Paul Johnson is in his 22nd season as a head coach and his 11th as the head coach at Georgia Tech. In his first 10 seasons at Georgia Tech, he was named ACC Coach of the Year three times and led the Yellow Jackets to three ACC Championship Games. The Jackets have finished first or second in the ACC’s Coastal Division six times in his 10 seasons at the helm and have played in eight bowl games. Prior to his arrival at Georgia Tech, he also served as the head coach at Georgia Southern (1997-2001) and Navy (2002-07). He led Georgia Southern to two NCAA Division I-AA national championships and Navy to five Commander-in-Chief’s trophies. In all, Johnson’s teams have played in the postseason 19 times in 21 seasons, including a pair of Orange Bowl appearances at Georgia Tech (2009 and 2014).
His 40-year coaching career also includes stints as an assistant at Georgia Southern, Hawai’i and Navy. He and his wife, Susan, have a daughter, Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn is an accomplished opera singer (soprano) currently in residence with the Arizona Opera.
|THE PAUL JOHNSON FILE|
|Birthdate||August 20, 1957 (turns 61 during season)|
|Family||wife: Susan; daughter: Kaitlyn|
|Education|| Western Carolina, 1979 (B.S., physical education)|
Appalachian State, 1982 (M.S., health and physical education)
|1979-80||Avery County (N.C.) H.S.||Offensive Coordinator/Line Coach|
|1981-82||Lees-McRae College||Offensive Coordinator|
|1983-84||Georgia Southern||Defensive Line Coach|
|1985-86||Georgia Southern||Offensive Coordinator|
|1997-2001||Georgia Southern||Head Coach|
|2008-present||Georgia Tech||Head Coach|
|HEAD COACHING HONORS|
|1997|| Southern Conference Coach of the Year (media, coaches)|
AFCA NCAA Division I-AA Region II Coach of the Year Schutt
Sports/American Football Quarterly I-AA National Coach of the Year
NCAA Division I-AA National Coach of the Year
|1998|| Southern Conference Coach of the Year (media, coaches)|
AFCA NCAA Division I-AA Region II Coach of the Year
Sports Network NCAA Division I-AA National Coach of the Year
|1999|| AFCA NCAA Division I-AA Region II Coach of the Year|
Chevrolet NCAA Division I-AA National Coach of the Year
ACFCA NCAA Division I-AA National Coach of the Year
|2000||ACFCA NCAA Division I-AA National Coach of the Year|
|2004||Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year|
|2008|| ACC Coach of the Year (media)|
CBS Sportsline National Coach of the Year
|2009||ACC Coach of the Year (media)|
|2014||ACC Coach of the Year (media, coaches)|
|YEAR-BY-YEAR HEAD COACHING RECORD|
|10-3 (.769)|| Southern Conference Champions|
NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs
|14-1 (.933)|| Southern Conference Champions|
NCAA Division I-AA Runner-Up
|13-2 (.867)|| Southern Conference Champions|
NCAA Division I-AA National Champions
|13-2 (.867)|| Southern Conference Champions|
NCAA Division I-AA National Champions
|12-2 (.857)|| Southern Conference Champions|
NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs
|GEORGIA SOUTHERN TOTALS (FIVE SEASONS) — 62-10 (.861)|
|8-5 (.615)||EV1.net Houston Bowl|
|10-2 (.833)||Emerald Bowl Champions|
|8-4 (.667)||Poinsettia Bowl Champions|
|9-4 (.692)||Meineke Car Care Bowl|
|8-4 (.667)||Poinsettia Bowl|
|NAVY TOTALS (SIX SEASONS) — 45-29 (.608)|
|9-4 (.692)||Chick-fil-A Bowl|
|10-3* (.769)|| ACC Championship Game|
FedEX Orange Bowl
|6-7 (.461)||Advocare Independence Bowl|
|8-5 (.615)||Hyundai Sun Bowl|
|7-7 (.500)|| ACC Championship Game|
Hyundai Sun Bowl Champions
|7-6 (.538)||Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl|
|11-3 (.786)|| ACC Championship Game|
Capital One Orange Bowl Champions
|9-4 (.692)||TaxSlayer Bowl Champions|
|GEORGIA TECH TOTALS (10 SEASONS) — 75-54* (.581)|
|CAREER TOTALS (21 SEASONS) — 182-93* (.662)|
|* 2009 ACC Championship win later vacated due to NCAA sanctions; Georgia Tech’s on-field record in 2009 was 11-3|
Entering his 22nd season as a head coach, three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year Paul Johnson is in his 11th season as the head coach at Georgia Tech.
