On it's face Saturday's matchup between UConn and Vanderbilt is simply the second half of a contract the two signed for a home-and-home series over two years. The Huskies easily dispatched the Commodores last year, and though this year's game promises to be closer, it's not exactly an earth-shattering matchup. But, if you look a little deeper, you'll see these two programs are linked very closely.
To start, you need to go back to 2010. Bobby Johnson had brought Vanderbilt to a level of football success they hadn't known since the 1950s, but on July 14, 2010 he surprised the university by suddenly resigning. With the start of practice just a few weeks away Vandy had to scramble to find a new head coach. They tapped Robbie Caldwell to be their interim coach, and quickly dropped the interim title after agreeing to a new contract.
Caldwell wouldn't last though. Hours before Vanderbilt's final game of the 2010 season he announced that he, like Johnson, had decided to step down, and for the second time in five months the Commodores needed a new coach, and they set their sights on Maryland's James Franklin.
Franklin started with Maryland in 2000, took a brief stint in the NFL and returned to the Terrapins in 2008 and was formally designated as the "coach-in-waiting" in February of 2009. Then-head coach Ralph Friedgen was getting up there age-wise, and with his contract set to expire after 2011 Franklin wouldn't have to wait long. After an 8-4 2010 campaign, the Maryland Athletic Department announced Friedgen's job was safe and he'd finish the last year of his contract.
Around this time Franklin must have decided that either he did not want to stay in Maryland or one last year under Friedgen was just too much. Vanderbilt came calling and he jumped.
Friedgen's support at Maryland crumbled fast -- on December 20 (one day and one month after his return for 2011 was announced) he was officially terminated by the school, and it's not hard to see that once they no longer had a coach-in-waiting Maryland wanted to get moving on its future.
The one catch? December 20 is pretty late to fire your coach and begin a new coaching search. Brian Kelly has signed with Notre Dame two years ago season it was on December 10, and when Al Golden went to Miami last year it was on December 12. In late December last year UConn fans thought they had Randy Edsall locked up because, well, the coaching hiring season was over. Except suddenly it wasn't, Maryland came calling for Edsall, he jumped ship, and today UConn finds itself with Paul Pasqualoni, and it's all because James Franklin bailed on Maryland.