Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Vive la France (pour maintenant)

Hooray and a hearty "Liberté, égalité, fraternité!" to our much-maligned allies in the République. I learned today that France is joining the United States and the United Kingdom in supporting a resolution to force the Syrians to put up or shut up with regard to the Mehlis report from the U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri (my apologies if I misspelled Mr. Hariri's name).

As an admitted francophone, I always hate to see France and the U.S. at odds in the international arena; thus, it gives me pleasure to see our oldest ally join us in purveying important international issues.

So, until they give us cause to say otherwise, I say, "Vive la France -- pour maintenant."

Close, but no cigar

The Dores beat the spread against Spurrier's 'Cocks, but they were unable to pull out the win.

Still, I am heartened by their willingness to play tough and not give up in a very hostile environment -- and believe me, every time that blasted rooster crow sounded over the public address system, that place became a hostile environment (not to mention a little silly: I mean, it was a rooster crowing).

At any rate, the valiant men in Gold and Black have an off-week this Saturday, and it comes at a crucial point in the season. The Commodores are now 4-4 (2-3), and tied with lowly Tennessee (boy, it's fun to write lowly as an adjective for the Vawls) in the SEC East. We're a little banged up, and a week to recover and prepare is just what Bobby Johnson ordered to get Vanderbilt ready to for our next game: a homecoming contest in Gainesville against the Florida Alligators.

I'll be down in The Swamp for the game, and I am looking forward to (1) seeing my fiancée (after all, I miss her a lot, and I can't wait to spend some quality time with her) and (2) seeing our heroes take on the Gators.

That match-up took on added importance for the Dores, as it became their third national television game: ESPN2 announced that they would be showing the game as one of their big SEC match-ups. Honestly, I think it's a good call: considering the other games taking place that night, considering how both Vandy and Florida have been playing, the game is shaping up to be an exciting one.

Plus, as my cynical brother Mark Halling is keen to point out, "Gator Nation" (whatever that means) will likely tune in to see a potentially close game.

I'll hold off on making any predictions this week, except for one: Notre Dame is probably going to make Yew Tee look pretty bad this week. Hope the home-folks are ready!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Vanderbilt Commodores at South Carolina Gamecocks

This week is such an important game for our resurgent Commodores, and I cannot wait to see how ol' Bobby Johnson gets our boys fired up for this trip to his hometown.

With Vanderbilt's winning season in the balance (our current record is 4-3, 2-2), the Black and Gold have a chance to consolidate our bowl chances early (as opposed to waiting for the last minute to get the upset win against Tennessee, as I am now officially predicting).

After South Carolia this week, we have an open week, followed by Florida in Gainesville, Kentucky in Nashville, and the Big Arnge in Knoxville.

Our best bet at winning those games are as follows:

(1) Kentucky
(2) South Carolina
(3) Tennessee
(4) Florida

Now please note that the difference between beating UT and UF is not that different except for the fact that our boys are usually up more for Tennessee than anyone else. And the West End Boys would like nothing more than to spoil the Vawls' bowl chances while consolidating theirs.

With all that said, there is (as coaches are wont to say) a lot of football to be played, and we'll have to see how the Dores come out against the Cocks this week.


Our friends over at and are fairly evenly split: the professional pickers are 2 for VU and 2 for USC. The fans themselves are mostly going homer with silly picks for Vandy.

A surprise came out of Gainesville, though, where usually-correct Pat Dooley (at the Gainesville Sun) picked the Dores to keep their hopes alive in what he's calling "The Bowl Bowl." Here's what he had to say:

VANDERBILT (4-3) AT SOUTH CAROLINA (3-3): We'll call this "The Bowl Bowl." The loser of this game is effectively eliminated from any bowl considerations considering the remaining schedules. The winner still has work to do. Vandy, 28-21.

Not a lot, but I like what he does have to say.

With him, then, and a certain ESPN picker, I'm going to go with my heart and hopes:


Go get 'em, Dores!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ups and downs.

It's frustration to ride an emotional roller coaster. Tonight, I was on one. I had amazing highs at choir practice (I recently joined the Sanctuary Choir at First Baptist Church of Birmingham) and UCF, and amazing lows later on this evening during a phone call.

I just pray that God will help me understand why I'm going through things like this. They're not any fun at all.

