Vanderbilt Commodores football
|Head coach||James Franklin
2nd year, 15–11 (.577)
|Home stadium||Vanderbilt Stadium|
|Stadium surface||Artificial Turf|
|Division||SEC Eastern Division
|All-time record||573–578–50 (.498)|
|Postseason bowl record||3–2–1|
|Conference titles||13 (0 SEC)|
Black and Gold
|Marching band||Spirit of Gold Marching Band|
The Vanderbilt Commodores football team represents Vanderbilt University in the sport of American football. The Commodores compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). They play their home games at Vanderbilt Stadium, located on the university's Nashville, Tennessee campus.
Early success 
Vanderbilt and the University of Nashville played the first college football game in the state of Tennessee in 1890. In 1894 Vanderbilt was among the seven founding members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Just after the turn of the century, the team enjoyed fairly substantial success, with a composite record of 20–3–2 from 1901 –1903. That same year, Vanderbilt began one of its oldest rivalries: the Vanderbilt-Ole Miss rivalry. Even so, Dan McGugin's arrival as coach from his brother-in-law Fielding H. Yost's Michigan program in 1904 showed an immediate impact. The 1904 squad outscored its opposition by 474 to four in winning all nine games. McGugin's tenure spanned the years 1904–17 and 1919–34 with a record of 197–55–19.
In 1922, Vanderbilt hosted the University of Michigan to inaugurate Dudley Field. The game ended in a 0–0 tie and figures prominently in the program's history. VU football historian Bill Traughber chronicles the event:
- The game between Vanderbilt and Michigan had a carnival-like atmosphere.
- Dignitaries and politicians were invited to participate at Dudley Field, the largest football-only stadium in the South at that time. The guest of honor for the dedication game was Cornelius Vanderbilt, the great-great grandson of the university's namesake.
- Accompanied by his wife, Vanderbilt arrived at Nashville's Union Station on the morning of the game, his first trip to the city. The day's first event was a luncheon for the young Vanderbilt couple, which was held at the Hermitage Hotel and hosted by Vanderbilt University Board of Trust.
- Thousands of Vanderbilt students and alumni met downtown for a parade with Tennessee Governor Alf Taylor riding in the lead automobile. Decorated in orange and black, their automobile began the parade at Twelfth and Broadway, weaving through the side streets to a reviewing stand at the foot of the Capitol Building.
A young Earnest Albert Craft, born in 1898, employed with the construction team that built the Dudley Field wooden stands was in attendance the day of the game vs. Michigan. Earnest was called on to raise the first American flag during the national anthem. Later, Rev. Earnest Albert Craft would become city councilman of in the West Nashville area and 40 year pastor of Sylvan Park Free Will Baptist Church in Nashville. Clippings of this event are documented in archives of the old Nashville Banner newspaper. A copy of this newspaper account is held today by grandson by adoption, Albert D. Mitchell. Albert, named after E. A. Craft, lives on the west side of Nashville in Bellevue. He was a graduated of Cohn High School and later return to teach and coach at Cohn High School, finally retiring from the Metro Nashville School system in 1898.
1922 was also the year that Vanderbilt entered the Southern Conference as a charter member. The Commodores tied for the conference championship in 1922 and 1923 and continued to finish in the upper half of the conference standings for the next decade.
In 1932, Vanderbilt—at the pinnacle of its athletics dominance in the South—joined the other SoCon schools south and west of the Appalachians in founding the Southeastern Conference. The other charter members were Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Georgia Tech, and Tulane.
Growing difficulty 
Vanderbilt football has not won a conference championship since 1923. Vanderbilt has competed in only five bowl games (see below), with a combined all-time post-season record of 3–2–1. By comparison, none of the SEC's other charter members have fewer than 14 bowl appearances. Vanderbilt has finished ranked twice: in 1948, when it finished #12 in the AP Poll after an 8–2–1 season, and again in 2012, when it finished #23 in the AP Poll and #20 in the Coaches' Poll after a 9–4 season.
The Commodores have found the going especially difficult since their last period of sustained success in the mid-1950s. Since 1959, Vanderbilt has posted only five winning seasons — in 1974, 1975, 1982, 2008, and in 2012.
