It is college football's annual parlor game. When a big-name coach is fired, histrionic message-boarders and overheated sports-talk hosts — slobbering over their desperation for every ratings point and page view — try to predict the progression of the dominos. Already this year, USC fired the deplorable Lane Kiffin and opted not to retain his demonstrative interim Ed Orgeron; and Mack Brown, after treading water long enough to ensure he wouldn't be forced out for Alabama's Nick Saban, resigned at Texas.
If Coach X goes to School U, then Tech has to hire Coach Y, who will leave his job, thus opening the offensive coordinator gig at Plucky Private School available for Coach Z — and eventually, we all know who will be the tight ends coach at Ole Miss in 2026. Truly, this is a valuable use of time.
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin's name is bandied about in these discussions — and not just at the job that opens up because the other job opened up, but for the Big Time Jobs. He was considered a candidate for the USC job, and his name is now mentioned with frequency on the lips and fingertips of Texas fans looking to replace Brown. Online bookmaker Bovada listed him at 5-to-1 to be the next Longhorns boss.
Anyone who claims to know whether Franklin will leave Vanderbilt or not is engaging in rank speculation. That said, that he is even part of these conversations is a testament to how far he's brought the Commodores.
Since 1973, Vanderbilt has had 10 football coaches. Two of them have left for quote-unquote better coaching jobs — Steve Sloan for Texas Tech and Gerry DiNardo for LSU. (Fred Pancoast arguably left for a better job, as human resources director at a manufacturing company, though he wasn't asked to coach the company flag-football team.)
And while Texas Tech and LSU were steps up from the 'Dores, they weren't then on the level of Texas.
Franklin's run of success puts him on the radar — and even if he leaves, that's great news for Vandy. He's at least proven that winning is possible on West End. He's goaded the administration into investing in the program with facility upgrades and coaching salaries that have, by and large, kept his staff intact.
Indeed, Franklin leaving now after an 8-4 season and another bowl appearance might actually be the best thing that could happen. Not just for Franklin — whose stock is as high as it could go, short of an improbable SEC Championship Game appearance — but for Vanderbilt, who can sell potential hires on the premise that they can do what Franklin's done and the university will remain committed to providing the necessary matériel to keep the team competitive.
For decades, Vandy's reputation has been that it's a coaching dead-end, that taking the job — even with its history of low expectations — more or less stifles ascendency of the ambitious.
As much as Franklin is (rightly) praised for changing the culture at Vandy, the biggest change he fomented may be that the head coaching job is no longer a death sentence.
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