Whoa, Bobby Johnson retired? Why?
He's retiring for "personal reasons" effective the end of July. He sounds like he simply decided along with his wife that the life they're living now is not one they want to lead anymore. Given how it's very tough on both a person and on a marriage to be a college head coach, it does make sense. He sounds like he just wants to move on with his life without the daily grind of being a football coach.
We still don't know what prompted the decision or why it had to be now, other than he said that he didn't want a "lame duck" situation after the team struggled last year. He essentially said that he couldn't be the coach even for one season now that his heart isn't in it anymore. It also sounded like all the losing has worn him down.
For now, Vandy's going with an interim coach in assistant head coach Robbie Caldwell. Given that SEC Media Days is next week and summer practice is opening soon, they can't leave the position open like you would during a normal coaching search. From the sounds of the press conference, it seems likely that Vanderbilt is going to soldier on with the staff it has for now especially since Johnson's retirement doesn't officially take effect for another two weeks. There are no plans for a full-scale coaching search.
UPDATE: Clay Travis reported on Nashville radio station 104.5 FM that Caldwell has been told that he will be head coach the whole season. No word on whether or not there will be a full-fledged coaching search in December.
What is Johnson's legacy at Vandy?
Sterling. His overall record isn't stellar and he oversaw plenty of bad losses, but Vandy went from a doormat to a team that could beat you if you weren't playing attention. He beat every SEC team except Florida (EDIT: and Alabama and LSU), during his time there, and a questionable call saved the Gators' skins in a double overtime thriller in 2005. He also got Vandy to a bowl for the first time since 1982 and won a bowl for the first time since the '50s. His legacy is secure.
Who are the juicy names being thrown around at random for if/when a coaching search happens?
Given that Vanderbilt is in Nashville and Nashville is in Tennessee, the name Phillip Fulmer was one of the first ones anyone threw out. Pirate lovers have been promoting Mike Leach for the job, given that he's available and always an interesting guy. Those are the big two right now. Jokers are tossing out Ron Prince's name for fun, but there's no way Vandy even considers him.
Why won't they come?
Well for one, Vanderbilt doesn't pay well. No one knows what Johnson made, but every estimate I've seen put his salary at roughly $1 million a year. That puts VU in the top half of college football, but that level combined with Vandy's disadvantages (strict academic requirements, no AD, facilities, etc.) means that a big name likely isn't coming to Nashville. If either wants to coach again (Leach certainly, Fulmer maybe), they can find a better job seven months from now. Plus, Vandy may not want to embrace the controversial Leach, given how he left his last job.
Who likely is going to come?
Johnson himself came from Furman, so a I-AA head coach is a possibility. Also realistic would be a coordinator somewhere who's looking to make a name for himself. If Mississippi State could convince Dan Mullen to leave his plumb job at Florida to coach in Starkville for $200,000 a year more than what Vandy paid Johnson, Vanderbilt could find a good coordinator to take the job.
Less likely is a head coach at a non-BCS program. If a guy is a real up-and-comer (like MTSU's Rick Stockstill), he can wait to find a better job this winter. If a guy is not a real up-and-comer, then why would VU go hire him? It's not impossible, but I wouldn't count on it.
What should Vanderbilt look for?
A good offensive mind, for one. Vandy has never been that great offensively, but last year's 8.9 points per game in conference play was a nasty nadir. While perusing the offensive-minded candidates, it'd be worth it to find someone who has an unconventional offense that makes the most of limited talent. Vandy is always going to have limited talent compared to most of the rest of the conference.
Just for fun, pull a name from your rear. Who do you think Vandy should go for?
You want a guy who can win under pretty strict academic requirements. You want a guy with an offensive mind, and preferably one with an attack that maximizes its players. If possible, you want a guy who's not going to lose to Army again.
Putting Leach aside, that sounds an awful lot like Navy's Ken Niumatalolo to me. Vandy can give him more money than Navy can, and the SEC is a step up from where the Naval academy is at. But, if Tennessee can't convince Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun to come to Knoxville, I wonder what Vanderbilt's chances at being able to get Niumatalolo out of Annapolis would be. Probably not good.