This trend seemed to be abating in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, with two of Vanderbilt's post-season appearances coming in 1974 and 1982, and with several near-winning season records.
The last Commodore team before the Bobby Johnson era with a winning record, George MacIntyre's 1982 squad (with a record of 8–4), played in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama. In addition to the school's third all-time bowl appearance, the 1982 team's season-ending win against Tennessee, in which Vanderbilt quarterback Whit Taylor threw for 391 yards, marked a special season—but a season that proved an exception to years following, when a return to previous levels of mediocrity saw a veritable merry-go-round of head coaches.
MacIntyre was unable to put together another winner, and left after the 1985 season. From 1986 to 2001, when Bobby Johnson was hired, Vanderbilt was led by five coaches who averaged only four wins per season. During this time, the Commodores won only 18 games in SEC play. Included in this run were three 1–10 overall records, as well as five winless SEC records.
Bobby Johnson Era 
Bobby Johnson was hired in 2002 as the head football coach. Johnson had previously coached at NCAA Division I-AA power Furman, leading the Paladins to the Division I-AA title game in 2001, his final year. However, at the time, some questioned the wisdom of hiring a I-AA coach to lead a program in what has widely been reckoned as the strongest football conference in the nation.
Vanderbilt officials had pursued and offered the position initially to Gary Barnett and Tyrone Willingham, both of whom had steered small, private universities (Northwestern and Stanford, respectively) to football success. Both turned down the job for different reasons.
The same critics that questioned Johnson's initial hiring also derided the loyalty given to Coach Johnson by the Vanderbilt administration after his first three seasons at the school led to three consecutive 2–9 records. During this time, however, Johnson was continuing to recruit players that had been passed over by major-power schools, but whom Johnson and his staff believed could be molded into SEC-caliber players.
Radical administrative restructuring 
Along with this concerted program-development, Johnson joined Vanderbilt's Chancellor E. Gordon Gee and Vice Chancellor David Williams II in creating what the Administration called "a new culture in college athletics" at Vanderbilt. The University Administration, with Johnson's public support, abolished the Department of Athletics as a separate entity within the University's administrative structure, along with the job of Athletic Director—a first among universities in a major Division I-A athletic conference. Intercollegiate athletics are now part of the Division of Student Life, overseen by Williams as Vice Chancellor of University Affairs.
The Administration's loyalty to Johnson, which had paid dividends in his support for the radical changes in administration of the inter-collegiate athletics program also yielded on-the-field results in Johnson's fourth season at the helm of the Commodores.
Difficulty from 2000 to 2010 
From 2000–2010 Vanderbilt had record of 36–93 and 14–74 in SEC play. This averages to only 3.2 wins and 6.7 losses a year.
In 2005, Vanderbilt finished with a 5–6 record, the program's best finish since 1999.
All-SEC Quarterback Jay Cutler, the team's offensive captain that season and the offensive player of the year in the SEC, was selected 11th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos and named starting quarterback for the last five games of his rookie season.
In the 2006 season, Vanderbilt finished with a 4–8 record with sophomore Chris Nickson at quarterback. The 2006 team's peak performance came with a 24–22 defeat of conference rival #16 ranked Georgia at Sanford Stadium, the first time Vanderbilt had ever defeated a ranked opponent on the road. The team came within seconds of defeating Arkansas and Alabama in consecutive weeks.