Why is everyone so up in arms over Miers?

Now that I'm back, I figure it's time for me to start opining on politics, in addition to (admittedly glorious) Vanderbilt football.

One of the topics that has piqued my curiosity over the past couple of weeks has been conservatives' responses to President Bush nominated his former White House Chief Counsel, Harriet Miers.

[Note: I am a Republican because of my position as social conservative; I tend to lean moderate on fiscal issues courtesy of my upbringing in the hills of East Tennessee -- after all, it's hard not to be a populist when you grow up in an environment like that. Not to mention the fact that I believe classical Christianity suggests far more social justice and concern than most fiscal conservatives would tolerate these days. ]

The loopy lefties, par usual, have begun their hue and cry that Miers' nomination heralds the end of the world:

"Don't gamble with your right to choose!"

"She may be a woman, but so what!"

"Miers is a demon, and George Bush is the devil!"

Well, maybe that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I imagine that many liberals aren't saying those things only (and only) because they know that they'd lose what little credibility that they have left if they let those particular thoughts escape their mouths.

None of that, of course, is surprising. We expect Daniel Schorr (NPR commentary man) and the New York Times editorial page to rail against just about any nominee that the President (if he's a Republican) puts forth.

The suprising thing to many, and to me, has been the reaction of many of my fellow social conservatives to Ms. Miers' nomination. They've been all over the President, saying that this is not a nominee in the mold of Scalia.

My response? A resounding, "Duuuuuhhhh."

If my fellow social-cons had been paying attention of late, our party is not in a position of particular strength. Saber-rattling toward a battle with the Dems and moderate GOPers (a.k.a, "RINOs"), is not what a prudent politican would do.

And is not what President Bush did.

Instead, our President, under the advice of good ol' Rove, realized that he had two objectives:

(1) Get a nominee on the Supreme Court; and
(2) Make sure that nominee is a conservative on the important issues

Accomplishing (1) without making sure that (2) happens is just as bad as sending up someone who meets the test of (2) but has no chance of attaining (1).

With both John Roberts and Ms. Miers, the President found people who were legitimate conservatives and who could pass through the gauntlet of Senate approval. Let's face facts, folks: Senator Kennedy is not going to allow someone who openly and proudly says that they'll vote against Roe v. Wade. And he can rally fellow Dems to help him.

But when the President sends someone up Capitol Hill who only says, "I haven't made up my mind," the Dems look unreasonable and irrational for attempting to block someone who claims to be open-minded.

I urge those who want to continue to see the Supreme Court return to traditional notions of Constitutional construction -- reinforcing federalism and family values -- to support Ms. Miers.

I think she'll do her part.

Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores Basketball 2005-06

Once again, Mark Halling came through for me so that I can keep up-to-date on all things Black-and-Gold, even whilst I'm an old alumni down in Birmingham. According to the preview below, Commodores fans should be excited about basketball this year -- and looking for another trip to the post-season (probably to the Dance).

Mark's contribution comes from Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.

* * *

• Nashville, Tennessee
• Southeastern Conference
• Black and gold
• 6,200 undergraduate enrollment
• Kevin Stallings, head coach
• E. Gordon Gee, chancellor


It took a season or two longer than he would have hoped, but Kevin Stallings just about has his Vanderbilt program where he wants it.

As [former Vanderbilt head coach] Eddie Fogler demonstrated in Nashville in the early 1990s, and Duke and Stanford prove on a yearly basis, strong academic schools can field strong basketball programs.

When he left Illinois State seven years ago, Stallings thought he could win consistently at Vanderbilt despite the inherent limitations as compared to the state-supported schools in the SEC. Stallings wasn't going to be able to sign academic risks or gain a quick talent transfusion through the junior college route. He and his staff would have to comb the country looking for good players who could handle the academic workload at Vanderbilt.

The last two seasons, during which the Commodores won 43 games -- including two each in the NCAA Tournament (2004) and the NIT (2005) -- are clear indication the program is on the move. Not quite the stuff of Duke or Stanford, but substantial progress nonetheless.

"I would say we're really close," Stallings said. "We are set up for stability and set up to be very competitive for the next two or three years. Obviously with continued recruiting we could make it longer than that. When you look at our team, I think for the next two or three years we'll be a very productive program headed in the right direction. I'd like to see multiple and consecutive NCAA Tournaments before I felt like we were absolutely at that point where we aspire to be, but we like where we are right now."

