During his seven-year tenure as head of Vanderbilt’s football program, it hasn’t been X’s and O’s that have allowed Bobby Johnson to narrow the competitive gap with the rest of the Southeastern Conference.
It’s been A’s, as in attitude and approach.
The mindset Johnson brought to the program with his December 2001 hiring — a mindset that the Commodores can overcome the inherent limitations of being the league’s smallest school and only private school in arguably the nation’s top football conference — has been key to Vanderbilt football’s improvement in recent years, local and national observers of college football said.
“Private institutions are unique in many ways,” said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches’ Association and longtime coach at Baylor University.
“I think a lot of people have a tendency to write them off because they are unique and don’t do things the way a lot of state schools do or can do things…financial and otherwise. It takes a good coach to be successful in those type situations. Bobby has proven he can strap it on with the best of them. He’s got a strong positive attitude.