Vanderbilt fans approached the 2007 season with considerable optimism, given the return of many experienced starters, including WR Earl Bennett and the closeness of the Arkansas and Alabama losses. Vanderbilt started the year strong with a decisive victory over Richmond, but hopes for a win against Nick Saban's Alabama squad fizzled in a 10–24 loss marked by several controversial penalties. Vanderbilt rebounded with strong wins against Ole Miss and Eastern Michigan, but the Ole Miss victory came at a cost, as quarterback Chris Nickson suffered an injury that negatively impacted his future performance and led to his mid-season replacement by Mackenzi Adams. While Vanderbilt appeared to be en route to a convincing homecoming win against #21 Georgia, a late-game Bulldog rally coupled with a costly Vanderbilt fumble in the final minutes of the fourth quarter led to a disappointing 17–20 loss. Vanderbilt rebounded with a stunning upset of #6 ranked South Carolina 17–6 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, beating a top 10 team for the first time in 33 years and a Steve Spurrier-coached team for the first time ever. It was the highest ranked team Vanderbilt had beaten since defeating #6 LSU in 1937. In the following home game against Miami (Ohio), junior wide receiver Earl Bennett made history by breaking the SEC record for most career receptions. Vanderbilt would go on to win the game 24–13. With a 5–3 record entering the last four games of the season, the Commodores seemed primed for bowl eligibility. After a lopsided defeat against Florida and a close loss to Kentucky, the Commodores went to Knoxville to play Tennessee at Neyland Stadium for the first time since their 2005 win. Despite entering as heavy underdogs, Vanderbilt jumped out to a 24–9 lead at the end of the third quarter, but the Volunteers scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win the game by one point. Vanderbilt went on to lose its final game of the series against Wake Forest 17–31.
In 2008, Vanderbilt began the season winning their first five games, beating Miami (OH), South Carolina, Rice, Ole Miss, and Auburn. Vanderbilt lost its next four games, however on November 15, 2008, Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. The Commodores finished the 2008 regular season with losses to Tennessee and Wake Forest, completing the regular season with a 6–6 record (4–4 in the SEC).
Their 2008 finish was good enough for the Commodores to earn an invitation to play Boston College in the Music City Bowl on December 31, 2008. In a come-from-behind win, Vanderbilt narrowly beat Boston College by a score of 16–14, to win its first bowl game in fifty-three years.
The 2008 Vanderbilt Commodore football team is also noteworthy because it won the 2008 Academic Achievement Award from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). This award recognizes graduate rate successes on the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level. Vanderbilt was recognized for graduating 95 percent of its 2001 freshman class, the highest graduation rate among all 119 FBS teams.
Junior cornerback D.J. Moore received All-SEC first team honors for the second straight season and second team All-American honors following the 2008 season. He was later drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
The upward trajectory of Vanderbilt football took a step back in 2009. Despite returning 18 starters from the 2008 bowl-championship season, the Commodores finished a disappointing 2–10. Numerous injuries contributed to the team's troubles, as several starters were lost with season-ending injuries, including Ryan Hamilton (Safety), Jared Hawkins (RB), James Williams (OL), and Larry Smith (QB). In addition, transfer WR and projected starter Terrence Jeffers was not academically eligible to play the entire season.
Johnson retires 
On July 14, 2010, Bobby Johnson announced his retirement. With less than two months until the season opener, the move was a shock to many players and fans. Said Johnson, "I’ve decided to retire, not resign".
Leaving Robbie Caldwell as head coach, not improving on the 2009 season of 2–10 just hours before the Commodores squared off with Wake Forest to conclude the 2010 season, Caldwell announced that he will resign his position as football coach immediately after the Wake Forest game. 
James Franklin era 
James Franklin formerly a staff member for Maryland, was hired in 2011 as the new head coach after a disappointing 2-10 2010 season under an interim coach. Coach Franklin started out the 2011 season bringing the Commodores to a 3–0 start with wins against Elon, Connecticut, and SEC rival Ole Miss. This was the best start for a new Vanderbilt coach in 68 years. After losing three games including a close loss to Georgia, Vanderbilt improved to 4 wins with a homecoming victory against Army. After losing a 28–31 game against SEC opponent Arkansas and Florida 21-26, the Commodores under Franklin defeated conference opponent Kentucky at home in Nashville by an impressive 38–8, improving to 5 wins on the season. After a close loss to in-state and SEC rival Tennessee, Vanderbilt capped the season with a 41–7 road win against Wake Forest, finishing the season 6–6, with a 2–6 record in the SEC, and earning a trip to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis against the Cincinnati Bearcats with a loss of 24 – 31 Vandy finished 6–7.
