Dec. 7, 2007
ATLANTA – Paul Johnson, a highly-successful coach at the U.S. Naval Academy for six seasons and previously at Georgia Southern, was named head football coach at Georgia Tech, athletic director Dan Radakovich announced at a press conference Friday.
Johnson is the 12th head coach in Yellow Jacket football history.
Paul Johnson is the best fit, the best choice for the Georgia Tech head coaching position,” Radakovich said. “He will educate young men, represent Georgia Tech at the highest level, he will win football games and play for championships.”
Johnson coached six years at Navy, which is scheduled to participate in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Dec. 20 against Utah. The 2007 Midshipmen won a fifth straight Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, earned a postseason bowl bid for the fifth consecutive year and beat Notre Dame for the first time since 1963.
Johnson is a finalist for the 2007 Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year.
In six seasons at Navy, Johnson compiled a record of 45-29. He recently completed his 11th season as a college head coach, compiling a career record of 107-39.
Johnson took over a Navy football program that was coming off the worst two-year span in its 123-year history (1-20) and had recorded just two winning seasons in the last 20 years. After a 2-10 mark in Johnson’s first year, the Midshipmen achieved what many thought was no longer possible at an Academy. Johnson brought the Midshipmen back into the national spotlight with a 43-19 (.694) record over the last four-plus years.
Johnson dominated the other two Service Academies like no other coach in the school’s annals, posting an 11-1 (.917) overall record, including a perfect 6-0 mark against rival Army. Last year’s senior class was the first in school history to post a perfect 8-0 mark against Army and Air Force.
“He accomplished feats at a ServiceAcademy that many thought were not possible,” Radakovich said. “He looks at his talent and maximizes it. Whether as an assistant coach at Hawai’i, or as the head coach at Georgia Southern or Navy, he has figured out how to be successful.”
Johnson’s Navy teams improved as each season progressed. Over the last five years, Navy posted a 13-2 (.867) record over the final three games of the season and outscored the opposition 611-335 in those contests. In games in which Johnson had more than a week to prepare for an opponent, the Midshipmen went 15-6 (.714) over the last four years combined.
The Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing this season for an unprecedented third consecutive year, producing more than 350 yards per game. Under Johnson, Navy has never finished lower than third nationally in rushing offense.
Navy ranks among the nation’s highest-scoring teams, averaging 39.92 points per outing. The 2007 Mids also rank in the top 10 nationally in kickoff returns and in fewest sacks allowed.
Johnson’s teams have been successful off the field as well as Navy ranks No. 1 in the country in graduation rates.
In 2004, Johnson was named Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year after leading Navy to a 10-2 record, tying the school record for wins set in 1905, and won a bowl game (34-19 victory vs. New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl) for just the fifth time in the history of the program.
In 2003, Johnson led Navy to an 8-5 record and brought the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy back to Annapolis for the first time since 1981, propelling Navy to a bowl game for the first time since 1996. The Mids became just the sixth team in NCAA history to go from a winless season to a bowl game in two years or less.
Before arriving at Annapolis, Johnson served as head coach at Georgia Southern from 1997 to 2001. At Georgia Southern, Johnson posted a 62-10 (.861) record, won two straight I-AA National Championships (1999 and 2000), five consecutive Southern Conference Championships and was named the Division I-AA National Coach of the Year four straight years (1997-2000).
After Johnson took over as head coach at Georgia Southern in 1997, he returned the Eagle program to national prominence statistically and in the won-lost ledger. In addition to Georgia Southern’s 62-10 mark, the Eagles scored 2,855 points (39.7 points per game), picked up 25,941 rushing yards (360.3 yards per game), 7,816 passing yards (108.6 yards per game) and 33,757 total yards (468.8 yards per game). GSU scored 380 touchdowns in the Johnson Era, an average of 5.3 per game. The Eagles’ scoring margin under Johnson was +21.5 (39.7-18.5).
Johnson picked up a milestone victory in the 2000 I-AA National Championship Game against Montana. Not only did the 27-25 victory give Georgia Southern its second straight national title, but it was Johnson’s 50th career win in four seasons. Only three other coaches in the history of Division I football won 50 or more games in four seasons — Walter Camp (1888-1891, 54-2 at Yale), George Woodruff (1892-1895, 53-4 at Penn) and Bob Pruett (1996-99, 50-4 at Marshall).
Johnson took over a Georgia Southern program in 1997 that was 4-7 the previous year and orchestrated a turnaround that ranked among the NCAA’s best, directing the Eagles to a 10-3 record. He was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year by the media and Region II Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.
In 1998, Johnson guided the Eagles to a perfect 11-0 regular season record and the school’s sixth NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game appearance before finishing with a 14-1 mark. He directed a high-powered offensive unit that tied or broke 100 records during the campaign, again earned the league’s top coaching honor and received The Sports Network’s Eddie Robinson Award — symbolic of the division’s national coach-of-the-year selection.
