It doesn't appear to be a done deal yet, but The Tennessean's Mike Organ reported Thursday that Furman's head football coach Bobby Johnson appears set to become Vanderbilt's next head coach, pending the Paladin's final game Friday evening. Organ's story also ran in the Greenville (S.C.) news.
Johnson's Furman team (12-2) plays Montana (14-1) Friday evening at Chattanooga in the Division I-AA national championship game (5:30 EST, ESPN). Johnson, who was interviewed a week ago by Vanderbilt athletic director Todd Turner, has deferred all public comment on the Vanderbilt position until after Friday's game.
Had Furman lost to Georgia Southern in last week's semifinal game, it's possible that Johnson might already have become Vanderbilt's coach. But the Paladins upset the favored Eagles, which hadn't lost a game in Statesboro since 1997. The Tennessean reported that Johnson "informed Turner, along with Board of Trust members John Rich, John Hall and John Ingram, that he would not accept the position until after his team was finished in the national playoffs. He said he told them that if they couldn't wait, they should go ahead and hire another person."
The Tennessean also reported that Vanderbilt would offer Johnson an annual salary of $750,000, along with a promise to provide funding that will make his assistant coaches' salaries comparable to some of the highest paid in the country.
Johnson, a 1973 graduate of Clemson University, has an 8-year record at Furman of 60-35, including 30-8 in the last three years. He also served as a defensive coordinator for Clemson under Ken Hatfield for one year, in 1993, and before that served as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for Furman under Dick Sheridan and Jimmy Satterfield. Johnson was defensive coordinator for the 1988 Furman team that won a Division I-AA national championship.
South Carolina defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and Florida assistant coach Buddy Teevens both reportedly had recent meetings with Turner about the Vanderbilt position. But Johnson, based on his experience as a winning head coach at an institution with a strong academic reputation, appears to have risen to the top of the list.