Nine months ago, in the aftermath of a national championship, I penned a fan post entitled The 10 Most Frustrating Moments in the Last 30 Years, which was intended as a eulogy for the concept of SOV. I wanted to preserve an historical record for future generations of Commodore fans to understand what it meant to both have fun and expect to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This was predicated on the assumption that Vanderbilt Athletics had turned the corner. No more would we, as a fan base, have to worry about the university's administration shooting itself in the foot when it came to sports. ADMT, CTC, CJS and a newly contract-extended CDM were steering our beloved ship into brightening skies and calm seas. There were discussions of new stadiums and strategic plans. While we didn't dare hope for Alabama, we felt confident we would no longer be . . . Rutgers. In short, we wouldn't be fooled again.
That turned out well, didn't it?
In an effort to put right which I put wrong, I thought it best to review the 10
best most cromulent moments during the last 30 years. If nothing else, I hope it serves as a diversion from a disappointing 2019-2020 Commodore sports season . . . er . . . I mean . . . perhaps the end of amateur and professional sports as we know it due to a global pandemic.
10. 1990 NIT CHAMPIONSHIP
To paraphrase a former Vice President, winning a national championship in Madison Square Garden is a big [expletive deleted] deal. While most give the NIT short shrift, if a team advances to the final and wins, respect is earned, not invited. This was Eddie Fogler's first season as coach, and served as a sign of better things to come, at least for the next 3 years. Perhaps the highlight of the NIT for VU was, the 2nd round defeat of Them at Memorial Gym, after falling behind 17 pts. Yeah, that might have been better than the Championship itself.
9. 2018 WOMEN'S BOWLING NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
i, obviously, am not a golfer. But watching the Lady Dores roll their way to the semi's and beyond was a thing of beauty. Beating McKendree 4-3 in the championship match in St. Louis (shouldn't all bowling championships occur in St. Louis?), was what college bowling is all about. Is that what college bowling is all about? The turning point was game 6, when McKendree let its foot off the gas slightly to shift into a higher gear, and the Lady Dores passed them never to look back.
8. 2009 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL ADVANCING TO NCAA SWEET SIXTEEN
It's almost criminal that the Lady Dores appear only twice on this list. The 1990's and 2000's were truly a halcyon time for the women's basketball program. The 2008-2009 team stands out, however, insofar as they won the SEC Tourney behind players such as Christina Wirth, Merideth Marsh and Jennifer Risper. They then took over The Pit in Albuquerque. I recall specifically the 74-61 win over K State, where, I believe the aforementioned Worth shot 3's like John Jenkins, i.e., cormulently. I believe Risper also methodically drove the lane time, after time, after time.
7. 2019 CWS VS. LOUISVILLE GAME 3
The best part about this is that I don't even remember the dude's name, just his look afterward.
6. 2007 MEN'S BASKETBALL WIN OVER #1 FLORIDA
There have been many times where #1 ranked teams have been upended in Memorial. The 2007 defeat of Florida is among the most memorable. It got off to a rocky start, but then Byars took over. It was snowing in Nashville, but raining 3's and a whole lot of other pts. indoors. Of course, who could forget CKS refusing to relinquish the ball for an inbounds? The season would end . . . oh, who am I kidding, Jeff Green traveled.
5. 1993 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL NCAA FINAL FOUR
Yes, this should be ranked higher. 1993 was the high water mark (in so many ways) for the Lady Dores. It featured its first ever #1 ranking nationally, only to lose it to Them (I'm sorry, the Lady Thems) in a controversial game at Memorial in January. This team would finish the season with a 30-3 record overall, and a Final Four appearance.
4. 2004 MEN'S BASKETBALL ADVANCING TO NCAA SWEET SIXTEEN
If you haven't seen it (hard to believe but it has been 16 years), you owe it to yourself to watch the last 5 minutes of this game. Matt Freije was glorious in this improbable, come-from-behind win over NC State. This one has it all: off-balance 3 pt. shots (twice while being fouled), an intentional foul, the most heart-stopping steal ever, and yes, the infamous back door cut leading to an and 1 to seal the game. It was March Madness.
3. 2012 MUSIC CITY BOWL
This was Brigadoon at its best. In his 2nd season as head coach, James Franklin led VU football back to what was/is/maybe a significant bowl game. The players, Jordan Matthews, Zac Stacy, Carey Spear, and Jordan Rodgers would function like a well oiled machine. I would have loved to have been in the coach's booth while they called wildcat after wildcat formation with NC State having absolutely no answer to Zac Stacy. While the following year was good too, this game, and the Gatorade bath given to Franklin following the victory, were top notch.
2. 2014 CWS VS. UVA GAME 3
For the team of the decade, it's hard to select 1 or 2 games to mention on a Top 10 list, but this, at least for me, was THE highlight. Most analysts favored UVA in this matchup, and VU forced a 3rd game. The clincher was a hard fought duel with the quintessential shot-heard-round-Omaha solo HR for the 3-2 win. It was VU's 1st NCAA Men's Championship and a nerve-wracking game to watch. Jump around, VU fans. Jump around.
1. 2008 VU FOOTBALL VS. AUBURN
For context, football was never VU's strong suit coming into the 2008 season. The last bowl victory for VU came when Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain. In short, VU had been the SEC doormat for (at least) a generation. But then came a Steve Martin lookalike in the form of CBJ, who would lead the Dores to, of all things, a winning season. October 4, 2008 will live on forever as the day when the eyes of college football turned to West End on a Saturday night. The College Football Gameday crew were on hand for a parents' weekend to beat all parents' weekends. A missed extra point would be the difference and Mackenzi Adams would emerge as the riverboat gambler playmaker who led the #19 ranked Dores to victory. As the sign said, "The Geeks shall Inherit the Turf". As a result, VU would earn its highest ranking ever at #14 nationally, and ultimately a bowl match up with BC in Music City (with the VU punter being MVP!).