In 1999, Johnson brought Georgia Southern its fifth national title, and the Eagles finished 13-2 while breaking 197 records. For his efforts, Johnson was honored as the 1999 AFCA and Chevrolet I-AA National Coach of the Year.
Johnson duplicated the feat in the 2000 season as the Eagles repeated as national champions, again finished 13-2 and Johnson captured the AFCA I-AA Coach of the Year award once more.
In five seasons at Georgia Southern, Johnson’s squads broke or tied 379 individual and team school, conference, playoff or stadium records, ranked in the top 10 in 21 statistical categories and produced 31 All-Americans. The Eagles won an NCAA I-AA record 39 consecutive games at home. Meanwhile, their 52 wins over those four seasons were the most in all of Division I.
Johnson was Navy’s offensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996 and his spread offense made an immediate impact, breaking five school records during the Mids’ five-win season in 1995.
Navy posted a 9-3 record the next season in 1996, including a 42-38 victory over California in the Aloha Bowl. It was Navy’s first winning season since 1982 and one of only two winning seasons the Mids had during a 19-year span.
Prior to joining the Navy staff, Johnson spent eight seasons as the offensive coordinator at the University of Hawai’i (1987-94). He helped guide the Rainbows to their first Western Athletic Conference title and their first bowl appearance, coordinating an explosive offense that broke or equaled more than 160 school records.
While at Hawai’i, Johnson developed a successful offensive unit which earned top-20 I-A statistical rankings in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense during six of his eight seasons. He earned top offensive coach honors in the WAC and was named one of the top 10 assistant coaches in the country by The Sporting News.
After first arriving at Georgia Southern in 1983 as defensive line coach, Johnson was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1985. Under his tutelage, record-setting quarterback Tracy Ham and the Eagle offense re-wrote the school record book while averaging 435 total yards and 36 points per contest. Georgia Southern rolled to a combined 26-4 record and captured a pair of I-AA titles in 1985-86.
Johnson’s coaching career began when he was offensive coordinator and line coach at his alma mater, Avery County (N.C.) High School, in 1979-80. He accepted the offensive coordinator’s position at Lees-McRaeJunior College in 1981, leading his offensive unit to a sixth-place national standing among NJCAA total offense leaders.
Johnson, a native of Newland, N.C., earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Western Carolina in 1979 and a Master’s degree in health and physical education from Appalachian State in 1982. He and wife, Susan, are the parents of a daughter, Kaitlyn.
“President (Wayne G.) Clough and I are convinced that Paul Johnson will be the steady leader, the principled teacher to our student-athletes and the point-producing conductor that will energize our fans and fill our game days with excitement,” Radakovich said.
Paul Johnson Year-By-Year
Season School W-L Pct.
1997 Georgia Southern 10-3 .769 Southern Conference Champions
1998 Georgia Southern 14-1 .933 Southern Conference Champions I-AA Runner-Up
1999 Georgia Southern 13-2 .867 Southern Conference Champions I-AA National Champion
2000 Georgia Southern 13-2 .867 Southern Conference Champions I-AA National Champion
2001 Georgia Southern 12-2 .857 Southern Conference Champions
2002 Navy 2-10 .167
2003 Navy 8-5 .615 EV1.net Houston Bowl
2004 Navy 10-2 .833 Emerald Bowl Champions
2005 Navy 8-4 .667 Poinsettia Bowl Champions
2006 Navy 9-4 .692 Meineke Car Care Bowl
2007 Navy 8-4 .667 Poinsettia Bowl
GSU Totals (5 seasons) 62-10 (.861)
Navy Totals (6 seasons) 45-29 (.608)
Career Totals (11 seasons) 107-39 (.733)
’79-80 –AveryCounty (N.C.) High School
Head Coach (99-35)
’97-01–Georgia Southern (62-10)
August 20, 1957
Western Carolina, B.S., `79
Appalachian State, M.S., `82
Johnson’s Awards & Honors
2007 finalist for the Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year Award
2004 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year
2003 finalist for the NCAA I-A Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award
2003 finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award
2003 finalist for the Associated Press Coach of the Year Award
2000 American Football Coaches Association NCAA I-AA National Coach of the Year
1999 American Football Coaches Association NCAA I-AA National Coach of the Year
1999 Chevrolet I-AA National Coach of the Year
1999 American Football Coaches Association I-AA Region II Coach of the Year
1998 Sports Network I-AA National Coach of the Year (Eddie Robinson Award Winner)
1998 American Football Coaches Association I-AA Region II Coach of the Year
1998 Southern Conference Coach of the Year (media)
1998 Southern Conference Coach of the Year (coaches)
1997 Schutt Sports/American Football Quarterly I-AA National Coach of the Year
1997 American Football Coaches Association I-AA Region II Coach of the Year
1997 Southern Conference Coach of the Year (media)
1997 Southern Conference Coach of the Year (coaches)