Franklin became the first Vanderbilt head coach to lead a Commodore team to a bowl game as a first-year head coach. As Franklin is the first coach to bring a Vanderbilt team to a bowl game two years in a row, he also has the most bowl appearances as a Vanderbilt head coach. He has the most wins for consecutive years (15) since 1926–27. "Anchor Down" is the teams moto it was started in the 2012 season.
2012 season milestones 
In 2012 Franklin’s team has had numerous milestones.
- The longest road winning streak (4) since 1950.
- Longest win streak (7) since 1948.
- Most times scoring 40 (5) or more points since 1915.
- First Vandy player (Zac Stacy) to rush for over 3000 yards in career (3,148)
- First time since 1949–1951 that Vanderbilt beats Rival Ole Miss in consecutive years.
- Jordan Matthews set a single-season record with 1,262 yards receiving.
- Kicker Carey Spear school record 81 points.
- Largest margin of victory over Rival Tennessee (23) 41–18 since 1954 (26-0)
- Largest margin of victory against secondary rival Kentucky (40) since 1916 when Vanderbilt won 45-0
- First time a Vanderbilt team to a bowl in back to back years
- First win at home vs Tennessee in 30 years
- First 8 win season since 1982
- Longest rush from scrimmage 90 Zac Stacy.
- First winning record in the regular season since 1982
- Four straight wins in SEC play for the first time since 1949
- The first time in Vanderbilt history a player (Zac Stacy) has rushed for over 1000 yards back to back years.
- The first 9 win season since 1915
Ole Miss 
Ole Miss is Vanderbilt's cross-divisional rival in the SEC.
Tennessee is an in-state divisional SEC rivalry.
Vanderbilt and Tennessee have played 107 times since 1892 , Vanderbilt has a losing record of 29–73–5. When the rivalry first started Vanderbilt dominated by taking 19 of the first 24 with 3 ties. After 1928 UT has dominated the rivalry with numerous win streaks and since has a record of Vanderbilt 10–71–2. The largest margin of victory for Vanderbilt was by 76 points in 1918 at Old Dudley Field in Nashville. (Vanderbilt 76 Tennessee 0)The largest defeat was 65 points in 1994 at Vanderbilt Stadium (Vanderbilt 0 Tennessee 65). The longest win streaks for Vanderbilt is (9) from 1901 to 1913. The longest win streak for Tennessee is 22, from 1983 to 2004.
Bowl records 
Vanderbilt has a record of 3–2–1 in bowl games. Vanderbilt won the Music City Bowl on December 31, 2012 vs. NC State by a score of 38–24.
|W||December 31, 1955||25||Auburn||13||Gator Bowl|
|T||December 28, 1974||6||Texas Tech||6||Peach Bowl|
|L||December 31, 1982||28||Air Force||36||Hall of Fame Bowl|
|W||December 31, 2008||16||Boston College||14||Music City Bowl|
|L||December 31, 2011||24||Cincinnati||31||Liberty Bowl|
|W||December 31, 2012||38||NC State||24||Music City Bowl|
Conference championships 
|Season||Conference||Coach||Overall Record||Conference Record|
|1897†||SIAA||R. G. Acton||6-0-1||3-0-1|
|1901||SIAA||W. H. Watkins||6-1-1||6-0-1|
|1903†||SIAA||James H. Henry||6-1-1||5-1-1|
|† Denotes co-champions|
Year-by-year results 
|Conference Champions||Bowl Eligible|
|1890||None||Elliott H. Jones||1||0||0||1.000|
|1891||None||Elliott H. Jones||3||1||0||.750|
|1892||None||Elliott H. Jones||4||4||0||.500|
|1893||None||W. J. Keller||6||1||0||.857|
|1895||SIAA||C. L. Upton||3||1||0||.750||5||3||1||.611|
|1896||SIAA||R. G. Acton||3||0||1||.875||3||2||2||.571|
|1897||SIAA||R.G. Acton||3||0||0||1.000||6||0||1||.929||SIAA Champions|
