Saturday, October 4, 2008

Beating Auburn and the Vanderbilt curse

If Vanderbilt, hosting ESPN's College GameDay, can beat Auburn tonight, it may finally revive a program that's been on the decline for a quarter century. Photo by VU Athletics.
For more than a quarter-century, the Vanderbilt Commodores have not had a winning season.

There is no way to sugar-coat that fact. Fans, coaches, students, administrators have all tried to re-package that fact in the past 26 years, but it simply cannot be done.

In football, Vanderbilt has not won more than it has lost since 1982.

With those years of woe came ridicule, and lots of it. As season after season of losing took its toll on the Vanderpsyche, the numbers of fans began to fade.

In Woody Widehofer's last year at Vanderbilt, 2001, it reached its low-ebb in a game against the Auburn Tigers.

In that game, the Commodores had a chance to notch an SEC win and, perhaps, attempt to salvage what the head coach had promised would be a bowl season.

But a last-minute fake punt -- called by Widenhofer himself -- doomed the Commodores to continue their spiral of death for yet another year.

Now comes another chance to turn things around.

Again, the Auburn Tigers stand in the way.

This time, it's not just for a season. Vanderbilt has enjoyed an unprecedented national stage for its football program this week. Since ESPN's College GameDay announced its plans to come to Nashville last Sunday, Vanderbilt has been the talk of the college sports world.

With the arrival of Corso, Herbstreit, Fowler, and Howard, Vanderbilt accomplished something that its football program had never done before: one of its home games mattered enough to be the national game-of-the-week.

And that history was driven by other historic opportunities: the Commodores were 4-0, with a legitimate chance to get a fifth-straight win for the first time since World War II.

They were ranked for the first time in twenty-four years.

Yesterday afternoon, history continued to be made, as GameDay saw its largest Friday crowd ever: ESPN host Lee Corso said, "Last week, in Athens, we had about 20 or so people behind us on Friday."

Vanderbilt officials estimated about 2,400 on Lower Quadrangle of the Commons for a 20-minute recording of a segment to be looped on Sportscenter.

It all adds up to an opportunity unlike anything Vanderbilt has had in a long, long time.

A win against Auburn will not miraculously transform the Black and Gold into the national champions. But it will go a long way toward ending the national perception that Vanderbilt football is a joke.

It would raise the prominence of head coach Bobby Johnson, giving our recruiting efforts the kind of boost that they haven't received since Jay Cutler was drafted in the first-round for the NFL.

And it would finally convince the critics -- and maybe even Vanderbilt fans -- that here is a team that has faced down the demons that have haunted this program for decades.

It all comes down to one thing: victory.

The Commodores must get this win.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it was a fake field goal against Auburn.