Stallings' optimism is well founded. He says this is the most athletic team he's coached in Nashville, and the most versatile, too. There's depth at the perimeter and experience at the post positions. If the Commodores can develop some depth up front, they could be hard to handle.


For better or worse, Vanderbilt relies on 5-11 senior point guard Mario Moore (13.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.7 apg) to be its catalyst.

And most of the time Moore delivers. Ask Wichita State, which Moore helped knock out of the NIT with a career-high 31 points and nine three-pointers. Or LSU, which Moore torched for 30 points and six three-pointers. Moore, who shot 39 percent from behind the arc last season, made four or more threes in eight games. He's the most experienced point guard in the SEC, and the only one to have racked up at least 1,000 points, 275 assists and 175 three-pointers in his career.

That's the good stuff. Now for the not so good: In the first 15 games of last season, Moore reached double figures 14 times while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and from three-point range. Then came a maddening stretch during which Moore was less; he shot 41 percent from the field and 33 percent from three the last 19 games.

Mired in that slump, Moore didn't often play with his trademark energy and at times drifted toward the pedestrian. He let Georgia walk-on guard Kevin Brophy burn him for 19 points in a huge upset in Athens, a defeat that, though it came in January, dealt a blow to the Commodores' NCAA Tournament chances. Georgia won just one other league game all season.

"On the nights when he is good, Mario is capable of being as good as any point guard in the league," Stallings said. "The first half of last year he was as consistent and solid a player as he has ever been for us. Then in the second half of the season, he was anywhere from spectacular to inconsistent. That's what we're going to have to rectify -- his wide range of production.

"Mario is very talented. So much of it for him is his ability to manage his own emotions. As he continues to do that better, he is going to continue to be a better player."

Fortunately for Vanderbilt, when Moore went walkabout last year, Stallings had options, further proof that Commodores' talent pool has significantly increased. Sophomore Alex Gordon (6.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.2 apg) played in all 34 games as a rookie and at times displaced Moore in the starting lineup. On occasion, the 5-11 Gordon flashed some of Moore's explosive scoring ability. He became the first Vanderbilt freshman since 1977 to score 30 points in a game when he hit five three-pointers in an SEC win over Tennessee.

Like his bookend backcourt mate Moore, Gordon was inconsistent, but at least he had the excuse of being a freshman. Gordon passed for just 41 assists, low for a point, and turned the ball over 53 times. Stallings would like him to tighten up his game management skills.

"Alex has a lot of abilities and we need to be able to take advantage of his quickness and his scoring ability," Stallings said. "But he also needs to be able to run our team and make good decisions. If he improves in those areas that will help our point guard play quite a bit."

Gordon showed Stallings some positive signs in the off-season while playing a series of exhibition games in China with a team of SEC players. Gordon averaged 11.0 points and a team-high 8.6 assists as the SEC contingent played seven games in eight days.

Vanderbilt has as much or more firepower at the wing positions as it does the point.

"We're as deep and as talented as we've ever been on the wing positions," Stallings said. "It's just a matter of finding what guys are going to produce and be consistent." Most coaches in the SEC would envy Stallings' choices.

Shan Foster (9.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg), a 6-6 sophomore, is arguably the most talented recruit signed in Stallings' tenure [and one of my favorite players on the team, for his attitude, enthusiasm, and character—DB].

Exported from SEC Western Division country, Foster, a native of Kenner, La., came to Vanderbilt with a big-time reputation and he didn't disappoint, earning SEC All-Freshman honors while starting 24 games and averaging 23 minutes. No Vanderbilt freshman in Stallings' six seasons scored more points (312) or tossed in more three-pointers (69) than did Foster, who turned in to a game-breaking shooter. He finished second in the SEC in three-point shooting (.445) and was Vandy's third-leading scorer.

Foster offered plenty of indications that he's a future SEC star. He scored a career-high 25 points in an NIT loss at Memphis, making six-of-11 three-pointers in the process. He also scored 25 against Arkansas, 19 against NIT champ South Carolina and 18 against SEC champ Florida.

