

If Franklin, 38, had remained at Maryland, he would have received $1 million if not named Maryland's head coach by January 2012. The departure of Franklin, who had been named head coach-in-waiting in February 2009, leaves Maryland facing several questions during an important winter for the program and for first-year Athletic Director Kevin Anderson.

Friedgen, 63, will now get a strong sense of his job security from Anderson, who announced on Nov. 18 only that Friedgen would return for an 11th season in 2011, the final year of his contract. Friedgen has repeatedly said that he hopes to coach beyond 2011, and he has been telling high school prospects that he plans to coach for the majority of their college careers.

A contract extension is not guaranteed, even with Friedgen winning his second ACC Coach of the Year Award after orchestrating the second-biggest turnaround in the country in 2010. Attendance concerns - season ticket sales have declined five straight years - have been well publicized and Anderson has said only that he would discuss the program's future with Friedgen after the season.

There are ramifications if Friedgen enters next season as a lame-duck coach. Hiring an outside candidate to replace Franklin - if Friedgen opts against promoting from within - and assembling a respectable recruiting class next season could be difficult if he is not guaranteed to return in 2012.

It remains to be seen whether there is immediate recruiting fallout from Franklin leaving Maryland. Franklin was viewed as Maryland's most valued recruiter and had strong, longstanding relationships with many local high school coaches. Before February's signing day, high school prospects give only non-binding oral commitments to schools.

Franklin had two in-person interviews with Vanderbilt officials and emerged as one of two finalists - along with Stanford offensive coordinator Greg Roman - before Vanderbilt made a long-shot attempt to land Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who withdrew from negotiations on Monday.

Contract negotiations between representatives of Vanderbilt and Franklin's agent, Neil Cornrich, slowed by the middle of the week, the source with knowledge of the details of the offer said. But Franklin made clear to Vanderbilt that he wants the job, the source added.

When reached by a Nashville Tennessean reporter on his cellphone Thursday evening, Franklin was asked about his departure to Vanderbilt being a done deal and said: "I don't know where you could have gotten that information. I hope to meet you at some point, but I have nothing to confirm for you at this point."

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