Robbie Caldwell steps down as Vandy head coach

Published Nov. 27, 2010 11:15 a.m. ET

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.

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

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