NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Vanderbilt is looking for a new coach, and the Commodores' athletic director says they plan to hire someone who can build on the progress of the past few years.
David Williams said in a statement Saturday morning that James Franklin called him Friday night telling him he was accepting the Penn State job.
''There is no question that James Franklin's outstanding work has helped put Vanderbilt football on the national stage. We are extremely sorry to see the Franklin family leave our university and community, and we thank them and wish them the very best,'' Williams said.
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.
Vanderbilt went 4-20 in the two seasons before Williams hired Franklin over a field of candidates in 2010 that also included Gus Malzahn, who just won the SEC championship and lost in the BCS national championship game with Auburn.
Williams said Vanderbilt's program is stronger in every way than just a few years ago. Vanderbilt opened an indoor practice facility in November that the football team used to prepare for the BBVA Compass Bowl the Commodores won on Jan. 4. Renovations also have been going on around the football offices and locker room with the training room next up.
The athletic director tried to reassure Commodores' fans that they are ready to start a coaching search using the same process that helped identify Franklin and Vanderbilt's other coaches.
Before Franklin arrived, Vanderbilt had played in only four bowls in its history and went 36-114 between 2000 and 2010. The Commodores posted only one winning season between 1982 and 2010 in 2008.
But his 9-4 record in 2012 was the program's best since 1915, and in 2013 the Commodores beat Georgia, Florida and Tennessee in the same season for the first time in school history. Vanderbilt also finished in the final Associated Press rankings each of the past two seasons, including No. 24 in the poll released Tuesday. Vanderbilt hadn't finished in the final AP poll before Franklin arrived since 1948 under Red Sanders.