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Suck It Up, Vandy Fans, Bowl Bids Have Everything To Do With Tourism

poutingThe bowl system isn’t fair.  It never has been fair and it never will be fair.

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.



Ticket sale comments look comical in retrospect with Vanderbilt selling out their entire side on the stadium for their bowl.....


I think most of the issues Vandy fans have they feel as if they are being lied to.

Last year We were told the reason Miss St Jumped to the Gator Bowl (which they did not sell all their tickets to) was to avoid a re-match game with Northwestern. Then they schedule a rematch of a bowl game from last year instead of taking Vandy.The reason for skipping Vandy this year is that UGA had a better conference record and not head to head.  Yet the Music City bowl picked Ole Miss with a worse record because of head to head. They also claimed they wanted to avoid having the same team 2 years in a row, yet UK and Minnesota  have played there in consecutive years. Then the Liberty Bowl takes Miss St. at 6-6 over Vandy. add to that The fans are being told every year the only way to improve Vandy's bowl lot is shut up and sell out the bowl this year, something they have done for 2 year running. Now they are being told the same thing again for the lowest bowl in the pecking order in a Stadium that has sections that were condemned. Now if they don't sell it out then the naysayers will say "I told you so" but if they do then some other excuse will be tossed out next year even if they have and equal or better record. While yes Duke did go 10-3 in the ACC Most of us know Slive would never fight for a 10-2 Division winning Vandy to a better bowl. Heck if UF or UT is bowl eligible next year Vandy at 10-3  would end up in Shreveport LA or sitting at home.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


I can assure you this site commented on Florida not attending that bowl.  It was a topic in all of the Florida papers as well.   The words "Gator fans" and "spoiled" were put together so many times my head spun.

And if Florida had been bowl eligible this year, bowls would have most assuredly considered two things: Will their fans travel and what does the Florida "name" do for a television matchup.  Unfortunately, that's where the Gators still would have trumped the Commodores. Bowls are all about tourism... will a school bring tourists and will a school lure in TV viewers who can be turned into future tourists.

The Vandy/Stanford comparison is a big off, too.  Stanford has had its ups and its downs.  John Elway played there.  There was some amount of history in Palo Alto.  Also, the Rose Bowl is the biggest bowl in the Pac-12 universe and it's in the same state as Stanford's campus.  If Vanderbilt were to win the SEC and the Sugar Bowl were moved to Memphis or Nashville, we'd suspect the Commodores would bring fans in droves.

None of this should be taken as an insult by Vanderbilt fans.  They should know that reputations aren't built over night and that while building, they'll likely be put in "oh yeah, prove it" situations time and again.  Stanford and Northwestern have proven they have winning football in many/most years.  Duke and Vanderbilt are trying to follow their lead.

So I'll state one thing again: Pack Legion Field if you want to turn bowl committees' heads.  And while the SEC will indeed help decide who goes where beginning next year, don't expect the league to completely ignore the wishes and requests of its bowl partners.

Thanks for reading the site and good luck in your bowl game,




@John at MrSEC I agree with everything written by FCDore. The fact that universities like Vanderbilt, Duke, Stanford, and Northwestern have geographically diverse and affluent alumni (but not as many local alumni as most state schools) cannot be emphasized enough. I am a great example of the effect this has on home attendance. My wife and I live in NYC and can only attend 1 or maybe 2 (at most) home games a year, and when choosing which game to attend, are we going to choose a home game against Kentucky or a home game against Georgia? That's right, we flew to Nashville for the UGA game this year. And each year, we, along with other non-local friends, are willing to fly anywhere to see our Dores in a bowl game. We flew to Nashville in 2008, to Memphis in 2011, and to Nashville again in 2012. When Vanderbilt has sold out its allotment the past 2 years and brought tens of thousands of fans to bowl games, it hasn't just been local fans---it's been fans flying in from all over the country.

And you can't just ignore the comparison with Stanford. Yes, Stanford definitely has a more storied football history than Vanderbilt, but why does that matter? You think fans are attending bowl games in 2013 because of what happened in the 1970s and 80s? No way. It's all about current results, and if the team is successful now, it doesn't matter the history. In fact, history should only be on our side. The Vanderbilt fanbase has NEVER been to a New Year's Day bowl. We're hungry.

And yes, it's completely apples and oranges to compare the Rose Bowl to the Gator Bowl or any other bowl Vanderbilt could've attended this year. So fine, let's not. Let's instead compare it to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX. That's not the biggest bowl of the Pac 12 universe, and it's not in the same state as Stanford's campus.

"But while there are residual local issues, the disparate fan base rears its head during bowl season. Look at the history. In 2009, Stanford sold out its allotment at the Sun Bowl in El Paso. Like, the Texas border town El Paso. The game itself sold out before game day for the first time in its 76-year history and the Cardinal outsold its opponent, the far-closer football superpower Oklahoma."



@John at MrSEC This "won 2 games against teams with winning records" is very misleading. They beat GA, FL, and TN this year. With any luck GA would have won the BCS last year and FL lost 2 games I believe

Leon Despair
Leon Despair

You may have also mentioned that the Commies have sold out their last three bowl ticket allotments, which makes them an exception to the usual SEC trend. And you're right that traditional performance has a lot to do with current perception. It causes Vanderbilt victories over Georgia and Florida to be explained away by references to the Dogs and Gators being depleted by injuries (although Vandy played both games without key players who were out with injuries). If they beat Tennessee twice in a row, it's said to be because the Vols are having "down" years ... or down decades, or whatever. Oh, well. When they play in the SEC championship game, which will happen sooner than anyone thinks, I suppose that will have to be because the entire East is having a historically down year, won't it? And then we can all wait for things to get back to "normal."

One thing we can all agree on: the only problem that matters for Vanderbilt now is Houston. Until then, I look forward to learning whether Mississippi State can beat a ten win team from ANY conference.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


I don't see how stating a fact is misleading.  Florida finished 4-8 this season and was decimated by injury.  Tennessee was 5-7 so even a win over Vanderbilt would have only gotten them to .500.

The fact of the matter remains that Vanderbilt has beaten fewer teams with winning records the last two years (NC State '12, Georgia '13) than Duke beat just this year (four).

My point: Worry about Houston.  The fans need to buy tickets and the team needs to win.

Thanks for reading the site,



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