Bobby Johnson
Johnson in 2007 versus Auburn
Biographical details
Born (1951-02-08) February 8, 1951 (age 71)
Columbia, South Carolina
Playing career
Position(s)Wide receiver, cornerback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1976Furman (DE)
1977–1969Furman (DB)
1981–1983Furman (DB)
1983–1992Furman (DC)
1993Clemson (DC)
Head coaching record
Tournaments3–3 (NCAA D-I-AA playoffs)
Accomplishments and honors
2 SoCon (1999, 2001)
SEC Coach of the Year (2008) [1]

Robert Alan Johnson (born February 8, 1951) is a retired American football coach and former player. He was most recently the head football coach at Vanderbilt University, a position he held from the 2002 season until his retirement in 2010. In December 2001, Johnson became the Commodores' head coach, after leading Furman University to the NCAA Division I-AA national championship game. He coached the Paladins between 1994 and 2001, leading the team to a 60–36 overall record during his eight years. Prior to his hiring at Furman, Johnson was the defensive coordinator for the Clemson Tigers. In 2008, Johnson led Vanderbilt to its first winning season since 1982. His team went 7–6 with a 16–14 win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl, Vanderbilt's first bowl victory since 1955 and only their second in school history at the time.

Playing career and education

Johnson was a standout in football, basketball, and baseball during his time at Eau Claire High School in his native hometown of Columbia, South Carolina.[2]

He continued his success in football at college, where he played both wide receiver and cornerback for Clemson University. In the 1971 and 1972 seasons, Johnson led the Tigers in interceptions.[2] Johnson was twice named as an ACC All-Academic honoree. He graduated from Clemson in 1973, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in management, before earning his master's degree in education from Furman in 1979.[2]

Coaching career

This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately, especially if potentially libelous or harmful.Find sources: "Bobby Johnson" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (December 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)


On December 23, 2001, Johnson was officially announced as the 25th head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores football team.[2]


In Johnson's fourth season, the Commodores finished 5–6. Jay Cutler, the team's offensive captain that season, was drafted #11 overall by the Denver Broncos and named as starting quarterback during his rookie season.


In the 2006 season, Vanderbilt fell to 4–8 after the loss of Cutler, but did beat Georgia at Sanford Stadium. In addition, Vanderbilt lost games to Ole Miss, Alabama, SEC West champion Arkansas, and eventual national champion Florida. After eight games Atlanta Journal-Constitution college football writer Tony Barnhart stated that Johnson "deserves some consideration" for SEC Coach of the Year, albeit based on a misstated record of 4–5 instead of 3–5.[3]

Barnhart's 2006 postseason survey of ten former SEC coaches ranked the Vanderbilt job the least attractive in the SEC. Former Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer summarized Johnson's performance: "The tough thing about the Vanderbilt job is that you can improve a lot from year to year and still finish last in the SEC East. For what he has, I think Bobby Johnson does a heck of a coaching job."[4]


Johnson again led the Commodores to success in 2007, with SEC conference wins over Mississippi and South Carolina, ranked #6 at the time of the contest. Standing with a 5–5 record, the Commodores then squandered a 24–9 third-quarter lead against in-state rival Tennessee, losing 25–24 after a 49-yard Bryant Hahnfeldt field goal attempt that would have won the game glanced off the left upright. Concluding the season with an uninspired effort versus Wake Forest, Vanderbilt finished 5–7 and one win short of bowl eligibility.


Vanderbilt started the 2008 season on a 5–0 run under Coach Johnson, including SEC wins at home against South Carolina and Auburn, and an SEC road win at Ole Miss. Vanderbilt's fifth game, an October 4 match up against Auburn, was historic for the Commodores for many reasons. Aside from being Vanderbilt's first game as a ranked team in many years, it was ESPN College Gameday's first ever appearance in Nashville, and the 14–13 win gave Vanderbilt its first 5–0 start since the World War II-shortened 1943 season. Vanderbilt would go on to defeat Kentucky to get the sixth win and bowl eligibility for the first time since 1982. The Commodores lost to Tennessee and Wake Forest to finish the regular season 6–6. On December 10, Johnson was named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, along with Houston Nutt, of Ole Miss, and Nick Saban, of Alabama.[1] On December 31, Vanderbilt defeated Boston College in the Music City Bowl to secure a winning season and their first bowl victory since 1955.


On July 14, 2010, Johnson announced his retirement from coaching.[5] Citing it as a "personal decision", the decision was a surprise to the program and the media as it occurred less than two months away from the 2010–11 season. In explaining his decision, he stated: "Football is not life, but it's a way of life and it consumes your life. You only have so many years to live, and you want to see a different way."[5]

His tenure at Vanderbilt was lauded for bringing a resurgence to a team that had long been dominated by its fellow members of the SEC, notably guiding the Commodores their first bowl game win in 53 years and first non-losing season since 1982.[5]

On March 27, 2015, Johnson was added to the College Football Playoff selection committee, replacing Archie Manning.[6]

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Furman Paladins (Southern Conference) (1994–2001)
1994 Furman 3–8 2–6 6th
1995 Furman 6–5 5–3 3rd
1996 Furman 9–4 6–2 3rd
1997 Furman 7–4 5–3 3rd
1998 Furman 5–6 3–5 T–6th
1999 Furman 9–3 7–1 T–1st L NCAA Division I-AA First Round
2000 Furman 9–3 6–2 2nd L NCAA Division I-AA First Round
2001 Furman 12–3 7–1 T–1st L NCAA Division I-AA Championship
Furman: 60–36 41–23
Vanderbilt Commodores (Southeastern Conference) (2002–2009)
2002 Vanderbilt 2–10 0–8 6th (Eastern)
2003 Vanderbilt 2–10 1–7 T–5th (Eastern)
2004 Vanderbilt 2–9 1–7 T–5th (Eastern)
2005 Vanderbilt 5–6 3–5 5th (Eastern)
2006 Vanderbilt 4–8 1–7 6th (Eastern)
2007 Vanderbilt 5–7 2–6 6th (Eastern)
2008 Vanderbilt 7–6 4–4 T–3rd (Eastern) W Music City
2009 Vanderbilt 2–10 0–8 6th (Eastern)
Vanderbilt: 29–66 12–52
Total: 89–102
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. ^ a b "Bobby Johnson shares SEC Coach of the Year". December 10, 2008. Archived from the original on December 21, 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d "Vanderbilt Names Bobby Johnson Head Coach". December 23, 2001. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2008.
  3. ^ "Coaches jobs in question". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. October 31, 2006. Retrieved December 6, 2006.
  4. ^ "Barnhart: Best and worst SEC jobs". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. December 13, 2006. Archived from the original on December 15, 2006. Retrieved December 13, 2006.
  5. ^ a b c Chris Low, [1],, July 14, 2010, Accessed July 14, 2010.
  6. ^ "Hancock Announces Membership Changes to CFP Selection Committee". College Football Playoff. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved March 27, 2015.