Utilizing his patented spread option offense – one of the most innovative offensive schemes in all of college football – Johnson has led the Yellow Jackets to eight bowl appearances, three bowl wins, three ACC Championship games and 75 victories. He is the fourth-winningest coach in Georgia Tech history in terms of both wins (75) and winning percentage (.581). The only coaches that have compiled more victories with the Yellow Jackets – John Heisman, William Alexander and Bobby Dodd – are all in the College Football Hall of Fame and only Dodd won more games in his first 10 seasons on The Flats (82).
In 21 seasons as a head coach, including ultra-successful stints at Georgia Southern (1997-2001) and the U.S. Naval Academy (2002-07), Johnson has compiled 182 victories, making him the fourth-winningest active coach in NCAA Division I FBS, behind only Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly (240 wins), Alabama’s Nick Saban (218) and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder (210). Johnson’s 21 seasons as a head coach are the fewest of the four (Kelly – 27, Snyder – 26, Saban – 22).
Johnson is the longest-tenured current coach in the ACC, as he was hired at Georgia Tech one week before David Cutcliffe was hired at Duke. Only 12 FBS coaches have been at their current school longer than Johnson, whose career at Tech has spanned longer than any head coach since Dodd retired after 22 seasons in 1966.
In addition to the three ACC Coach of the Year awards (2008, 2009, 2014), eight bowl appearances (2008-14, 2016), three bowl victories (2012, 2014, 2016), three ACC title games (2009, 2012, 2014) and 75 wins, Johnson’s long list of accomplishments at Georgia Tech includes:
• being named 2008 National Coach of the Year (CBS Sports);
• four nine-win seasons (2008, 2009, 2014, 2016) – Tech had just seven nine-win seasons in the 51 years immediately preceding Johnson’s arrival;
• two of the nine 10-win seasons in program history (2009, 2014);
• one of the five 11-win seasons in program history (2014);
• six first- or second-place finishes in the ACC Coastal Division – the only other ACC teams that have finished first or second in their division as many times in the last 10 seasons are Clemson (8), Florida State (7) and Virginia Tech (7);
• leading the ACC and ranking among the top 10 nationally in rushing offense every season;
• leading the nation in rushing offense twice – 2010 (323.3 ypg) and 2014 (342.1 ypg);
• compiling seven of the top 10 seasons in school history in terms of rushing offense;
• compiling six of the top 10 seasons in school history in terms of total offense;
• scoring at least 30 points in a game 63 times (going 51-12 in those contests);
• a 9-5 record (.643) at home against nationally ranked opponents (including three wins over top 10 teams);
• a current NCAA Graduation Success Rate of 82 percent, the highest in Georgia Tech football history – prior to Johnson’s arrival at Tech, the football program’s Graduation Success Rate dipped as low as 48 percent.
With the Yellow Jackets, he has coached:
• three first-team all-Americans – Michael Johnson (2008), Derrick Morgan (2009) and Shaquille Mason (2014);
• the 2008 ACC Offensive Player of the Year (Jonathan Dwyer);
• the 2009 ACC Defensive Player of the Year (Morgan);
• 15 first-team all-ACC honorees;
• 19 National Football League draft picks, including five selected in the first two rounds;
• six players that have rushed for 1,000 yards in a season a total of seven times – Dwyer (2008), Dwyer and Joshua Nesbitt (2009), Anthony Allen (2010),
Justin Thomas (2014), TaQuon Marshall and KirVonte Benson (2017).
