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Navy football coach Paul Johnson heading to Georgia Tech

By CHARLES ODUM
AP Sports Writer

    ATLANTA — New Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is accustomed to winning the big rivalry games, something the Yellow Jackets haven’t done in a while.
    The former Navy coach, unbeaten in six games against Army, was hired Friday to replace Chan Gailey, who had six consecutive winning seasons at Georgia Tech but was 0-6 against Georgia.
    Johnson, the former Georgia Southern coach, does not need an introduction to the Georgia Tech-Georgia rivalry or the role it will play in his success.
    ‘‘I’m not going to shy away from that one,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘That’s a game that Georgia Tech needs to win and I embrace that.’’
    Overall, Georgia Tech has lost seven straight to Georgia, a streak that too many fans overshadows the fact that the Yellow Jackets (7-5) have received 11 straight bowl bids.
    Johnson said he will not coach Navy in its Dec. 20 Poinsettia Bowl against Utah in San Diego. He informed his Navy players of his decision Friday morning.
    ‘‘I think I’m under the impression when you take another job and go to another program it’s better off to go ahead and cut the ties,’’ Johnson said.
    Johnson also said he would not interfere with Jon Tenuta, the Georgia Tech defensive coordinator under Gailey who was named interim head coach for the Dec. 31 Humanitarian Bowl game.
    Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich said Johnson signed ‘‘a memorandum of understanding’’ for a seven-year contract worth ‘‘a little north of $11 million.’’
    ‘‘He’s the right man for so many reasons,’’ Radakovich said, adding the most convincing reason is ‘‘he looks at his talent and maximizes it. He uses what it takes to win games.’’
    Radakovich said he and Georgia Tech president Wayne Clough are convinced Johnson will ‘‘energize our fans and fill our stadium every Saturday afternoon with fun and excitement.’’
    Johnson also interviewed at Southern Methodist and Duke this week but said he would have remained at Navy if he hadn’t accepted the offer from Georgia Tech.
    ‘‘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 was 45-29 at Navy.
    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.
    Navy (8-4) even beat Notre Dame this season for the first time in 44 years.
    Gailey was fired with four years left on his contract at Georgia Tech at $1 million per year.

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