Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson Retires
The relationship between long-suffering Commodore fans and respected head coach Bobby Johnson came to an end on the afternoon of July 14, 2010.
Johnson advised Vanderbilt officials he will retire effective at the end of this month.
The record book states Vanderbilt has won 29 and lost 66 during the past eight seasons with Coach Johnson at the helm.
How, then, did Johnson become such a revered figure among Commodore fans and opponents, as well as a person of nationwide stature among his peers?
Perhaps the answers are there, if one looks hard enough.
The following is a review of the life and times of recently retired coach Bobby Johnson of Vanderbilt.
Why Did Bobby Johnson Retire?
Coach Johnson was somewhat irritated when information concerning his retirement leaked out to some of his players before he was given the opportunity to personally address them.
When the Commodore headman met with the media on Wednesday he identified a simple and obvious reason for leaving at this time.
"Football is life, but life is not football."
Bobby Johnson related his personal belief of what it takes to be a successful coach to a 100 percent commitment. He added that he did not feel that intensity was in him now.
"I decided to retire, not resign," said Johnson. "It was a decision (which) my wife Catherine and I (see picture) struggled, it is about what we want to do with our lives."
Johnson advised the Vanderbilt officials of his decision and assistant coach Robbie Caldwell was named interim coach.
Whether Caldwell continues to hold the position in the future is apparently an open question, perhaps to be settled by the performance of the Commodores on the field.
Vice Chancellor David Williams said he tried to "talk Bobby out of it but, it is a personal decision and we respect his decision."
Once, Twice, Three Times a Leader of the Commodores
The effect of a coach on the hopes and dreams of young people is seen in how they react to adversity.
For the men who played for Bobby Johnson, they have faced a trifecta of adversity during their time in Nashville.
First, a competitive season in a top conference. Second, the challenge to stay academically eligible at the outstanding temple of higher learning in the state of Tennessee.
Third, they must now deal with the prospect of playing this season without their leader standing on the sidelines.
The current Commodore players have already proved to be up for the first two obstacles, we shall see if they have learned how to perform in the absence of Bobby Johnson in 2010.
Who Is Bobby Johnson Anyway?
Bobby Johnson is not someone who just happened to be in the news because of his retirement. Coach Johnson has been around college football for 40 years.
His path has intersected with longtime college fans over the decades, perhaps without many realizing it.
Bobby Johnson was a defensive back at Clemson in the early 1970s. He was in school the final year of the legendary coach Frank Howard but played his football for former Alabama defensive back Hootie Ingram.
Ingram was quite a teacher of playing the corner, having intercepted 11 passes in the 1953 season. He passed along that knowledge to Johnson, who led Clemson in interceptions during the 1971 and '72 seasons.
A visionary leader, Ingram created the actual "Tiger Paw" still used by Clemson, and went on to become athletic director at Florida State and Alabama.
After his playing days in Death Valley, Johnson became a longtime assistant coach at Furman University. He spent many seasons under the watchful eye of headman Dick Sheridan, who later left for N.C. State.
When Johnson became head coach at Furman, he took the Paladins to the national championship game in 2001, losing to Montana 13-6.
Along the way, in '01, Furman defeated arch-rival and close friend Paul Johnson's powerful Georgia Southern Eagles in the semifinals.
Following that season, both Johnsons left for "major college" positions, Paul at The Naval Academy and Bobby at Vanderbilt.
Interestingly enough, the Johnsons met for what appears to be the final time just last year in Nashville. Paul, by now the top man at Ga. Tech and headed for the ACC Championship, overwhelmed Bobby's courageous Commodores by the final count of 56-31.
The more things change.
What Does This Mean For The 2010 Season?
For the 2010 season in Nashville, the departure of Bobby Johnson answers some questions while opening the door to several decisions which must be addressed by officials of Vanderbilt University.
Bobby Johnson was respected by his peers. He brought a winning season to Vandy in 2008 which resulted in a Bowl victory over Boston College. This may not appear unusual until one realizes the Commodores had only one other winning season in the past 30 years.
But, Johnson was facing a perception problem among SEC followers going into 2010. The perception that his teams were always prepared, tough, smart, and usually lost.
While 29 wins against 66 losses is not Rockne-like but, he did create a competitive sense of accomplishment in the Music City.
Can Robbie Caldwell keep the ball rolling? The rest will be a matter of how well the Commodores remember the lessons they have been taught.
The early analysis is Vanderbilt will shock the world if they win more than four games.
Somehow, that doesn't seem to be an adequate testimony to the accomplishments of Bobby Johnson.