Despite featuring two 1,000-yard runners and compiling the most 400-yard rushing games in a season in Georgia Tech history (4), the 2017 season was a frustrating one for Johnson and the Yellow Jackets. Tech went 5-6 in ‘17, marking only the third time in Johnson’s 21 seasons as a head coach that his team didn’t advance to the postseason. Making the 5-6 campaign especially frustrating was the fact that Georgia Tech led by 13 points or more in four of its six losses and saw the opponent score the winning points in the final 82 seconds of regulation or overtime three times. In fact, the Jackets were literally just three plays away from being 8-3 instead of 5-6 and came up two plays short of winning the ACC Coastal Division and making their fourth ACC Championship game appearance in 10 years.
However, if history is any indication, the frustrations of 2017 will lead to a bounce-back campaign in 2018. Following each of the previous three sub-.500 seasons of Johnson’s head-coaching career, his teams have rebounded to win at least eight games the following year.
One of those bounce-back seasons came in 2016, when Johnson led Georgia Tech to a 9-4 overall record, a six-win improvement over its injury-riddled 3-9 campaign in 2015 and good for a tie for the largest turnaround in the nation. The 9-4 campaign was capped by a four-game winning streak to close the season, including a 30-20 upset at 18th-ranked and eventual ACC Coastal champion Virginia Tech, a heart-stopping 28-27 victory at archrival Georgia in the regular-season finale and a convincing 33-18 triumph over Kentucky in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
With the win over Georgia, Johnson became only the second Georgia Tech head coach to ever claim three wins over UGA in Athens, joining Dodd (5). He is also just the fourth coach in Tech history with as many as three wins overall versus Georgia, joining Dodd (12), Alexander (7) and George O’Leary (3).
The terrific 2016 campaign came on the heels of an uncharacteristic 3-9 in 2015. Tough luck contributed to the subpar year, as 16 different Yellow Jackets combined to miss 80 games due to injuries and six of the Jackets’ nine losses came by eight points or less. However, 2015 did provide one of the most iconic moments in Johnson’s coaching career, when the Yellow Jackets returned a blocked field goal 78 yards for a touchdown as time expired to give them a 22-16 win over No. 6 Florida State, snapping the Seminoles’ 28-game ACC winning streak.
In 2014, Johnson led the Yellow Jackets to one of the most prolific seasons in school history, an 11-3 campaign that included an ACC Coastal Division title, a 49-34 victory over Mississippi State in the Capital One Orange Bowl and No. 7 final ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll. Georgia Tech led the ACC in 11 different statistical categories in ’14, including rushing offense, scoring offense, passing efficiency and turnover margin, and led the nation in third-down conversion percentage (.579) and blocked kicks (6). Tech also set a school record with six defensive touchdowns, en route to its winningest season since its 11-0-1 national title campaign in 1990, and Johnson was named ACC Coach of the Year for the third time in seven seasons.
Other highlights of Johnson’s tenure at Georgia Tech include:
• the 2012 season, which was capped by a narrow 21-15 loss to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game and a 21-7 win over Southern California in the Hyundai Sun Bowl;
• opening the 2011 campaign with six-straight wins, followed by a win over No. 6 Clemson later in the season;
• winning 10 games, claiming the ACC Coastal Division championship, earning a FedEx Orange Bowl berth, finishing No. 13 nationally and being named ACC Coach of the Year for the second time in 2009;
• going 9-4, tying for the ACC Coastal Division title, being named National Coach of the Year (CBS Sportsline) and ACC Coach of the Year despite having 12 starters combine to miss 31 games in his first season at Georgia Tech in 2008.
Johnson was named Georgia Tech’s 12th head coach on Dec. 12, 2007 after six years as head coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.
He took over at Navy prior to the 2002 season, with the Midshipmen coming off the worst two-year stretch (1-20) in the Academy’s 123-year football history. After going 2-10 in his first season at the helm (Navy’s 19th losing record in 21 seasons), Johnson steered Navy back into national prominence, compiling a 43-19 record (.694) with five bowl appearances and two bowl victories in his final five seasons in Annapolis (2003-07).
Overall, Johnson led Navy to a 45-29 record (.608) in six seasons. The Midshipmen never finished lower than third nationally in rushing offense during his six-year tenure and led the nation in rushing in each of his final three seasons at the helm (2005-07).
It took just two seasons for Johnson to lead Navy from a winless season the year prior to his arrival (0-10 in 2001) to a bowl appearance in 2003 (going 8-4 in the regular season before falling to Texas Tech in the Houston Bowl). The Midshipmen were just the sixth team in NCAA history to go from a winless season to a bowl game in two seasons or less.
