Vanderbilt Stadium is celebrating its 100th season this year, and the Athletics Department has already released a list of Kalija Lipscomb and 99 other Vandy football players representing the best our program has had to offer. It’s a pretty cool look back at Vanderbilt football and one of the country’s oldest football stadiums. In honor of the occasion, I have decided to do something similar by ranking all 100 seasons at Vanderbilt Stadium thus far. I’ve only been a Vandy fan for a few years now, so please fill me in on what I missed in the comments. If you want to catch up or just rage against the Vanderbilt Athletics machine, first, second, third, and fourth parts are already out. The very long delayed fifth part starts below.
60. John Green, 1964: 3-6-1 (1-4-1)
We shut out Orange Team, who is bad. We also played two different games where single safeties provided our only points. That’s at least fun to think about. I crunched the numbers and those two safeties made up ~5% of all points scored by Vanderbilt that year. That feels like it could be some sort of college football record. We also won two other games, tied Ole Miss, and generally seemed to improve year-over-year compared to 1963. I’d call it both a weirdly successful season and also a successfully weird season.
59. Derek Mason, 2015: 4-8 (2-6)
We finished middle of the SEC East thanks to wins over Kentucky and Missouri. This team had a better record than the year before and was only two field goals short of a bowl game including in a 7-9 loss to No. 11 Florida. This is really a prime example of a season where we maybe could have been successful with a different schedule. Our out-of-conference schedule included AAC and Peach Bowl champ Houston and C-USA and Miami Beach Bowl Champ WKU, both of whom finished ranked. In-conference? Well you know the usual SEC East suspects, plus an unstoppable Ole Miss team that beat Bama on their way to a Sugar Bowl win. Our inter-divisional matchup was A&M, which was nothing special but still a tough draw any year. I love being in the SEC, but sometimes I guess it would be nice to play a fun little C-USA or Sun Belt schedule. (Author’s Note: I like writing about Derek Mason seasons the least. You can tell him that if you want.)
58. Bill Edwards, 1952: 3-5-2 (1-4-1)
We tied an Ole Miss team that finished No. 11 overall, beat a Florida team that finished No. 15 overall, and all our losses were quality losses including to an undefeated national champion Georgia Tech team. The season was a backslide from the year before, though, which keeps it a little bit lower in the ranking than it otherwise would be. Imagine if we had been able to pull out the win in both our tie games. I did, and I am willing to bet we would have been ranked after winning against Northwestern, Ole Miss, and Florida in consecutive weeks.
57. Ray Morrison, 1936: 3-5-1 (1-3-1)
This season is defined by wins over University of Chicago and Sewanee, which leads into my main point which will be important to keep in mind when we start the second half of these rankings. The rest of the season is lackluster, but it’s difficult to assess something from so long ago. For some reason every game from before World War II almost always seems to be a shutout one way or another, so I can say confidently that the fact our shutouts were more dominant than when other teams shut us out is good enough for me to place this season near the median point.
56. George MacIntyre, 1981: 4-7 (1-5)
We beat Memphis and Chattanooga, but came up 4 points short at the end of the season to win the Tennessee State Title. (I really loved the “Our City, Our State” marketing campaign from a few years ago, and I always look for in-state games for this reason.) None of our games were particularly impressive, not even our win against Ole Miss. This season gets bonus points for being a huge improvement over 1980 and being the stepping stone for making the wildly successful 1982 season happen.
55. Watson Brown, 1987: 4-7 (1-5)
The last 4 weeks of the season ended with wins over Rutgers, Kentucky, Maryland, and a 2-point loss to Tennessee. If only we had saved up those safeties from the 1964 season to finish this one out! By the way, I know those three wins don’t look like much, but 1987 was a decent year for all 3 of those programs. We kept it close in a few other games, and the season before we had finished with a 1-10 record so anything was going to be a huge improvement.
54. Gerry DiNardo, 1992: 4-7 (2-6)
A win over ranked Ole Miss keeps this season competitive. The rest of the season was fine, including wins over Kentucky and Duke. We were also better than Duke in basketball; later that school year we made it to the Sweet Sixteen in Eddie Fogler’s last year as head coach while Duke lost in the Round of 32. Hey, maybe we could do a community ranking of games played in Memorial this year for the Gymnasium’s 70th Anniversary. Just something to think about.
53. Bobby Johnson, 2006: 4-8 (1-7)
This football season was fine, but the athletic restructuring happening behind the scenes was arguably more important not only to football but to Vanderbilt Athletics and its first ever team national championship win in the spring. Four wins including over a ranked Georgia make this football season what it is, and we held plenty of other SEC teams close throughout the season, but ultimately this season was just a middling Vanderbilt season arguably overshadowed by the bowling and baseball teams, both of whom made huge strides for the athletic department later in the school year.
52. Bill Pace, 1969: 4-6 (2-3)
We beat a No. 14 Alabama team who eventually ended the season unranked and below us in the SEC standings. We lost a couple games it seems like we shoulda coulda woulda won and our wins against Kentucky, Tulane, and Davidson don’t exactly impress. This season was just a slightly worse version of the 1968 season, with which it had a lot in common.
51. Bill Pace, 1971: 4-6-1 (1-5)
The median season! 6 teams in the SEC were ranked in the top 15 at the end of the season. We were the best of the rest thanks to a win over Mississippi State and only playing a 6-game conference slate. This season is also about as representative of the average season, albeit one conference win short, as you could get according to my rough estimate. This season was about the same as the seasons immediately preceding and succeeding it. Nothing special one way or the other about this season as far as I could tell. I really like that it ended up hear, as one half of the median.