By Russell Lorentz for A to Z Sports Nashville
Vanderbilt Football (2-0) opened its home portion of the 2017 schedule against Alabama A&M on Saturday in front of 25,802 in Vanderbilt Stadium. A below-average crowd, given the opponent was Alabama A&M.
The Commodores averaged 31,242 per game in 2016.
The ‘Dores were coming off a MTSU game that was expected to be a victory in Murfreesboro, in which a nice Vandy contingent was present. To compare the home crowd for Alabama A&M seemed a bit of a stretch.
Sure, attendance numbers are not great, and have always seemed to be a downfall at Vanderbilt. However, consider the opponent this past week, who was blasted by UAB the week before 38-7, and it becomes more understandable. The program is making strides on the field and that’s what fans should be concerned about.
Vanderbilt has the least undergraduate enrollment, and is competing with a bigger in-state public school (Tennessee) when it comes to game day environment. It’s a battle that Vandy will never win on a football Saturday.
However, there are many sides and perspectives to the dilemma of Vanderbilt Football between its fans, and everyone in and around the program, including the administration of the university.
The Vanderbilt administration does not support the football team, doing so when its convenient. This is not a David Williams or John Ingram issue – Vanderbilt’s top athletics donor.
Instead, this becomes a Nicholas Zeppos issue. Newsflash to Zeppos, an SEC football program, no matter the fan base size will help pay for the academic side of Vanderbilt, too. Zeppos is the Chancellor of Vanderbilt University.
But one could make the argument that a good chunk of the revenue received both from the SEC and athletically each year is spent on academics, since nothing has been done to renovate either Memorial Gym or Vanderbilt Stadium in more recent years in an attempt to modernize the facilities.
Derek Mason is recruiting at a new level. Head men’s basketball coach Bryce Drew is in great contention for two five-star prospects, Darius Garland and Romeo Langford, but commitment from the administration is not there consistently from a funding perspective.
Vanderbilt has been to eight total bowl games in school history, a reason that fans need time to build trust. But Vanderbilt Football is on the uptick after reaching its first bowl since 2013 last season. Five have come in a nine year span as Vanderbilt looks to go bowling again in 2017.
It’s ultimately on the Vanderbilt community to support the program – the fans, alumni, students, and the administration too, as Vandy has shown it can be done.
It starts with the fans, alumni, and students as these players, program, and staff deserve better. Mason seems dedicated to building Vanderbilt, much like Stanford.
Vandy fans and supporters have legitimate excuses for why the progression of the program seems to be on the back burner at times, but starting this Saturday against Kansas State, fans have to show. Vanderbilt started 2-0 for the first time under Mason.
Most Vanderbilt fans hate the name James Franklin nowadays, but he set new heights for what Vanderbilt can be. Mason is taking them there, too. Perhaps further, with a more stingy defense compared to the Franklin days.
Vanderbilt students wore “Save Dudley” pins to Saturday’s game against Alabama A&M, but a good portion of those fans left at halftime – Vandy was ahead 35-0.
— #SaveDudley (@TheWorldInSmall) September 9, 2017
For the rest of the season, the Vandy faithful need to step forward, because it’s about the players, the program, and the university.
The Vanderbilt administration should figure out on their own that Mason is building Vanderbilt the right way into a winner, and success on the field would benefit all involved.
Mason is leading Vanderbilt Football in the right direction, but what direction are Vandy fans going?
We’ll see this Saturday as the ‘Dores take on No. 18 Kansas State at 6:30 p.m. inside Vanderbilt Stadium for their first true test this season.
(Photo Cred VUCommodores.com)