Sunday, October 07, 2007

Requiem For Vanderbilt, Again

I think Vanderbilt football is a lost cause.

I've thought that for a long time. Seven seasons ago, I wrote the following:
The year 2000 was supposed to be Next Year for the endlessly-suffering Vanderbilt Commodores. After a long rebuilding process engineered by head coach Woody Widenhofer, Vandy was considered a better-than-even bet to have a winning season and finally make it back to a bowl game (as every Vanderbilt fan is sick of hearing, the Commodores haven't managed either of those feats since 1982).

Just about everybody who looked at Vanderbilt before the season saw an experienced team, deep by Vanderbilt standards, that had come within an eyeblink of going 6-5 and earning a berth in the hometown Music City Bowl. Widenhofer was justifiably confident, and in August promised that his team would finally make it to the post-season this time around.

Flash forward one month. Vanderbilt is now 1-4, 0-3 in the SEC. On Saturday, they were utterly dominated by Auburn, losing 33-0. The Commodores didn't cross the fifty yard line in the first half, and never threatened to score. Still waiting on the schedule: Georgia (3-1), South Carolina (4-1), Florida (4-2) and Tennessee (2-2).

Vanderbilt will not have a winning season in 2000.

Vanderbilt will not go to a bowl game in 2000.

Vanderbilt probably will not have a winning season or go to a bowl in 2001, or 2002, or 2003.
And they didn't. Nor did they do so in 2004, 2005, or 2006, and odds are, they won't in 2007, either. Continuing:
I say this with no malice, no spite, and no hard feelings towards Vanderbilt University, its alumni, its fans, its players, or its coaches--but it's time somebody said it: Vanderbilt cannot compete with the rest of the Southeastern Conference in football, and it is time for VU to consider other options.

Yes, Vanderbilt does play a lot of people very tough. Certainly, Vanderbilt pulls off one or two huge upsets almost every year, and I will be the least surprised person watching when they pull off one of those upsets sometime this very season.

But an occasional upset does not make a program, and eighteen [now twenty-four] consecutive losing seasons is as close to scientific proof of futility as you're liable to find.

The freshmen of this season's Vanderbilt team [and the entire squad in 2007] weren't even alive the last time their team finished above .500. Vanderbilt football should exist for some better purpose than to provide Alabama and Tennessee with an annual guaranteed win. It's not fair to those kids to continually put them in positions where they can't reasonably be expected to win, year after year.

God bless them for hanging in there, every week, every miserable year, but enough is finally enough.

It's time for Vanderbilt to take their pride and their traditions and their undying spirit to someplace where those kids can compete. The Commodores would be middle-of-the-pack in the Atlantic Coast Conference, or a top-three team in Conference USA, or one of the two best teams in the Mid-Atlantic Conference. No, those are not places where any self-respecting SEC fan wants to see their team--but aren't they better than last or next-to-last, one season after another?
Sadly, I see no reason to change any of that thinking today. Bobby Johnson is the best head coach Vanderbilt has had in decades. He's done an entirely admirable job of building Vandy up from a punch line to at least a respectable weak sister or better--and the Commodores still can't win six games.

Vandy is a lost cause. It's time enough for them to move on, and long past time for the rest of the conference to stop subsidizing a sister so weak she hasn't contributed a dime of football revenue in a quarter century. Yes, Vandy is strong in basketball and baseball and many other sports, and there's no reason why they shouldn't stay in the conference as a non-football member. But in football, Vanderbilt no longer has a place in the SEC.


That guy said...

I don't understand how you figure that men's hoops doesn't contribute revenue, with the $multibillion CBS contract and an SEC revenue sharing policy that's exactly the same as football.

Other than that relatively minor point, though, I only wish I disagreed with you. My biggest concern at this point is how to deal fairly with every other VU sports program besides football. I think the best options in order are (1) ACC (2) Big East (3) CUSA.

The ACC probably wouldn't be interested unless the SEC could arrange a trade for Florida State, which would be a match made in heaven in many different ways and expand the ACC to a pretty sizeable urban market though at the substantial cost of weakening their presence in the behemoth that is Florida.

The Big East would be a good match too -- with a ready multisports rivalry with Louisville, for one thing. The biggest problem there is the idea of adding a new school to a 16-team league. Again a trade would be ideal, but I don't think there's much in the BE that the SEC would be interested in, save maybe South Florida which is really superfluous.

I could live with CUSA. Memphis would be a great multisports rivalry (even their baseball is pretty good, like Louisville's). UAB would be another decent one.

Finally, a lot of our fans like to point out that recruiting would suffer if we left the SEC, as though they've just discovered the Rosetta Stone. To me that's obvious in football. Of course recruiting will suffer -- but we're always ~50th or worse nationally and 12th in the SEC anyway! But if our recruiting suffers a little bit, but the quality of our opponents decreases a whole lot, then we win a lot more games.

Will said...

Yea, let's kick out Vanderbilt so that all the SEC schools could run esteemed sociology programs like the one at Auburn, admit Rhodes Scholars like Jerrell Powe, let someone arrested on felony charges play a few days later like Florida, pay for players like Bama and Kentucky, have high schools change grades for recruits so they can play SEC football like at Hoover, etc.

