NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams already can tell a difference in how the Commodores are perceived now compared to the last time he went searching for a football coach.
More people are willing to talk to him about the job now.
"This time already — and don't ask me any names because I'm not going to tell you — there's already a list of 20-25 people who've reached out to us," Williams said Saturday at a midday news conference. "And at least five of them are people who we asked to talk to us last time and said no."
The Commodores' athletic director says they plan to hire someone who can build on the progress of the past few years after James Franklin left the Southeastern Conference's smallest school for Penn State. Williams said Franklin called him Friday night telling him he was leaving after three seasons with Vanderbilt.
The athletic director let Franklin meet Saturday morning with his former players before leaving for Pennsylvania.
Williams called Franklin's decision to leave after three seasons "disappointing" and wished the coach well. The athletic director met with the Commodores after Franklin left, and Williams said Vanderbilt is ready to get on with business.
"Coach Franklin and his staff have set the foundation for that, but we plan to take it to the next step," Williams said.
Junior defensive end Kyle Woestmann appeared with Williams and said the players trust their athletic director to bring in someone even better for their new head coach.
"The goal is still to win SEC championships and bring Vanderbilt to a top tier SEC team," Woestmann said. "That will never change since what coach Franklin has started. That's the belief and mentality, and it will be that way forever now."
Vanderbilt did not name an interim coach with assistants under contract until March 15. Williams said the assistants know their responsibilities and school officials will be making sure recruits in a class estimated between No. 25 and 33 knows that Vanderbilt remains committed to them.
In Franklin's three seasons, Vanderbilt is 24-15 with three straight bowl berths for the first time in school history and a 16-4 mark over the past 20 games second only to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference.