There are only three possible reasons that Gus Malzahn would accept the head coaching job at Vanderbilt -- barring the theory that he believes the Auburn house of cards is about to come down after Cam Newton leaves and the NCAA finishes its investigation: Confidence, arrogance or stupidity. Your choice from that field probably depends as much on your view of Vanderbilt or your team loyalty as anything else.
At the very least, Malzahn is the most exciting head coaching hire for Vanderbilt in almost 20 years, when they plucked Gerry DiNardo from a national-championship Colorado team. And despite what you might remember from his disappointing denouement at LSU, DiNardo was a great coach by Commodore standards. He took a team that was 1-10 with Watson Brown at the helm in 1990 and put together a 5-6 record, including a win against Georgia. (In fact, DiNardo beat the Dawgs twice and also won against a ranked Ole Miss team in 1992.) DiNardo was 19-25 at Vanderbilt before LSU hired him away after the 1994 season.
Clearly, both sides are hoping for the same result this time. Vanderbilt is expecting Malzahn to prove himself as a head coach with the Commodores, and get a few good football seasons in return, while Malzahn is looking to win enough games at Vanderbilt for other programs to take notice.
It will not be easy. No head coach since Steve Sloan (1973-74) has finished with a winning record, and it has been nearly 60 years since a coach that spent more than two years in Nashville left with an overall .500 percentage (Bill Edwards, 1949-52). The last three long-term coaches' fates: fired for disastrous results (Rod Dowhower); resigned because of disastrous results (Woody Widenhofer); and retired, apparently because of the seeming futility of trying to turn the Commodores around (Bobby Johnson).
But this is a time for hope at Vanderbilt, not pessimism. The Commodores have landed the best candidate they could hope for in the 2010 season, and might have finally gotten the man who can permanently change the program's arc. The only sour note for Vanderbilt is that the true test of how good Malzahn is might be whether and when he leaves.