WIDENHOFER RESIGNS AT VANDERBILT
Vanderbilt head football Woody Widenhofer resigned his position Thursday evening, effective the end of the current football season.
Widenhofer has an overall record of 15-37 in five years at Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 2-6 this season and host Kentucky Saturday before ending their season with road trips to Tennessee (Nov. 24) and Mississippi (Dec. 1).
Widenhofer read a brief statement, in which he acknowledged the struggles of this season and his belief that it was in "everyone's best interest" to resign. He thanked his team, his coaching staff and the Vanderbilt fans for their loyalty and support.
Widenhofer had previously been a head coach at the University of Missouri (1985-88) and the Oklahoma Outlaws of the USFL (1984).
Widenhofer, 58, spent 17 years in the National Football League. He is perhaps best known for his 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won four Super Bowl championships during his tenure. He was the defensive coordinator of the famed "Steel Curtain" for seven of those seasons.
Widenhofer also coached four years (1989-92) with the Detroit Lions and two seasons with the Cleveland Browns (1993-94) before arriving at Vanderbilt as defensive coordinator in 1995. He immediately established the Commodore defense as one of the best. In 1997, Vanderbilt led the Southeastern Conference in total defense for the first time in school history.
Vanderbilt football also improved its already strong academic reputation under Widenhofer. Last summer, the NCAA announced that Vanderbilt led the nation in football graduation percentage with a perfect 100% for its most recently tracked class.
"This is a sad day for me personally and for our athletics program," Director of Athletics Todd Turner said. "Woody is as good a colleague and friend as I have ever worked with and we have all enjoyed our association with him and his staff. In many ways, he's been extraordinarily successful. Our team's academic achievements under his leadership have been the most noteworthy in Vanderbilt history. Our players have gone on to successful careers in the NFL, business and graduate school. Woody has much to be proud of and we will all be grateful for his friendship and service to Vanderbilt."
STATEMENT FROM FOOTBALL COACH WOODY WIDENHOFER
Thanks for coming out tonight. I've been doing a lot of thinking over the last few days and I'd like to share some of these thoughts with you.
Many of you realize this has been a difficult season for me. I'm an optimist and I thought we were poised for a break-through year. Unfortunately, things have not gone as I'd hoped. I've come to the conclusion that significant changes are needed - and expected - for this program to reach the level of excellence we all want. I believe the best thing I can do at this time is to resign effective the end of the season. I will continue to coach the team through the Ole Miss game.
I informed my coaching staff and team of this decision before practice this afternoon. I think everyone knows how much I wanted to see this program succeed. I love coaching young people and we have some of the best on our football team. I told them this afternoon how much I appreciated their efforts. They are a great group of guys and I'll never forget them.
I told my coaching staff that I appreciated their loyalty and hard work. They represented Vanderbilt well.
To our loyal fans - I wanted to win for you almost as much as I did for me. I truly enjoyed getting to know so many of you. Time will not allow me to personally thank each person who has offered friendship or encouragement during my seven years in Nashville but I want you all to know I was proud to be your coach. We had our moments and they were special.
If I have one regret - other than not winning enough games - I wish the current administration had been in place when I started five years ago. Chancellor Gee, the Board of Trust and Todd Turner have a clear vision that will definitely help the next coach.
There will always be a place for the Commodores in my heart. I wish each of you the very best. Thank you.
STATEMENT FROM VANDERBILT CHANCELLOR GORDON GEE
I am personally grateful to Woody Widenhofer for his leadership as Vanderbilt's head football coach over the past five years. He is a fierce competitor, a good citizen of the University and the community, and a wonderful friend to many of us.
Woody has moved this program forward. He has done it with integrity and with pride, and he has recruited some of the finest student-athletes in the country - and made sure they graduated.
Thanks to the foundation he has built, we are prepared to move to the next level of competition and winning. We will look for a coach who shares that passion, and who is equally committed to making Vanderbilt football as much of a champion as our world-class academic programs.