|1898||SIAA||R. G. Acton||1||2||0||.333||1||5||0||.167|
|1899||SIAA||James L. Crane||4||0||0||1.000||7||2||0||.777|
|1900||SIAA||James L. Crane||2||3||1||.417||4||4||1||.500|
|1901||SIAA||W. H. Watkins||5||0||1||.917||6||1||1||.813||SIAA Champions|
|1902||SIAA||W. H. Watkins||6||1||0||.857||8||1||0||.889|
|1903||SIAA||James H. Henry||5||1||1||.786||6||1||1||.813||SIAA Co-Champions|
|1904||SIAA||Dan McGugin||5||0||0||1.000||9||0||0||1.000||SIAA Champions|
|1905||SIAA||Dan McGugin||6||0||0||1.000||7||1||0||.875||SIAA Champions|
|1906||SIAA||Dan McGugin||6||0||0||1.000||8||1||0||.889||SIAA Champions|
|1907||SIAA||Dan McGugin||4||0||0||1.000||5||1||1||.786||SIAA Champions|
|1910||SIAA||Dan McGugin||5||0||0||1.000||8||0||1||.889||SIAA Champions|
|1911||SIAA||Dan McGugin||5||0||0||1.000||8||1||0||.889||SIAA Champions|
|1912||SIAA||Dan McGugin||4||0||1||.900||8||1||1||.850||SIAA Champions|
|1915||SIAA||Dan McGugin||5||0||0||1.000||9||1||0||.900||SIAA Champions|
|1918||SIAA||Ray Morrison||4||0||0||1.000||4||2||0||.667||Dan McGugin did not coach due to service in World War I.|
|1921||SIAA||Dan McGugin||4||0||1||.900||7||0||1||.938||SIAA Co-Champions|
|1922||Southern||Dan McGugin||3||0||0||1.000||8||0||1||.944||Southern Conference Co-Champions|
|1923||Southern||Dan McGugin||3||0||1||.875||5||2||1||.688||Southern Conference Co-Champions|
|1943||SEC||E. H. Alley||0||0||0||.000||5||0||0||1.000||Red Sanders did not coach due to service in World War II.|
|1944||SEC||Doby Bartling||0||0||0||.000||3||0||1||.875||Red Sanders did not coach due to service in World War II.|
|1945||SEC||Doby Bartling||2||4||0||.333||3||6||0||.333||Red Sanders did not coach due to service in World War II.|
|1948||SEC||Red Sanders||4||2||1||.643||8||2||1||.773||Finished #12 in final AP poll|
|1955||SEC||Art Guepe||4||3||0||.571||8||3||0||.727||Defeated Auburn 25–13 in Gator Bowl|
|1974||SEC||Steve Sloan||2||3||1||.417||7||3||2||.667||Tied Texas Tech 6–6 in Peach Bowl|
|1982||SEC||George MacIntyre||4||2||0||.667||8||4||0||.667||Lost to Air Force 28–36 in Hall of Fame Bowl|
|2008||SEC||Bobby Johnson||4||4||0||.500||7||6||0||.539||Defeated Boston College 16–14 in Music City Bowl|
|2011||SEC||James Franklin||2||6||0||.250||6||7||0||.462||Lost to Cincinnati 24–31 in Liberty Bowl|
|2012||SEC||James Franklin||5||3||0||.625||9||4||0||.692||Defeated NC State 38–24 in Music City Bowl #20 C/# 23 AP|
|1932||2013||SEC||133||384||19||.266||321||502||29||.394||6 Bowl Appearances|
|1922||1931||Southern||38||16||3||.693||69||20||5||.761||2 Southern Conference Championships|
|1894||1921||SIAA||107||21||10||.812||169||50||16||.753||12 SIAA Championships|
Coaching staff 
As of 2011, the following persons are listed as the Vanderbilt Football Coaching Staff
|Name||Position||Years at VU|
|James Franklin||Head Coach||2|
|John Donovan||Offensive Coordinator / Running Backs Coach||2|
|Bob Shoop||Defensive Coordinator / Safeties Coach||2|
|Charles Bankins||Special Teams Coordinator / Tight Ends Coach||2|
|Josh Gattis||Wide Receivers Coach||1|
|Herb Hand||Offensive Line Coach||4|
|George Barlow||Defensive Backs Coach||1|
|Ricky Rahne||Quarterbacks Coach||2|
|Brent Pry||Co-Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers Coach||2|
|Sean Spencer||Defensive Line Coach||2|
|Andy Frank||Assistant Director of Football Operations||4|
|Jemal Griffin||Football Chief of Staff||2|
|Ricky Rahne||Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach||2|
