Think the SEC is rugged? Just try coaching Vanderbilt

Bobby Johnson, seen unaccountably smiling. (Special to the AJC)

Bobby Johnson, here seen smiling. (Special to the AJC)

So you’re a football coach in the SEC, and sometimes you find yourself thinking how tough it is to keep up with the Sabans and the Meyers. And it is tough — this conference didn’t get its reputation as the nation’s strongest by being user-friendly. But so long as you’re an SEC coach and you’re not based in Nashville, the feeling of self-pity should be fleeting.

Because you’re not Vanderbilt, which is never going to win big.

On New Year’s Eve 2008, Bobby Johnson led the Commodores to their first bowl victory in 53 years. On July 14, 2010, he retired.

And there you have it: The most successful Vandy coach in a half-century could take it no longer. Johnson had gone 21-27 over the four seasons spanning 2005 and 2008, which by Vanderbilt standards marks exceptional work, and he chose to quit less than a month before practice begins again.

According to the Tennessean, Johnson insisted “he was not pressured to retire, and there were no health issues involving him or his wife.” His only explanation: “People retire,” he told reporters.

Urban Meyer, who works at the anti-Vandy, retired for half a day last December. Surely every coach who has lost a big game with Verne Lundquist on hand has had the urge to chuck it in. But those who work at the 11 other SEC schools know they at least have a fighting chance.

Vandy does not. Vandy is always the gallant flyweight in a league of bruisers. There aren’t many better coaches than Bobby Johnson — check his record at Furman — but he leaves the Commodores having gone 29-66, having won 12 of 64 conference games. In 2006 he beat Georgia at Sanford Stadium; it marked the first road victory over a ranked opponent in VU annals.

Every job in the SEC is difficult, but there’s only one that’s impossible. At age 59, Bobby Johnson just walked away from that one.

191 comments Add your comment

Beast from the East

July 15th, 2010
7:31 am

Unappreciated job.

Mark Bradley

July 15th, 2010
7:33 am

The utter definition of that, Beast from the East.

Beast from the East

July 15th, 2010
7:39 am

Mark,
Do you think Spurrier could have done anything at Vandy, had he been hired there instead of Duke back in the day?
Do you think they’ll hire a full-time replacement or will the prez just take over that role, as well? LOL

Stockdog

July 15th, 2010
7:40 am

Coaching Vanderbilt is like being Sisyphus. Except, at Vandy you can only get rock a quarter of the way up the hill before it rolls back down. He didn’t retire because of health concerns, but if he had of stayed 3 more years, there would be health concerns. Anyway, he was a very good coach and a perfect fit at Vanderbilt. He will be missed.

Uga'91

July 15th, 2010
7:43 am

What about Gus Malzahn for this position. He might make Vandy interesting, and because he’s never been a head coach he might consider taking the job to get head coaching experiance.

Uga'91

July 15th, 2010
7:45 am

Nice Greek mythology reference Stockdog.

Mark Bradley

July 15th, 2010
7:45 am

Steve Spurrier might have been the one guy to make it happen, Beast.

dawgfan

July 15th, 2010
7:46 am

Mark, do you get bonuses for tying almost anything that happens in college football to UGA somehow? Obsessed much?

At any rate, Bobby Johnson was an excellent coach. Win or lose, he always fielded quality teams that gave 110% every game and very rarely, if ever, played the academic card as an excuse. Our neighbors on North Avenue could learn a few things from Bobby Johnson and Vanderbilt. Its called RESPECT. Vandy has it.

Good day.

Andy

July 15th, 2010
7:48 am

There has to be more to this story. If he wanted to retire, why wait so late to do so? He is leaving the school in a tough situation.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Jeff Purcell. Jeff Purcell said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: Think working in the SEC is rugged? Just try coaching Vanderbilt. http://bit.ly/926Lbb [...]

kaput

July 15th, 2010
7:51 am

Mark,

If by ‘the anti-Vandy’ you mean the second best academic school in the SEC, you’re right.

ramblingbuzz

July 15th, 2010
7:53 am

dawgfan – that’s priceless, a dawg fan talking about GT earning respect.

Lumpkin Street Larry

July 15th, 2010
7:54 am

Vandy committed hari kiri when it dropped its AD in favor of an “activities director” and closed the athletic department. I did my graduate work at Vandy, and I have to tell you that a lot of the alumni are not happy. Vandy may be “tony” in its outlook, but it’s still in Tennessee.

dawgfan

July 15th, 2010
7:54 am

Look at who Spurrier played at Duke and then look who Vanderbilt plays. Spurrier is having a hard enough time finding success at South Carolina. What a laughable question.