Do you think it's a coincidence that since 1982 (Vanderbilt's last bowl year) every other SEC school has been found guilty of at least 1 major infraction in its football program? In its history, Vanderbilt has exactly one major infraction, and that was for the women's basketball coach instructing players not to cooperate with an investigation.

Will Collier said...

Phillip, you're right; I should have said "football revenue." I've made a change accordingly.

Craicer said...

With whom do you plan to replace Vanderbilt, and what are you going to do with their successor if they don't win enough games? And God forbid, how will you go on if the new team starts beating yours?

And how about this "they don't contribute to football revenue" business. Well let's see, they provide an opponent for you to beat, and that adds one more win to your bowl eligbility. Seriously, if the SEC replaced the four worst teams with Texas, Florida State, West Virginia and Missouri, there would be a lot fewer 2-6 conference records and a lot fewer 6-2 records. There are only 96 wins per year to go around.

If it were up to Vanderbilt would leave this den of theives their own devices. But until that day I'm going to enjoy the moments (and they do come) when we get to punch one of the theives in the nose.

Diezba said...

Following is adapted from a post written in response to your post here.

Though I commented on this sort of thinking on my own blog before you brought it up this week, I just can't understand why you think this argument has merit.

Every season, there are SEC football teams who are as bad as us, and except for a stretch in the early 2000s, we beat SEC teams in football every year, both of the lower (Ole Miss), middle (Arkansas), and upper-tier (Tennessee & Georgia) variety.

Why in the world would we want to leave this conference and miss out on the money?

We usually represent the conference well playing outside the SEC (with the miserable excpetion of MTSU -- and let us not go into how much I hate them with all that I am), including our wins over ACC foes Wake Forest (the reigning ACC champ) and Duke, our wins against lesser I-A teams (like Temple, Eastern Michigan and (God help us make this true) Miami of Ohio later this year), too.

No, we don't beat the class of the SEC, but so what?

Neither does Ole Miss or Mississippi State or, until this year, Kentucky.

If the only argument for us to leave the SEC is because we don't go to a bowl game, you lose: no matter which SEC teams go to the bowls, the SEC will send the same number of teams and get the same amount of money.

If your reason for kicking us out is because we lose a lot, you lose the argument there, too. First of all, if we're not complaining, why are you wanting us to leave? Don't we give you a conference win? Don't we give you a I-A opponent to claim in your bowl record?

It would be ridiculous for us to leave the nation's best conference.

The reason folks who aren't Vanderfans think we should leave is because of the mentality they have about their own team. They imagine us Vanderfolks to be miserable and sad and down-trodden. After all, that's how they are when their football-powerhouse school is down in the dumps (witness UT before the Georgia win, Auburn after the Miss. State loss, and Georgia this week).

But with Vanderbilt that's just not the case. We don't work like that.

Yes, we hurt when our team loses, particularly when its in ugly fashion like this past Saturday on the Plains.

But the thing is -- and I think this is the reason an Auburn or a Florida or an LSU fan just can not understand us -- all of the hurting and losing and the being-the-butt-of-jokes is all worth it when we win.

When we go into 104,000 screaming, arnge-clad maniacs in Knoxville, with all their cheating and thuggery, and we come out victorious -- yes, it's the first time in 22 years, but that makes victory that much sweeter -- it is a feeling of exuberance that cannot be properly understood unless it is experienced.

Winning against a team like that, and doing it the right way -- and knowing that these kids are not stronger or faster, but that they won just the same... there's something incredibly uplifting and-- well, I really can't put it into words.

It's like the U.S. beating the Soviet Union in hockey. It's like watching Rudy get the win. Like the end of every good sports movie you've ever seen: the underdog, who has no chance but whose players do their best and try their hardest and play the right way, wins against all odds.

And that's why I cannot explain to you why we remain in the SEC, taking on the best the nation has to offer every week.

No, we usually don't win. But we try. Our players do their best and try their hardest. We play the right way, with young men who, while competing against the best in the nation on the field on Saturday, must also compete against the nation's best every day in the classroom to get the grades and stay on the team.

And when we do win, when we walk out of State U.'s stadium to the victorious strains of "Who ya with," it justifies every single year of so-called "futility."

That cheer sums up a lot about what it means to be a Commodore: it's about no matter what else happens and no matter what the rest of the SEC folk say, we're with VU, come what may.

You could say it's our own version of "We are Marshall."

This commitment -- that so many SEC fans find bewildering -- it's why Vanderbilt fans are the most loyal and the most committed fans in the SEC. It's why Vanderbilt players are among the most incredible student-athletes in the country, whether their win the national championship or not.

And it's why we will not go quietly into the non-SEC night.

Who ya with?


Maestroh said...

I'm amused by your comments about Alabama and Kentucky paying players. True enough.

Have ye forgotten Eric Ramsey? And Terry Bowden's admission that that stuff continued despite his attempts to stop it?

Do not sit and throw stones when you live in a glass house, my friend.