Look, Chancellor Zeppos. We get it.
We get that Vanderbilt University is a university with a football program, not, to paraphrase VandyImport’s assessment of the other 13 schools in the Southeastern Conference, a football program with a university.
We get that the average Vanderbilt student cares a lot more about having a nice dorm room to crash in than having a nice seat at the football stadium that many of them rarely actually use anyway.
We understand that having a good football team associated with Vanderbilt University will have exactly zero effect on the value of our degrees from the university — but your work to improve the quality of the academic experience at the university and its overall reputation has more than done that.
We even understand that telling potential university donors that they can donate money to build a new, on-campus football stadium might cause some of them to donate to that instead of the $600 million capital project currently ongoing at Vanderbilt. We really do understand this.
These are all defenses that you could be making for why Vanderbilt is doing nothing about the eyesore of a football stadium that last underwent a major renovation in 1981, before probably any of the people who write for this here website (and probably most of the people who comment on it, too) were even born.
Instead, Adam Sparks’ recent article about the Tennessean detailing Vanderbilt’s efforts to derail funding for Vanderbilt Stadium renovations contained, well, this:
The Tennessean’s request to interview Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos for this story was declined.
That drew another column from Joe Rexrode calling out, well, the lack of comment.
Most of the readers here know that when I’m not writing for Anchor of Gold, I’m a criminal defense lawyer. In my world, “no comment” is advisable. In fact, we even have a phrase for it. Pleading the Fifth. You have a law degree. You know this.
And sometimes, no comment is the best course of action. It’s not here.
Yes, Vanderbilt needs a new football stadium, or at least a massive renovation to the current one. That case has been made very well, not just in the pages of the Tennessean, but in plenty of other outlets. Hell, you can go on Twitter if you have a chance and check out what the most committed Vanderbilt football fans, and former players, have to say on the subject. It’s literally a daily topic of conversation on the internet. Some of that, to be sure, has to do with the recent articles in the Tennessean — which, again, have zero input on your end, which I’m sure is by design.
You could be making the case for why Vanderbilt doesn’t need to do anything about the stadium. Instead, you’re declining comment, and you’re allowing fans and alumni to insert their own assumptions about what your rationale for inaction is. And some of those are pretty darn ugly. Zeppos doesn’t care about the football team. Zeppos doesn’t even want Vanderbilt to have a football team, or at least not one that competes at the highest level. Zeppos just wants to cash the SEC Network revenue checks and do God knows what with them. Zeppos is a nerd who’s getting his revenge on all the jocks who were mean to him. You can probably find even nastier things than that if you want to search Twitter.
The most we’ve heard about the subject was an idea last year to move the team off-campus to a yet-to-be-built soccer stadium for Nashville’s newly-awarded MLS team. That was an awful idea that was thankfully nixed, but that also means nothing is getting done. And now, even worse, we don’t know why nothing is getting done.
The only thing “no comment” is doing is getting fans and alumni even more riled up. At some point, either Vanderbilt is going to announce plans for a new football stadium or Vanderbilt is going to tell the fans why, exactly, Vanderbilt doesn’t need a new football stadium.
“No comment” is no defense. It’s worse than a defense. At least we’d hear out a defense.