Robbie Caldwell steps down as Vandy head coach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Robbie Caldwell resigned as Vanderbilt’s head

football coach on Saturday, hours before the Commodores concluded their

season against Wake Forest.

The school said

Caldwell’s resignation will be effective after Saturday night’s season

finale. Caldwell was assistant head coach and offensive line coach

under Bobby Johnson before taking over in mid-July, when Johnson

announced his unexpected retirement.

Caldwell met Saturday morning with vice chancellor David Williams where

they agreed that he should leave. Vanderbilt is hiring a search firm to

look for a new coach.

“The program had not

progressed like we had hoped. That was the thing,” Caldwell said at a

hastily called news conference. “I would hope to see some changes made,

do some things. The new coach I’m sure will get that opportunity.”

The Commodores are just 2-9 in Caldwell’s first try as a head coach,

went 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference and have lost six straight.

Caldwell, who had brought so much attention to Vanderbilt with his

Southern accent and colorful phrases, broke the news to his players

before the news conference.

“Certainly, I

would love to be here, but I understand this is a business situation,”

Caldwell said. “I told you from Day One, whether it’s two days or 20

years, I was very appreciative of Vanderbilt giving me an opportunity

to do this. But like I said, there’s time for changes. That’s the

direction the university wants to go, and I understand it.”

Caldwell had been talking the past couple weeks about how he wasn’t

sure if he would be back after this season. He had wanted an entire

offseason to make major changes, but he just didn’t have enough time.

His biggest change was swapping offensive coordinators in October, a

move that improved offensive production only a bit.

Vanderbilt still ranks 115th out of 120 FBS teams in total offense, averaging 285.1 yards.

Caldwell said he wasn’t sure if the news of his leaving will motivate

the Commodores against Wake Forest. He said he just wants them to win

for themselves.

Coaches in their first

season at Vanderbilt have struggled to win more than a couple games.

Fred Pancoast debuted by going 7-4 in 1975. Since then, Gerry DiNardo

went 5-6 in 1991 and Woody Widenhofer was 3-8 in 1997. Johnson was 2-10

in his first season in 2002, and 2-10 last season.

David Williams, the vice chancellor in charge of athletics, thanked

Caldwell and his assistants. Most of the coaches came in with Johnson

and led Vanderbilt to a Music City Bowl victory in 2008, the program’s

first bowl appearance since 1982.

That

success helped grow expectations for the football program, and Williams

said Johnson’s retirement at an “inopportune time” didn’t change the

goals for the Commodores.

“We really

needed to see that we weren’t going 2-10 again. I think that whether or

not it was coach Caldwell or coach Johnson, we basically had some goals

that we had set down that we wanted to see, and we didn’t see those,”

Williams said.

The Commodores will be

looking for a new coach for the first time since the end of the 2001

season, and it will be the first time Williams has conducted a major

search since Vanderbilt eliminated its athletic department.

Vanderbilt has hired Parker Executive Search out of Atlanta to assist

the search. Williams said he and Dan Parker are friends, and Williams

said further input will come from himself, the Chancellor and some

athletic staff. Williams said they want someone who values academics

with a proven track on graduation rates and runs a program.

Williams said they want someone who’s passionate with a plan in place

for Vanderbilt. They aren’t necessarily looking for someone who has

been a head coach, and whoever is hired can decide whether or not to

keep the rest of the current coaching staff.

Williams wants to move as quickly as possible.

“But I don’t have a hard and fast timetable,” Williams said. “I don’t

want the timetable to be such that it would rule out any potential

candidates.”

That list could include Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who will be coaching into January, and Tommy Bowden.

Updated November 27, 2010