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WTF Vandy? Quarterfinals: (1) Eddie Fogler Walks vs. (2) The Football Stadium

The two biggest administrative failures square off.

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Eddie Fogler

(1) Vanderbilt AD Paul Hoolahan Lets Eddie Fogler Leave for South Carolina, 1993

The administrative ur-failure:

In the end, Eddie Fogler said his decision to leave Vanderbilt for South Carolina came down to respect rather than money.

“Here the last four weeks, it went from a financial issue to principle to me-what is fair, what is equitable, what is right,” Fogler said Monday in a news conference at Vanderbilt.

“It got past the financial issue-what started the issue two years ago-to principle to me, and another great option came along.”

Fogler, 44, was named coach of the year Friday after leading Vanderbilt to a 28-6 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament. He accepted the South Carolina job a day later and one week after Bobby Cremins backed out and decided to stay at Georgia Tech.

“I could’ve finished my coaching career here,” Fogler said. “I wouldn’t have left to go somewhere just because of finances. That would be ridiculous.”

So let’s rewind a bit. Eddie Fogler took over for C.M. Newton in 1989. In his first season, taking over a team that had lost its three leading scorers (Frank Kornet, Barry Goheen, and Barry Booker) from the previous year, the team won the NIT. The next year, they got to the NCAA Tournament. Fogler — who was being paid well below his peers in the SEC — asked for a raise after that season and didn’t get it. After a rebuilding year in 1991-92 with talented transfers Bill McCaffrey (Duke) and Chris Lawson (Indiana) sitting out, Fogler’s fourth team at Vanderbilt went 28-6, 14-2 in the SEC, won the SEC regular season title (Vanderbilt’s first SEC title since 1974, and its most recent SEC title as of this writing), and made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Fogler won the National Coach of the Year award, and a day later, he left Vanderbilt for South Carolina.

How this differed from James Franklin leaving 20 years later is clear. Franklin was going to leave Vanderbilt once Penn State came calling, and there really wasn’t much Vanderbilt could do to stop him. Fogler wanted to stay at Vanderbilt, but Chancellor Joe Wyatt and Athletic Director Paul Hoolahan, well...

“It was a financial issue, I don’t deny that,” Fogler said. “My financial situation was not the equal of my peers in the Southeastern Conference. I felt that should be looked at _ very nicely, I didn’t demand, I asked for that to be reviewed.”

The coach said that Vanderbilt chancellor Joe Wyatt didn’t respond to the request and that several people reported him to be out of town.

“Certainly, there’s phones in about every state I’ve been in,” he said.

Wyatt said in a statement Monday afternoon that he offered Thursday through the athletic director to speak with Fogler by telephone or to meet with him. But he said he doesn’t think a conversation would have changed things.

“ Certainly those conversations would not have altered the financial parameters under which Mr. (Paul) Hoolahan and the athletic department must operate ,” the statement read.

Fogler said he knew Vanderbilt could not come close to matching South Carolina’s offer of a base salary of $106,928, plus income from a shoe contract, a summer camp, and radio and television shows reaching at least another $250,000.

In other words: Eddie Fogler thought he deserved a raise — after winning the SEC and National Freaking Coach of the Year — and Joe Wyatt and Paul Hoolahan wouldn’t even talk to him.

And we think things are bad now. At least now we give the coach a raise whether he deserves one or not.

(2) The Vanderbilt Football Stadium Conundrum, Ongoing

So, yeah. Vanderbilt Stadium. Also known as Dudley Field or simply “The Dud.”

Originally built in 1922 and last renovated in 1981 — that’s 39 years ago — Vanderbilt Stadium was already showing its age when I was a student at Vanderbilt from 2006-08. The problems are myriad, but the basic problem is that while it’s still structurally sound, it hasn’t aged well and the seating is uncomfortable and the concourses aren’t wide enough and it’s just not a great place to watch a football game, and then you throw in the fact that the team frequently isn’t good and, well... it’s not exactly a place that’s on anybody’s bucket list.

Anyway, the plans for a new football stadium came into being late in 2011, coterminous with Vice Chancellor David Williams announcing a contract extension for James Franklin, who had just completed his first season as Vanderbilt’s football coach. At the time, it was never so much as a vague comment tossed in at the same time they announced plans for the indoor practice facility. That got built, and yet we seemed to spend the next few years hearing hints that the new stadium was coming.

So what happened? Well, there were never any firm plans for anything. Rumors have swirled for years that the university’s attitude toward athletics (and, presumably, a new football stadium) changed dramatically around the time four football players sexually assaulted a coed during the summer of 2013.

Fans started to get frustrated as the years went on and nothing happened — and when the university’s representatives did talk, it got progressively stupider. In 2016 — mind you, five years after David Williams first said the new stadium was coming — Williams was still working on preliminary plans for the new stadium, and at that point hoped to have it underway within three to four years. “Underway” within three to four years, five years after the plans were initially floated. And buried in that article was the notion that Williams was now debating whether the new stadium would be on campus or off campus, and things were about to get dumber.

Because the next phase in the new stadium discussion was the part where Vanderbilt started to float the idea of not only moving off campus, but moving into a new stadium that would be used primarily for soccer by Nashville’s yet-to-be-awarded MLS franchise. And said stadium would be located at the old Tennessee State Fairgrounds a few miles away from campus. That idea finally, eventually, got shot down, but after far longer than it ever should have taken for David Williams to say “no, that idea is dumb as hell and we are not going to do it.” But that ultimately just led to the timetable getting pushed back even further. In summer 2018, David Williams was now saying that even making a decision was now “two to three years away.”

But all that was before the real bombshell that came that August, when Adam Sparks reported that Vanderbilt had blocked the athletic department from hitting up specific donors, leading to Williams announcing his retirement (in what by all appearances was a hostage video) a month later. But, ya know, the beat goes on.

It’s been a full eight and a half years since David Williams said we were getting a new stadium. As far as I know, it’s not even in the planning stages at this point.


Which moment advances?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Eddie Fogler
    (103 votes)
  • 23%
    The football stadium
    (32 votes)
135 votes total Vote Now