Robbie Caldwell’s short tenure as Vanderbilt’s head football coach is over.
Caldwell announced Saturday morning at a press conference that he would step down, effective after the Commodores’ final game against Wake Forest later that night.
In his first year as head coach, Vanderbilt is 2-9 and on a six-game losing streak. Caldwell, who had been the Commodores’ offensive line coach since 2002, took over in mid-July for Bobby Johnson, who abruptly retired.
“Coach Caldwell and I have discussed the future of Vanderbilt and the football program and it was a mutual agreement that the university and the football program needed to go in a new direction,” Vice Chancellor David Williams said. “We plan to get after that immediately. But we would like to thank Coach and his staff for all of their hard work.”
Caldwell addressed his team Saturday morning and his assistant coaches were on hand for the press conference.
“Well, certainly I would love to have been here (longer). But I understand it is a business situation,” Caldwell said. “I have told you from Day One, whether it is two days or 20 years, I was very appreciative of Vanderbilt for giving me the opportunity to do this. Like I say, it is time for changes. That is the direction this university wants to go and I understand it.”
Speculation has already developed about Caldwell’s replacement.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn is one of the top names swirling around. Malzahn, in his second year as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator, has aided No. 2 Auburn to an 11-0 record. The Tigers are averaging 42.8 points a game and more than 505 yards of offense – both rank in the top 10 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Offense has been an issue for Vanderbilt this season. The Commodores are averaging just 17 points and 285 yards – both rank last in the Southeastern Conference.
If Vanderbilt falls to Wake Forest, it will be the fifth time in 10 seasons that the Commodores have won just two games.
“Coming off two years ago when we went to a bowl game, to go the next year to 2-10 was a very disappointing season,” Williams said. “So we really needed to see we weren’t becoming 2-10 again. So I think whether or not it was Coach Caldwell or Coach Johnson, we basically had some goals that we had set that we wanted to see. And we didn’t see those.”
Williams didn’t name any potential candidates and said he doesn’t have a set timeline for the hiring process.
“It will get done as it gets done,” Williams said. “That is not all in our control. Obviously, the quicker we can get it done, the better. The fact of the matter, it is the process of hiring a head coach and that head coach hiring a staff. We’ll have to go along with whatever timeline can develop.”
Caldwell kept a stoic face during the press conference but the cheery native of South Carolina couldn’t keep from cracking a joke and a smile.
“One thing I hate is my wife doesn’t get the opportunity to be a head coach’s wife,” a grinning Caldwell said. “I think she would have been a pretty good one at that.”
A majority of Caldwell and his staff came over from Furman with Johnson in 2002. Ironically, Furman has a job opening, too. The South Carolina school, which plays in the Football Bowl Subdivision, is looking for a new head coach after Bobby Lamb resigned last week. Lamb replaced Johnson nearly nine years ago.
“I appreciate Vanderbilt giving me the opportunity to sit in the seat for a little while. It has been a pleasure,” Caldwell said. “I am very fond of these players at this school… It is what it is. I appreciate the opportunity and we’ll move on from here.”