Ticket sale comments look comical in retrospect with Vanderbilt selling out their entire side on the stadium for their bowl.....
Cities initially staged college football games during the holiday season in order to bring fans to their hotels, restaurants and stores. In a century of bowl games, things still have not changed on that front. In fact, television has made tourism an even bigger part of the equation. Now cities not only want two fanbases coming to town during for a game, they also want to draw in additional visitors by airing advertisements for their beaches and golf courses in well-watched bowl matchups.
And all that is where Vanderbilt runs into trouble.
The Commodores got the short end of the stick this year when it came to SEC bowl travel. After two years in the Volunteer State (in the Music City and Liberty Bowls), Vandy finally landed a postseason game across the Tennessee border. Unfortunately, that game is the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, the very last bowl game on the SEC’s lengthy list. So a team that went 8-4 is going to a bowl farther down the food chain than games playing host to Mississippi State (6-6, Liberty Bowl) and Ole Miss (7-5, Music City). Two other 8-4 SEC teams (Georgia to the Gator and Texas A&M to the Chick-fil-A) also landed better travel itineraries.
Naturally, Vandy fans aren’t the least bit happy about what they view as a slight to their program. Our mature, well-reasoned reply? Tough noogies.
Decades of losing have made Vanderbilt less than must-watch viewing for most national sports fans. And though the Dores have sold a healthy number of tickets to those two bowl games within their state, they still couldn’t sell out a 40,000-seat stadium — by far the smallest in the SEC — during the stretch run of what’s become the school’s best three-year period since the 1920s. Drawing less than 40,000 for November games against Kentucky and Wake Forest is no way to wow bowl committees. Especially when the coach himself has been challenging Vandy fans to show up and turn out since the day he arrived in Nashville.
This is not to say, “Well, it’s Vandy, who cares?” as some VU fans will most assuredly cry. We’d say the same for any SEC school that couldn’t put 40,000 fannies in seats in an effort to hang onto the best coach they’ve had in the modern era. Want a better bowl trip? Show the bowls that you’ll support your team.
Next season the SEC will begin to play a larger role in determining who goes bowling where. Whether that will make a difference in VU’s future fortunes is yet to be determined. And while some Vandy fans compare their squad to Duke — headed to the Chick-fil-A Bowl — the fact of the matter is that the Blue Devils won 10 games, finished with a #24 ranking, and won an ACC division championship. In other words, it’s an apples to carrots comparison to say the SEC should have fought for VU as the ACC did for Duke. Duke accomplished more. It was an easier fight.
With all the talk of bowl destination disappointment, James Franklin had better make sure his players don’t spend too much time listening to their fans’ groans. The Commodores have beaten just two teams with winning records the last two years and Houston — also 8-4 — should present a pretty good challenge down at Legion Field.
If Vanderbilt fans turn up in Birmingham in large numbers and if Franklin’s team can win its ninth game over a pretty good foe, then Commodore Nation will have something to complain about if the Dores are shafted in the bowl selection process next season. Until then, Vandy’s just the latest school to whine, wail and weep about unjust bowl treatment.
Oh, and just to be on the safe side, ya better start snapping up a few more tickets to Dudley Field next season, too.