Johnson's timing can be questioned, not so for impact on Vanderbilt

Monday, July 19, 2010 at 11:45pm

To many, Bobby Johnson could not have picked a worse time to retire as Vanderbilt football coach.

The 59-year-old stepped aside last Wednesday after eight seasons on the job. When he did, the start of practice for the coming season was less than a month away, and there were fewer than seven weeks until the first game.

But the overwhelming sentiment among those connected to the athletic department and the entire Vanderbilt community was that he could not have left the football program in better shape, relative to what it was when he took over in 2002.

“Did he leave this place better than he found it?” Vice Chancellor David Williams said. “… I don’t think there’s any question about that. That’s a question you don’t even have to [ask]. This football program is in much, much, much, much better shape than when this staff came in when Bobby came in.”

Johnson managed just 29 victories in eight seasons with the Commodores.

Still, that was four more than in the previous eight seasons — a span that included three different coaches. In 2008, Vanderbilt had a winning season (7-6) for the first time in 23 years, and it won a postseason bowl game for the first time in 53 years. And there was a victory over Tennessee in 2005, which snapped a 22-game losing streak in the series.

In a way, though, it was the losses that defined Johnson’s tenure.

There were 66 in all, but many of them by the slimmest of margins. A 49-42 defeat in double overtime against Florida in 2005 ranks among the most memorable games he coached.

“All I know is we were in a lot of football games the last four or five years,” Johnson said. “I know people have to play well to beat us. We’re recruiting better players. That gives us a chance to compete. When you get a chance, sometimes your guys come through and play like champs and can beat the very best.

“… The [coaches and players] expect to win, and I think that’s the best thing I could have done for this program.”

6 Comments on this post:

By: HokeyPokey on 7/20/10 at 8:05

What a great time for Vanderbilt to give up pretending to have a football program and get out of it altogether.

Only then can Nashville begin to recover from the annual humiliation wrought by the commode doors.

By: dangerlover on 7/20/10 at 1:51

Spoken like someone who couldn't afford/get in to Vandy.

By: dogmrb on 7/20/10 at 2:30

Why don't they just play the schools they compete with for top students? Most of those schools aren't powerhouse football teams either.

By: dangerlover on 7/20/10 at 3:27

What schools in the area would you recommend? (travel is kind of an issue). Emory? No football team. Sewanee? D-II. Duke? ACC and not moving.

I don't understand what everybody's problem is with vandy being in the SEC. In every other sport they are competitive, and in pretty much any other conference, Vandy would be competitive in football. Every conference has a whipping boy; the SEC is lucky to have Vandy as theirs.

By: HokeyPokey on 7/21/10 at 8:16

dangerlover, you would be wrong on both counts.

But who's counting?

By: dgallent on 7/24/10 at 3:29

Only at Vanderbilt can someone who was 22-69 and quit five weeks before the season be termed a "class act". This man is a loser in every way...on the football field and in the way he left.

Vanderbilt pays David Williams $3Million to be athletic director and teach a few classes and be "Counsel". Now exactly what qualifications does this idiot have to be an athletic director. They paid Johnson $1.25M and pay Stallings even more.

We will begin to see more and more about the riffs between Bobby and Williams.

Vanderbilt is simply a ......mess...and everything that Gordon Gee did was to make Gordon look good and not good for Vanderbilt.

I predict Vanderbilt loses all of its games this year is gets ejected from the SEC. They have really worked hard to get this "honor".

Vanderbilt are the laughing stock of the SEC.