We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — Vanderbilt’s fanbase can’t rival those of other Southeastern Conference schools due to a lack of “sidewalk alumni.” That fact is becoming clear once more as the school’s season-ticket sales are actually down despite back-to-back bowl trips and an amazing nine-win campaign last season.
Across the SEC, college football is a year-round passion. Kids pull for the local school and remain fans throughout their lives… whether they actually wind up attending Alabama or Georgia or Tennessee or LSU or not. The big, public state schools of the SEC boast a great many fans who have no real ties to the school other than a passion that began in childhood.
Vanderbilt — the league’s only small, private school — simply doesn’t have that type of following. To build that type of following, the Commodores will have to start winning football games with even more regularity over a much longer stretch of time. Think Duke basketball type of winning.
The Blue Devils have fans all across the country. That’s because it’s been — arguably — the most dominant program in the country over the past quarter-century. But when it comes to Duke football, good luck finding a Blue Devil fan outside of Durham.
And for a century, Vanderbilt football has looked a lot more like Duke football than Duke basketball.
There are other excuses that can be tossed out — there’s more competition for the entertainment dollar in a city like Nashville, etc — but head coach James Franklin isn’t interested in hearing them:
“(The number of season-tickets sold is) going to get up to where it was last year. I would have thought we would have been sold out by now. We’ve still go some time to do it.
I really don’t want to hear about excuses about we’re in a city and we have other things to compete with. I don’t want to hear about nationally how the trend is that people are struggling to get people to go to games, because that’s not the fact in the SEC, and we’re in the SEC. So I think the excuses are over and it’s time for us to get out and support our team.”
One must wonder if Franklin will continue to show loyalty to Vanderbilt if fans don’t begin to show more loyalty to his program.
According to The Tennessean, ticket sales would only need to reach the mid-20,000s for Vanderbilt to achieve “sold out” status. But VU hasn’t sold out its season tickets since way back in 1996 and even that number was aided by Notre Dame fans who bought Vandy season tickets in order to see their Irish play in Nashville.
Currently, Vanderbilt fans have bought just 16,200 season tickets. All told, the Commodores averaged just 37,860 fans per game last season in 40,000-seat Dudley Field (which is easily the smallest venue in the SEC).
Vanderbilt’s football program doesn’t rank as the worst in the SEC for nothing, folks. VU has no track record of high achievement on the gridiron. That fact makes the turnaround orchestrated so far by Franklin all the more impressive.
But until the school begins to win even more games and some Middle Tennesseans who didn’t attend Vandy start to pull for the Dores, the ticket sales in Nashville will likely remain disappointing.