John Williamson began Vanderbilt’s bowling program in 2004, bringing his guiding vision of excellence to what had previously been a club team. Over the past 19 years, he has transformed Commodore bowling into one of the nation’s finest.
He has guided Vanderbilt to three NCAA championships, three runner-up finishes and four Southland Bowling League championships. During the 2022–23 season, the team captured its third national championship, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to defeat Arkansas State in the final. The Commodores also won their second consecutive Lansing Regional title.
While his approach is team first, many individual Commodores have earned success on national and international stages. Vanderbilt has had 17 first-team All-Americans, four NTCA National Players of the Year and seven NTCA Rookies of the Year under Williamson’s watch.
The success by Williamson has been recognized in a number of ways, including being named Vanderbilt’s Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2018 and the NCTA Coach of the Year on four occasions, most recently in 2023.
Williamson emphasizes winning both ways—on the lanes and in the classroom. The program has multiple members on the NCTA and Vanderbilt academic honor rolls every season. After the 2022-23 season, Mabel Cummins was named College Sports Communicators Academic All-District, and seven student-athletes were named to the NTCA All-Academic team.
Outside the Classroom, Off the Lanes
It’s more than bowling and academics at Vanderbilt under Williamson, as he has encouraged student-athletes to participate in the department’s innovative international travel program. He has led team travels to France, Italy and Australia over the years, while individuals have taken service trips to places such as Morocco, Tanzania, Costa Rica and Cuba.
Additionally, he arranges tournament travel to allow for brief side trips to historical places such as Gettysburg, the Texas Book Depository, One World Trade Center and Philadelphia’s Independence Park.
Williamson also encourages community service. The program annually has supported an effort to promote jobs for special needs adults into the local hotel and restaurant industries.
Prior to his service as operations assistant for the VandyBoys from 2003 to 2004, Williamson briefly worked in Vanderbilt’s athletic development office.
A native of Franklin, Tennessee and a graduate of the University of Mississippi, Williamson was a member of the Ole Miss football team for two seasons. At Nashville’s Franklin Road Academy he earned all-state football and all-district baseball honors, and he is a member of its Athletic Hall of Fame.
He and his wife Melissa reside in Franklin and have four sons: Landon, Eli, Gabe and Tucker Jay.
The Williamson File
Coaching by the Numbers
• Three NCAA titles (2007, 2018, 2023)
• Four-time NTCA Coach of the Year (2007, 2019, 2022, 2023)
• Two-time Vanderbilt Coach of Year (2006, 2018)
• 49 tournament titles
• One NCAA Top 10 Award recipient, first in Vanderbilt history
• 17 first-team All-America honors
• 60 total All-America honors (first, second and third team and honorable mention)
• Four NTCA National Players of Year
• Seven NTCA Rookies of Year
• Southeastern Conference Student-Athlete of Year Award honoree
• Program annually boasts one of Vanderbilt Athletics’ best grade-point averages