Mikey in SAV

July 15th, 2010
7:55 am

When the coaching rankings were being tossed about a few weeks ago, of course Meyer and Saban were 1 and 2 but Bobby got some love from some writers that put him in the top 5- not on his record, but on his ability to make chicken salad out of chicken ___. He truly is the epitome of class and will be missed.

Yoda

July 15th, 2010
7:55 am

Andy….Johnson just decided it was time, I should know I did the same thing 3 yr ago at 53…just woke one morning and realized I had enough money and wanted more than a 9-5 and quit. Nothing more nothing less.

ramblingbuzz

July 15th, 2010
7:56 am

I agree with Andy about the timing. It leaves Vandy between a rock and hard place with football season only 6 weeks away.

Savannah116

July 15th, 2010
7:56 am

I think it’s time Vanderbilt discovers their inner pirate… Mike Leach for Vandy

dawgfan

July 15th, 2010
7:56 am

ramblingbuzz, I don’t believe I was stuttering. That’s what I said. You whiny sniveling little Techies think you have it so hard because of calculus and a few management classes. Try Vandy’s shoes on for size and then run your mouths crybabies. That’s all I’m saying.

TommyP

July 15th, 2010
7:58 am

Always liked that guy. Classy coach that made Vandy competitive on the field.

I remember South Carolina being ranked something like #6 in the nation and then Vandy shocked them.

Seems Vandy also did a little damage when Woody Widenhofer was the defensive coordinator but that’s about all the success I can remember pre-Johnson.

They need an offensive mastermind in there. You have to outscheme when you’re at Vandy.

ramblingbuzz

July 15th, 2010
7:59 am

DF – UGA = no class, that’s all I’m saying.

eddie

July 15th, 2010
8:01 am

the reason why vandy is so tough is because most of the players at UGA and yes TECH could not get into tech. Tech uses their admission standards as a crutch but they are not in the same league as Vandy.

Stockdog

July 15th, 2010
8:06 am

I believe the reason that Johnson waited so late to resign, was to ensure one of his assistants got the job on an interim basis to prove that said assistant could get the job done. Just saying!

Hunker Down

July 15th, 2010
8:08 am

Johnson has always come across to me as a classy person and a good coach in a tough situation.

sc ace

July 15th, 2010
8:11 am

Well… any chance he’d consider coming back home to Furman? We sure could use him back (lets just say his replacement at FU is not going to be a candidate at vandy. ..)

bamaguy

July 15th, 2010
8:12 am

Given that I do believe him to be a class act, and the timing of his “retirement” there has to be more to this story.

My Vandy story is being up there for a Bama game a couple of years back, and a well dressed elderly alumni with a seat next to mine asked me “What do you think it would take for us to be able to beat you?”. I replied “You have to get rid of those pesky academic standards, they are holding your coach back”. He just smiled..

All you Vandy...

July 15th, 2010
8:12 am

…apologists re: their academic standards do know that “most” of their athletes, in every sport, do not attend Vandy “proper” but Peabody College (their satellite campus), don’t you? It’s like attending Emory at Oxford (here in Atlanta, er, near Atlanta) and telling everyone you go to Emory because they are related, but not in the same sphere academically…

Mr. Obvious

July 15th, 2010
8:13 am

I hear Bobby Bowden isn’t doing anything right now…

Paddy

July 15th, 2010
8:15 am

Correct me if I am wrong. It was my understanding that it is tougher to get into Vandy than Duke. Can I get a Yea or Nay on this?

Herschel Talker

July 15th, 2010
8:16 am

We should fire Mark Richt and hire Bobby Johnson. Not only would he get the program cleaned up, but I bet he’d beat Florida more than 20% of the time.

rduck

July 15th, 2010
8:17 am

Really respect the job and effort he put in at Vandy. Can’t help but wonder about the strange timing of his departure though. Just a short time before starting fall practices. He has kinda left the Commadors in a bind…

rduck

July 15th, 2010
8:19 am

drink another one Eddie… your post makes no sense..

Andre "Pulpwood" Smith

July 15th, 2010
8:19 am

Vandy needs to strongly consider the Navy coach. Run the triple option, which would allow Vandy to recruit smaller, quicker linemen.

Hunker down you hairy Dores!

