Vanderbilt Stadium is celebrating its 100th season this year, and the Athletics Department has already released a list of Jay Cutler and 99 other Vandy football players representing the best our program has had to offer. It’s a pretty cool look back at Vanderbilt football and one of the country’s oldest football stadiums. I decided to give another, much more masochistic exercise a shot. I ranked every single one of the 100 seasons (closer to 99-1/2, really) played at Vanderbilt Stadium thus far. I’m going to try and provide as much context as possible around each season and why I ranked it where I did, looking mostly at records both overall and in-conference, if we beat Tennessee (and sometimes Sewanee) or not, expectations going into the season, and more as we go along. I hope you have fun reading this, although it may take 60 seasons or so before you do.
100. Derek Mason, 2020: 0-9 (0-9)
We didn’t win a single game. This is, thankfully, the only season where we can say that and for that reason it has to be our worst. It doesn’t matter that the world was locked down. It doesn’t matter if every single loss was a quality loss in the SEC. It doesn’t matter if we finally fired Derek Mason. Well, actually it does. That and Sarah Fuller’s performance may be the only real redeeming qualities about this season. Nothing could have saved this from its spot at the very bottom of the list, though.
99. John Green, 1966: 1-9 (0-5)
Next comes another season where we performed so poorly we fired Coach Green The team’s lone win came in a 24-point shutout over a middling The Citadel to start the season, but the Commodores would lose 4 shutouts of their own the rest of the year. Expectations were low this year after a 2-7-1 season the year before, and the team still underperformed. One bright light in this season is that we were technically ranked above Mississippi State because they had one more conference loss than we did.
98. George MacIntyre, 1979: 1-10 (0-6)
The Commodores once again stay out of the last-place spot in the SEC because the Florida Gators committed the embarrassing football faux pas of going winless the entire season. We at least beat Memphis State (now University of Memphis) and almost could have gone undefeated in in-state play but Tennessee came back after we got out to a 10-0 lead. The cherry on top of the worst ice cream sundae you’ve ever had.
97. Art Guepe, 1962: 1-9 (1-6)
One big fat, 20-point conference shutout against Tulane punctuated the lowest per-game scoring season in Vanderbilt history. The Commodores scored 62 points all season, which wouldn’t even win a single game against Alabama some years. Art Guepe lost his job, but at least Vandy got a conference win out of it. Normally that would count for a little bit more than it did, but Tulane exited the SEC a few years later. Oh if only they were still around.
96. Watson Brown, 1989: 1-10 (0-7)
This was an easy one to rank. No really, I mean it. Our offense wasn’t historically bad, we had one blowout win against AN Ohio University, and we kept it close more often than not. Mix in a shutout loss to Virginia Tech and garnish with a landslide last-place finish in the SEC and you have yourself the perfect recipe for the 96th best Vanderbilt football team of the past 100 years. Horrible football but with just enough reason for hope that you know you’re watching the Commodores. Man I love this team.
95. Fred Pancoast, 1976: 2-9 (0-6)
Here’s our first 2-win team of the list. Sooner than you expected, huh? Maybe we’re not as bad as you thought! No, we are. Our two upset wins in 1976 don’t really change that fact, especially when you consider we were coming off two winning seasons. This was Fred Pancoast’s second season as a head coach, following a very short, very successful coaching stint by Steve Sloan. This is where Coach Pancoast proved he was a fraud and failed to deliver on the relative promise of the previous decade of Vanderbilt football. Oh well, at least Vandy wouldn’t make the mistake of failing to capitalize on program success after a transformative head coach leaves a second time, right?
94. Watson Brown, 1990: 1-10 (1-6)
We beat LSU! It wasn’t even really a down year! They would have gone bowling if it hadn’t been for us, which I think is kinda fun. It think it’s less fun that Watson “Top 100 Commodores” Brown got fired from his alma mater at the end of the season after going 10-52 in 5 seasons. Tennessee was named SEC Champions, too, which is even less fun. Couple close games, couple blowouts, and not much else to report. I just hope that our new alumnus head coach does better than the old one.
93. Watson Brown, 1986: 1-10 (0-6)
Watson Brown was never a good coach from the start for his alma mater. We beat Duke and were competitive in a few other games, but otherwise Coach Brown’s 1986 Commodores floundered at the bottom of the SEC. We made the NIT Quarterfinals and the Women’s NCAA Second Round, though, so it wasn’t an awful year for Commodore fans overall.
92. Fred Pancoast, 1977: 2-9 (0-6)
The season opens with a 23-25 loss to NUMBER ONE IN THE COUNTRY Oklahoma. Then we beat a Wake Forest team coming off a win the next week. Two years removed from a 7-win season maybe Coach Pancoast was piecing everything back together. Nope. Vanderbilt drops the next 7 games before winning over a middle-of-the-pack Cincinnati and getting blown out in what was essentially an SEC Toilet Bowl against a very beatable 3-7 Tennessee. Wake Forest also goes winless the rest of the year. This season may have been even worse the live through just because of how disappointing the end of the season was compared to the beginning.
91. Bobby Johnson, 2002: 2-10 (0-8)
Bobby Johnson was new in 2002, a well-needed replacement to Woody Widenhofer. This was the first year teams played 12-game schedules instead of the 11-game schedules that had been common since 1970, which for Coach Johnson meant one more opportunity to lose. We beat Connecticut and Furman at home, but the rest of the year was mostly one SEC blowout after another. One good thing about this year? It was the last Vanderbilt football team to take the field before the Goldfather came to power in 2003. Plus, Coach Johnson didn’t really make the team any worse.