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.