Johnson accepts offer to become Yellow Jackets coach
ATLANTA -- Navy coach Paul Johnson, who turned one of the country's worst teams into an annual bowl participant, was hired Friday to become Georgia Tech's next football coach.Johnson, who had a 45-29 record in six seasons at Navy, replaces Chan Gailey, who was fired as Georgia Tech's coach Nov. 26.
"Paul is fixated on what Paul wants to do and that's the next step and new challenges at Georgia Tech," Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. "We appreciate what Paul has done and we'll always remember him as one of the great coaches in Navy history. But we're very respectful of his wishes for new challenges at Georgia Tech."Johnson informed the team at an 11:45 a.m. meeting at the Navy's Ricketts Hall, where the football offices are located, said Scott Strasemeier, Navy's associate athletic director for sports information. Johnson, who is perhaps best known for his potent triple-option spread offense, led the Midshipmen to unprecedented success during his tenure at the academy. Under his watch, Navy was 11-1 against Army and Air Force and won the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy five consecutive seasons. Navy went 8-4 this season and beat Notre Dame 46-44 in triple overtime, ending an NCAA-record 43-game losing streak to the Fighting Irish. Navy plays Utah in the Dec. 20 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Gladchuk said Johnson will not coach in the bowl game. Johnson previously worked at Division I-AA Georgia Southern, where he led the Eagles to a 62-10 record and two consecutive I-AA national championships. Johnson was also considered a candidate for vacancies at Duke and SMU but informed both of those schools Friday morning that he wasn't taking either job.
"We just felt like the opportunity was too great here to come to a great institution and have a chance to compete on the national level,'' Johnson said. "If I thought there was a ceiling here and we couldn't compete for championships, I wouldn't be standing here.''
Johnson said he will continue to use at least parts of the option attack that made Navy to top rushing team in the country.
"I think that's our calling card and that's what we've been very successful doing,'' he said.
Johnson, who said he plans to continue to call plays, said he had no concern about his offense being successful in a major conference.
"During the past six years at Navy, we played 29 BCS teams, in the large part from the ACC,'' Johnson said. "We averaged almost 30 points against them.''
Johnson, a former offensive coordinator under Erk Russell at Georgia Southern, returned to the school to lead the Eagles to the 1999 and 2000 national championships. Overall, Johnson is 107-39 in 11 seasons as a head coach.
Johnson took over a Navy program that was 1-20 from 2000-2001, its worst two-year span in the 123 years of the program.
Johnson was 2-10 in his first year at Navy before beginning his streak of five straight bowl seasons. His streak of six straight wins against Army is unprecedented, and last year's senior class was the first in school history to post an 8-0 record against Army and Air Force.
"He accomplished feats at a service academy that many thought were not possible,'' Radakovich said.
Gailey was fired with four years left on his contract at Georgia at $1 million per year.
Georgia Tech also considered former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel, former Auburn coach Terry Bowden, Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher and Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Connecticut coach Randy Edsall also interviewed for the job but quickly removed himself from consideration.Defensive coach Jon Tenuta was selected interim head coach for when Tech plays in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl against Fresno State on Dec. 31. Tenuta's status is expected to be addressed at the news conference Friday. Mark Schlabach covers college football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.