Johnson was named the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year in 2004 after leading Navy to a 10-2 record, tying the school record for wins set in 1905, and only the fifth bowl victory in program history, a 34-19 win over New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl. The Midshipmen claimed the sixth bowl victory in Navy history a year later when they topped Colorado State, 51-30, in the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl.
Off the field, Navy ranked No. 1 in the nation in graduation rate during Johnson’s tenure.
In addition to turning around the Midshipmen’s storied program, Johnson’s stint at the Naval Academy is also best remembered for dominating the other two U.S. service academies (Air Force and Army) unlike any other coach in Navy’s all-time annals. The Midshipmen went 11-1 against their fellow academies under Johnson, including a perfect 6-0 against archrival Army. After not winning Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy (presented annually to the winner of the triangular series between the service academies) since 1981, Navy claimed the trophy in each of Johnson’s final five seasons in Annapolis.
Johnson’s head-coaching career began with five seasons at Georgia Southern (1997-2001). Taking over a program that went 4-7 the year prior to his arrival, Johnson compiled a gaudy 62-10 record (.861) in five campaigns at the Statesboro, Ga. school while winning five-straight Southern Conference titles and two NCAA Division I-AA national championships (1999 and 2000).
In all, the Eagles won at least 10 games in each of Johnson’s five seasons at the helm and made three-straight appearances in the Division I-AA national championship game, losing to UMass in the 1998 I-AA title game before winning national championships in 1999 (59-24 over Jim Tressel-led Youngstown State) and 2000 (27-25 over Montana).
Georgia Southern averaged 5.3 touchdowns, 39.7 points, 360.3 rushing yards and 468.8 total yards per game under Johnson’s tutelage and outscored its opponents by a whopping 21.2 points per contest (39.7-18.5) over the five-year span. In Johnson’s five seasons at GS, the Eagles broke or tied 379 school, conference, national and stadium records, won a I-AA-record 39-consecutive home games and produced 31 all-Americans. His most decorated player, running back Adrian Peterson, won the 1999 Walter Payton Award (I-AA Player of the Year) and still remains the leading rusher in Division I history (I-A/FBS or I-AA/FCS) with 6,559 career yards.
In his five seasons at Georgia Southern, Johnson was named the Division I-AA National Coach of the Year four times (1997-2000).
Prior to becoming a head coach, Johnson served as offensive coordinator at Georgia Southern, Hawai’i and Navy. As offensive coordinator at Georgia Southern (1985-86), Johnson mentored record-setting quarterback Tracy Ham, who became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards in a career, and helped lead the Eagles to a 26-4 overall record, 36 points and 435 yards per game and back-to-back I-AA national championships.
In eight seasons at Hawai’i (1987-94), he helped lead the Rainbows to their first bowl game (1989 Aloha Bowl), their first Western Athletic Conference championship (1992) and their first bowl win (27-17 over Illinois in 1992 Holiday Bowl). The 1992 squad won a school-record 11 games and finished nationally ranked for the first time (No. 20). At UH, Johnson was named the WAC’s top offensive coach and one of the nation’s top 10 assistant coaches by Sporting News.
Following his eight years at Hawai’I, Johnson went to Navy for a two-year stint as offensive coordinator (1995-96). He helped Navy to a 9-3 record in 1996, its first winning season in 14 years.
Johnson’s coaching career began with roles as offensive coordinator at Avery County (N.C.) H.S. from 1979-80 and at nearby Lees-McRae College from 1981-82. His only position on the defensive side of the ball was as defensive line coach at Georgia Southern from 1983-84.
A Newland, N.C. native, Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Western Carolina in 1979 and a master’s in health and physical education from Appalachian State in 1982.
He met his wife, the former Susan Probst, when both were attending Western Carolina. The couple married in 1980 and their daughter, Kaitlyn, was born in 1993.
Kaitlyn is an accomplished opera singer (soprano) that holds degrees from Rice (bachelor’s degree in vocal performance) and Indiana (master’s degree from the renowned Jacobs School of Music). She is currently in residence with the Arizona Opera in Phoenix, Ariz.