|Michael Hazel||Director of Football Operations||4|
|Norval McKenzie||Assistant Recruiting Coordinator||4|
|Joey Orck||Offensive Graduate Assistant||4|
|Tom Bossung||Head Athletic Trainer||14|
|Kevin Colon||Associate Director of Student Athletics||2|
|Dwight Galt||Football Strength and Conditioning Director||2|
|Chuck Losey||Football Assistant Strength Coach||2|
|Kevin Threlkel||Offensive Administrative Assistant||2|
|Luke Wyatt||Head Equipment Manager||30|
Commodores currently in the NFL 
|Player||Years at VU||NFL Team|
|Casey Hayward||2008–2012||Green Bay Packers|
|Reshard Langford||2004–2008||Kansas City Chiefs|
|D.J. Moore||2006–2008||Chicago Bears|
|Earl Bennett||2005–2007||Chicago Bears|
|Curtis Gatewood||2004–2007||Arizona Cardinals|
|Jonathan Goff||2004–2007||New York Giants|
|Chris Williams||2004–2007||St. Louis Rams|
|Jay Cutler||2002–2005||Chicago Bears|
|Jovan Haye||2002–2004||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Jamie Winborn||1999–2001||Tennessee Titans|
|Myron Lewis||2005–2009||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Thomas Welch||2005–2009||St. Louis Rams|
College Football Hall of Fame 
|Name||Position||Years at VU|
|John J. Tigert||Halfback||1901–1903|
|Josh Cody||Tackle||1914–1916, 1919|
|Name||Years at VU|
|Dan McGugin||1904–1917, 1919–1934|
|Red Sanders||1940–1942, 1946–1948|
Commodores All-Americans 
|Josh Cody||1914, 1915, 1919||T|
Conference recognition 
Vanderbilt Commodores personnel, including coaches and players, have received recognition from the Southeastern Conference for their performances on the football field.
Most valuable player 
Offensive player of the year 
Freshman of the year 
Best blocker 
|Jack Jenkins||1941, 1942|
Best wide receiver 
Coach of the year 
Future non-conference opponents 
Note: all the games subject to change; Vanderbilt canceled games with Ohio State for 2013 and 2014 that were both away and Northwestern for 2013 due to new SEC teams on the schedule.
|vs UAB||vs UMass||at Middle Tennessee||vs Middle Tennessee||at Middle Tennessee||vs Middle Tennessee|
|at UMass||at UMass||at Georgia Tech||vs Colgate|
|vs Austin Peay||vs Temple||vs Richmond||vs Colgate|
|vs Wake Forest||at Wake Forest|
- John Majors. "College Football". Tennessee Historical Society. Retrieved 2006–11–29.
- "All-Time Records for Vanderbilt". Stassen.com. Retrieved 2006–11–29.
- James Howell. "Vanderbilt Historical Scores". Retrieved 2006–12–01.
- "Southeastern Conference". College Football dictionary dufus. Retrieved 2006–12–08.
- Bill Traughber. "CHC- Vandy Ties Michigan in 1922". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
- Southern Conference media guide, p. 167
- As witnessed by its win/loss records to that date
- See Southeastern Conference for more.
- Source: Vanderbilt 2011 Football Media Guide
- Source: Vanderbilt 2011 Football Media Guide and media reports (for 2011 records)
- According to the Vanderbilt 2006 Football Media Guide.
- "Vanderbilt Commodores Football Schedules and Future Schedules". fbschedules.com. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
Further reading 
- Rosenberg, Michael (September 19, 2011). "Ultimate Underdog: For Vanderbilt, playing in the nation's toughest conference is a losing proposition. But the only team in the SEC that everyone can love is 2--0, thanks to a new coach who has turned a blind eye to the past". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2011-11-23.