Caldwell resigns as Vanderbilt coach
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.