From a post on the old Vanderbilt Sports Line, on the 2011-12 Vanderbilt Commodores Basketball team, from November 11, 2012:
“When Jenkins, Taylor, and Ezeli decided they would be returning for their senior year, the message was clear. They felt their work at Vanderbilt was not yet done. They weren’t going to leave Nashville with the bitter taste of consecutive first-round defeats. They wanted to leave this program with an indelible mark and send Vandy to new heights of national relevance.”
I also wrote. “They have the tools. They have the talent. This is the team. This is the year.” (Props to Winston Zeddemore for the apropo quote.)
Of course, like anything involving Vanderbilt athletics, nothing comes easy, and my high hopes and dreams of a team floating in the top ten all year would be dashed a mere two days later in an embarrassing loss to Cleveland State. Coupled with a bad loss against Indiana State, Vanderbilt would just sort of float around the top 25 despite having three players who would be drafted, two in the first round. BUT, that team would also pull off the greatest victory in my memory, beating one-loss #1 Kentucky in the SEC Championship.
It is kind of fun to go back to the old blog (http://www.vanderbiltsportsline.com) and see what was going on with Vanderbilt back then. The athletic department was on an unprecedented trajectory. It seemed all the programs were demolishing the “SOV” narrative. We even got a facility improvement, with the multipurpose indoor practice facility opening in November of 2013.
Of course everyone reading here knows what happened after that, and the goal here isn’t to belabor those points. Suffice it to say we’re a long long way from those days (everywhere except for baseball that is, thank you Tim Corbin!). But back then Vanderbilt had apparent uniformity in how they wanted to pursue athletics. They seemed to have a plan, and it was working.
It’s interesting to return to blogging in a time where there’s a new frontier for our programs. Yes, I know Derek Mason is in year six, and I’m not incredibly happy about it, but the new chancellor and the hiring of Candace Storey Lee are signs that we might be getting back to having a rudder. Many don’t like the direction they see for the athletic department, but I remain a hopeless optimist. I guess it’s because I don’t think Vanderbilt will ever try to outgun anyone in facilities. Nor will they allow the tail to wag the dog for the sake of national titles. There is no doubt that Vanderbilt’s various stakeholders have differing views of the role of athletics in the University’s mission. That’s why I’m excited to see what ADCSL can do, because she understands those stakeholders and is respected by them. She also has the respect of numerous former athletes. While it will never be as easy as the big boys, she may very well be able to make inroads for athletics that will help Vanderbilt succeed.
VSL started in 2006, the same time that many of the programs began to trend upward. It was a lot of fun to follow for those six years, and I’m hoping this new forum will give me the opportunity to recapture some of that fun. Thanks to Tom Stephenson for having me along.