Vanderbilt Coach Steps Down 7 Weeks Before Opener
July 14, 2010
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson retired abruptly Wednesday as the Commodores' head coach for what he called personal reasons.
Vice Chancellor David Williams announced the news in a post on the university's athletic website Wednesday just before a news conference. Minutes later, the 59-year-old Johnson stepped up to a podium and said he was retiring from college football.
Johnson called it a very difficult decision but one not prompted by health concerns for either himself or his wife.
"Football is not life, but it's a way of life and it consumes your life," Johnson said. "You only have so many years to live, and you want to see a different way."
Johnson's retirement comes a week before he was scheduled to appear at the Southeastern Conference's preseason media days, nearly three weeks before players report for fall practice and just seven weeks before the Commodores' opener Sept. 4 against Northwestern.
Williams announced that Robbie Caldwell will be the interim head coach after serving as assistant head coach.
"I am saddened by the fact Bobby has made this decision," Williams said. "At the same token as I've said to the staff, it's our obligation to respect his decision. I did try to talk Bobby out of it. I tried to talk him out of it yesterday. I tried to talk him out of it last night, and I tried to talk him out of it this morning."
He has led Vanderbilt the past eight seasons and went 2-10 in 2009. He went 29-66 at Vanderbilt and coached the Commodores to their only non-losing season since 1982 in 2008 with a win at the Music City Bowl that gave them a 7-6 record.
"This is quite a shock to us," Caldwell said.
Johnson had become just the third coach in Vanderbilt history to hold the job for at least eight years, joining Dan McGugin and Art Guepe. Johnson went 29-66 at Vanderbilt and coached the Commodores to their only non-losing season since 1982 in 2008 by winning the Music City Bowl.
Johnson also ended losing skids to eight other SEC teams during his tenure, including a 22-game string to Tennessee in 2005.
But he lost the top recruit of his incoming class in February when Georgia running back Rajaan Bennett, the highest-rated player ever signed to Vanderbilt, was shot to death at his home.