I wonder

July 15th, 2010
8:21 am

whoa whoa, dawgfan. Simmer down boy. uga is a JOKE and irrelevant. Vandy is a great school, but also irrelevant. GT is a great school, made a BCS bowl last year, and will compete again this year…… uga will be 8-4 and crying about richt again, with 2 more arrests still to go this summer. Your program is an embarassment to GA! Serioiusly, it is crooked from the top down. Can’t expect your moron players to act right when your AD acts the way he does…

bamaguy

July 15th, 2010
8:24 am

All you Vandy: Most top players at all the SEC schools would not have been admitted to the school they play for were they not athletic scholarship players. Unless I misunderstand, they are only required to meet the school’s minimum admission requirements, which means they would never have made the cut under the normal admission process. How many of the top ten recruits at any SEC school would have been admitted on their academic record alone?

Chronos

July 15th, 2010
8:25 am

How is it that an article about Vandy degrades into a fight between Tech and Uga fans? This is getting very old. Grow up.

Andre "Pulpwood" Smith

July 15th, 2010
8:25 am

“All you Vandy”, get your facts striaght. Peabody College is not a satellite campus at all. Peabody is Vandy’s education school, no different than the education school at any other SEC school. The requirements for admission to Peabody are the same for any other school at Vandy.

Juice

July 15th, 2010
8:27 am

I had the pleasure of meeting coach Johnson a couple of times, he went out of his way to thank everyone at the golf course who had a hand in putting on the event. He will be missed and Vandy has lost a good man… best wishes coach…..

vandyfan

July 15th, 2010
8:33 am

Re: All you Vandy… Did you know that the “satellite campus” of Peabody College is located in the middle of the Vandy campus and is one of four prestigious colleges that comprise Vanderbilt University? The other three are Arts and Science, Blair School of Music, and Engineering.

GDAWG65

July 15th, 2010
8:34 am

Wrong. Tech WAS a great school when the only program it offered was engineering. It’s just a North Ave dump now.

frank james

July 15th, 2010
8:35 am

Bobby Johnson did a great job at Vandy. I really feel for him as he had a couple of kids killed as a result of this culture our society is willing to accept. Coach Johnson will be missed and hopefully his long time assitant will get the job full time. I feel that is what Coach Johnson wanted.

Chainsaw

July 15th, 2010
8:38 am

I don’t expect it, but I hope there’s not a Damon Evansesque shoe about to drop.

Hey, Paddy...

July 15th, 2010
8:42 am

…ALL colleges have their minimum acceptance standards for admission of athletes, with the bare minimum being whatever the conference they are in utilizes. Having said that, ALL colleges have weaker admissions standards for athletes than for the regular students (all, except West Point, The Naval Academy and The Air Force Academy – and all of them have Prep schools for their “not up to standard admission” athletes).

So, no, Vandy athletes would not necessarily have had an easier time getting into Duke, just as GT athletes would not necessarily have an easier time getting admitted to UGA…

frank james

July 15th, 2010
8:43 am

I Wonder – I agree UGA has made many mistakes lately. I guess you forgot about your former player and coach caught with dope. If you look in your closet I’m sure you will find some things that you are not proud of. The trouble is, it is like the news. Everybody loves controversy and all this negative stuff when there are plenty of good kids, coaches and fans that just love their schools and represent them well.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

July 15th, 2010
8:44 am

When you are a little dog and your a$$ has been painted and a rash has developed and you go to see the AD and he’s lost his job and the head football coach won’t talk to you because he doesn’t use the word “a$$”, then you can understand the complexities of football in the SEC.

JB

July 15th, 2010
8:44 am

Great guy…..one of the good guys…..That said, Clemson and Vandy need to swap conferences, not that being in the ACC would help Vandy that much record wise, but the image/academic of Vandy fits the ACC better and the Football Factory win at any cost of the SEC fits Clemson better…. I’m a UGA guy, but this is the truth. Make the switch……

papadawg

July 15th, 2010
8:45 am

Why is Vandy even in the SEC. They need to be in a conference with schools like Duke, Wm & Mary AND GT

frank james

July 15th, 2010
8:46 am

Hey Paddy – You are right. Every school has their formulas. Alot of athletes are allowed in when the regular student isn’t. And I hate to tell these Tech people, your school is one of them.

JB

July 15th, 2010
8:46 am

Still funny stuff Russ, although I think you are a Tech fan….Ok. I know you are……Russ is undefeated.
Paint it any color as long as he keeps us winning….LOL

So Proud

July 15th, 2010
8:49 am