The thing that Vanderbilt fans (and SEC bloggers looking to go one offseason without a coaching search) feared is apparently happening, according to CBS's Bruce Feldman. One of the conference's hottest head coaches is expected to move on.
BREAKING #Vandy coach James Franklin is expected to be the next head coach at #PennState, per source— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 9, 2014
[Update: Vanderbilt's athletics director says that, as of Thursday afternoon, Franklin is still the head coach. This post has been updated to reflect that.]
If Franklin leaves, it's not too much of a surprise; for all the success James Franklin has had at Vanderbilt, Penn State is a tradition-rich program with a better chance of quickly winning the B1G (once the sanctions are gone) than Vanderbilt has of winning the SEC. For all the good Franklin has done at Vanderbilt, he still seems to be a ways away from being able to consistently contend for the East. (It took Steve Spurrier until his sixth season to win the division in South Carolina, which started out slightly ahead of where Vanderbilt was when Franklin took over.)
At the same time, the sanctions would help keep expectations in check for the first couple of years. Franklin has some time to build his program without having to worry about the postseason for a while.
Where does Vanderbilt go? That's a question that doesn't have a clear answer right now. Expect a lot of coordinators to have their names thrown out. There are joking mentions of Houston Nutt of Ed Orgeron floating around, but there might be a semi-retired coach out there whose name gets into the mix. A mix we almost avoided this season.