Vanderbilt Stadium is celebrating its 100th season this year, and the Athletics Department has already released a list of Dayo Odeyingbo 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. In honor of the occasion, I have decided to do something similar by ranking all 100 seasons at Vanderbilt Stadium thus far. I’ve only been a Vandy fan for a few years now, so please fill me in on what I missed in the comments. If you want to catch up or just rage against the Vanderbilt Athletics machine, first and second parts are already out. The third part starts below; I hope you enjoy the slog as much as I do.
80. Woody Widenhofer, 1998: 2-9 (1-7)
We beat South Carolina and finished second-to-last in the SEC. Yet another awful 2-win season. THEY won the national championship this year. Probably should be ranked lower, but I think there’s something to be said for a division win in what seems at least at first glance to be the season’s best. We only have a conference win in 70-75 percent of our last 100 seasons (depending on how you count). Maybe that’s not a good standard, but it’s something I came up with to help me on this long, long rankings journey. Woodyball continues on, and so do I.
(Ed. note: I would simply point out here that South Carolina... went 1-10 in 1998, so “winning a conference game” comes with a huge fucking asterisk.)
79. John Green, 1965: 2-7-1 (1-5)
Put simply, John Green’s third season as head coach is not why he’s in the College Football Hall of Fame. The only hall this season belongs in is some dusty hallway of McGugin. A tie against an at one point Number 7 Georgia Tech starts the season off strong, and we manage to beat Tulane to stay out of last in the SEC. We managed not to get shelacked too thoroughly in any other game save for a 34-point shut out loss to Kentucky.
78. Art Guepe, 1961: 2-8 (1-6)
Imagine if we started this season off with wins over West Virginia and Georgia. It would be a huge deal! That’s not the case here. We didn’t manage another win the rest of the season, not even Tulane. Coach Guepe’s 9th season ended with a 32-point loss to The Team Out East (no, not ETSU. The other one.) Tim Corbin’s first season as a human being began this year, though. That means that he’s about 60 and going strong right now.
77. Rod Dowhower, 1995: 2-9 (1-7)
Rod Dowhower’s first season as head coach was also Woody Widenhofer’s first season as defensive coordinator. Despite the suggestive coaching names, this team was not suggestive of success in the least bit. Wins over Kentucky and Louisiana Tech highlighted a season bookended by a close 33-25 loss to No. 11 Alabama and a 12-7 loss to No. 5 Tennessee in Neyland. The rest of the season wasn’t particularly close, but oh what almost was.
76. Bobby Johnson, 2004: 2-9 (1-7)
5 one-score losses and wins against Mississippi State and Eastern Kentucky should likely have this season higher, but it’s frustrating to me looking back at it that we couldn’t manage to close any of the close games out. I hope a certain fullback by the name of Clark Lea feels the same way about a senior season marked by a series of 3 3-point losses in a 4-game span to Ole Miss (in overtime), Navy, and Rutger. RUTGER! I hope Team Two really does take to heart whatever lessons Coach Lea can glean from Team Negative Seventeen.
75. Derek Mason, 2014: 3-9 (0-8)
Derek Mason takes over from James Franklin and the program tanks. Wins over UMass, Charleston Southern, and Old Dominion are a far cry from the season prior. Missouri won the SEC East, making this season all the weirder. What wasn’t weird was that Kentucky and Vanderbilt were the only two SEC teams to miss out on bowl season. As this list stands now, this is the end of the worst quarter of Vanderbilt football’s last 100 seasons. Basically 25 seasons of 1-2 win football. Yaaayyyy....
(Ed. note: Hoooooooo boy, the comments section is going to have things to say about 25 seasons being worse than 2014.)
74. Bill Pace, 1967: 2-7-1 (0-5)
Bill Pace takes over from John Green and immediately improves the program from its 1-win lowliness and last place standing in the SEC the year before. Most losses were close, and we won a few over UNC and William & Mary. We tied a decent Navy team, too, in what I am calling the Nautical Bowl.
73. Ray Morrison, 1939: 2-7-1 (1-6)
Comparing seasons from such different eras of college football can be tricky, but this season actually fits really well right around here. In Ray Morrison’s sixth season coaching at his alma mater, the team beat our one true arch-nemesis Sewanee (where my grandfather played football) and won what Neyland himself more-or-less called a moral victory over No. 1 Tennessee. Every other game was close, too. Two years removed from winning SEC Coach of the Year, Coach Morrison still had it, even if it didn’t translate to winning.
72. Bill Pace, 1972: 3-8 (0-6)
After this uneventful season, Bill ‘Pace’d right on out into the sunset. We beat in-state rival to end all rivals Chattanooga, proved we were the best of the Vest in a 10-7 victory over Virginia, and almost squeaked out a few SEC wins. Unfun Fact: Bill Pace would end his coaching career as an assistant at Tennessee. Maybe it was all an inside job? Maybe he just wasn’t the best.
71. Woody Widenhofer, 1997: 3-8 (0-8)
WOODYBALL! Time to have fun and expect to, um, er... win our first game against North Texas? And our third game against TCU? And we kept it close against some pretty great SEC teams this year, too. A new coach brings with them at least some fresh hope and possibility, and the first half of the 1997 season is a good example of that. We fell off a little in the second half of the season
Author’s Note: I ranked all these seasons before writing anything about them. I think if I could go back and do it all again I would change a few things about how I researched and ranked what teams where, and I think teams in this particular post would have been jostled the most relative to the rest. It’s difficult to rank any collection this large, though, and I’m happy with how this is turning out. Looking forward to what y’all have to say about some of the least notable football Vanderbilt has ever produced.