College Football Hot Read: Vacating Vandy

Bobby Johnson used the old “spend more time with my family” gambit as he retired as Vanderbilt football coach just three weeks before the beginning of preseason camp. But you don’t just bail at that point for that reason.

The closest you’re probably going to get to any real insight on this comes from Tennessean columnist Joe Biddle, who alludes to some donors who wanted to see more results from Johnson. He says there would’ve been pressure to replace Johnson if the record wasn’t better this year, though “no one at Vanderbilt will ever admit this publicly.”

Biddle says Johnson took the school off the hook. You might also say he left it holding the bag.

Either way, Johnson did an outstanding job at Vanderbilt. Working at a school that has its educational priorities straight, he was competitive in a conference and climate that often does not.

Johnson produced 25 All-SEC players at Vanderbilt and beat every team in the Eastern Division except for Florida. And even when the Commodores weren’t winning, they were usually competitive. His record of 29-66 doesn’t really indicate the job he did.

“There’s not a great time for a college football coach to retire,” Johnson said. At the same time, we’re not talking about a Joe Paterno-aged guy here. Johnson is 59. You can’t help but wonder, what was the rush?

— GREG NORD IS BACK. It’ll be strange to see Nord decked out in UK gear after he spent so long as a University of Louisville assistant — spanning coaches from Ron Cooper to Steve Kragthorpe, but for Nord, who played at UK and coached there, it’s a homecoming. In fact, he told the C-J’s Brett Dawson in a story this morning, putting on the UK gear again “sends goose pimples up your arms. It’s a great feeling.”

— HOW BIG IS THE BIG HOUSE?
The newly renovated Michigan Stadium is once again the nation’s largest football stadium, checking in at the palindronomic total of 109,901 seats. The 2-year, $226 million renovation was geared mainly toward adding suites and high-end seats. [Detroit Free Press]

— NOT QUITE THE NEXT ERIN ANDREWS. I can’t call Jenn Brown the new Erin Andrews, since the actual Erin Andrews is still around ESPN, just in a new role. But Brown will fill Andrews old role in sideline duties for ESPN, and the Orlando Sentinel’s Jeremy Fowler reports that she has gone about it in her own way. She says she turned down an offer to be in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue. [Orlando Sentinel]

— TICKETS, PLEASE. Here’s a nice compilation by Rivals.com. It lists the least expensive season ticket for every major team in college football. The prices locally: For UK it is $237, for Indiana it is $230 and for U of L it is $143. At Ohio State, the cheapest season ticket is $2,107. [Rivals.com, “Paying the Price”]

— MORE TROUBLE FOR TENNESSEE. The man who says he was beaten up in a bar by a bunch of Tennessee football players told ESPN.com’s Chris Low: “If not for my friends jumping in, I would be dead or brain-dead. It was obvious that they weren’t going to stop.” You can follow the latest on that bar incident at the Knoxville News-Sentinel site. But no one, I should say, has summed up this whole situation better than Clay Travis over at FanHouse blogs, and his column, Tennessee Volunteers Football: The New Southern Gothic is must reading. An excerpt:

Cormac McCarthy probably wishes he’d never left.

In a little over a year, the Volunteer football team has turned into Sanctuary with cleats.

First, an offensive line recruit, Daniel Hood, is admitted to the university despite being convicted, as a juvenile, of raping his teenage cousin with a toilet plunger. As one way of demonstrating the fact that his relationship with his cousin, a latter day Temple Drake, is now repaired, Hood offers this anecdote about what he planned to do with the free tickets he received as a Tennessee football player. “The first tickets I get are hers,” Hood said.

Even Steven.

Next, two charged players, later dismissed from the team, rob two fans outside the Pilot Gas Station just off campus in the week leading up to 2009’s Ole Miss game. The victims, held up by four-star recruit Nu’Keese Richardson with a pellet gun while a Toyota Prius silently waits, are big Tennessee fans. So big that they aren’t really in favor of prosecution.

“I think they should still be able to play football, regardless,” robber victim Corey Zickefoose said. “Tennessee is my place. It’s my football team.”

“Even after they put a gun in your face, you say let them play football?” a Knoxville reporter asked.

“Yeah, it’s Tennessee. That’s the way it is sometimes,” Zickefoose said.

Even Faulkner and O’Connor couldn’t make up that dialogue.

And now this.

— EXTRA POINT: Darren Rovell (whose CNBC sports business reporting is outstanding) reports this little nugget. Who is No. 1 in early sales for NFL jerseys? Tim Tebow.

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