"I wasn't surprised at any of the things Shan was able to do last season," Stallings said. "But I was surprised that they happened early in his freshman year. He is an outstanding shooter with good range and he continues to get better off the dribble. As his confidence in his ball handling increases, his offense will continue to improve."

Like Gordon, Foster fine-tuned his game during the summer while traveling with the SEC team that toured China. He finished second in scoring (16.6 ppg).

If Foster was sensational as a freshman, 6-7 sophomore DeMarre Carroll (4.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg) wasn't bad either. Carroll plays a slightly different game than Foster in that he's a less effective distance shooter but a more combative rebounder, especially on the offensive glass. Carroll was third on the team in rebounding and collected seven offensive boards against Auburn, a Vandy season high.

Carroll, who played in all 34 games and earned five starts, didn't have to score that much but twice reached his career-high 12 points in SEC play, against South Carolina and Kentucky. He also grabbed seven rebounds against the Wildcats.

"DeMarre is a guy that's hard to keep off the court because he makes things happen," Stallings said. "He brings energy, hard-nosed play and is a terrific rebounder."

Another experienced wing player who will quickly compete for minutes is 6-7, 220-pound Virginia transfer Derrick Byars, a native of Memphis and a career 40 percent three-point shooter. Byars, who sat out last season as a red-shirt, reportedly wanted to transfer to Tennessee in the spring of 2004, but the Vol staff didn't want to risk losing in-state prep star Tyler Smith, who plays the same position. Stallings was only too happy to give Byars a place to resurface.

Smith eventually signed with Tennessee, but he asked out of his scholarship last spring after Bruce Pearl replaced Buzz Peterson as coach in Knoxville. Don't you bet Pearl would love to have Byars in his starting lineup? Vanderbilt has scored several such recruiting victories over its state rival in Stallings' tenure, no small key in the Commodores' resurgence and the Vols' decline.

Byars started 34 games in two years at Virginia and averaged 20.9 minutes each season. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.5 points and 3.4 boards and reached double figures 11 times, including a career-high 21 against Loyola Marymount. Byars also scored 20 against Iowa State and 18 against Wake Forest.

"He's probably as talented a player on the offensive end as we have," Stallings said. "He's 6-7, and he shoots it, he passes it, he handles it and he can create. He can take it to the basket and is athletic. He's a very complete offensive player. Obviously he'll have to come back from not having played in a game-type setting in a year, but once we get the rust off, Derrick is a guy that has a chance to be real effective."

If Byars and Foster are on the floor at the same time, Vanderbilt opponents will be in for a busy night trying to keep one or both from going off. Add Moore or Gordon to that mix and you've got what could be the best perimeter shooting team in the SEC and among the best in Division I.

Stallings has yet another talented shooter to call upon in 6-4 junior Dan Cage (4.0 ppg, 0.9 rpg). As a freshman, Cage shot .426 (20-of-47) from three-point range. His playing time increased a year ago, but his three-point percentage fell to .358. Cage still had his moments from behind the arc. He made four-of-eight threes while scoring a career-high 18 points against Central Michigan, and also set a career-high with five three-pointers while notching 15 points against Dayton.

Cage turned himself into a solid defender last season, four times leading the Commodores in steals. His defensive work against Earnest Shelton was a key in Vanderbilt's big SEC win over Alabama.

Vanderbilt doesn't have as much talent at the low-post positions, but Stallings has some size and experience. Julian Terrell (6.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg), a 6-9, 250-pound senior, hasn't been the Commodores' most consistent player the last three seasons, but when he shows up ready to rumble, he can do some impressive things. Last season Terrell began to come into his own with increased playing time; he started 26 times and averaged 22 minutes on the floor.

Terrell reached his career highs in points and rebounds last year, scoring 21 against LSU and grabbing 14 boards against Wichita State. He also scored 14 points against the Shockers for his second double-double of the year.

"That's the kind of productivity we need from Julian all season long," Stallings said. "He may be capable of more than that, but we need those types of numbers from him on a regular basis."

If Stallings wants to start a bigger lineup, Terrell will be joined by 6-11, 250-pound junior Ted Skuchas (2.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg). Skuch, as he's called by Vandy fans, isn't afraid to mix it up in the paint. He's a prototypical banger who can rebound and block shots, but he's also got decent touch around the basket and can shoot a jump hook with either hand. With more minutes, his numbers should rise accordingly.

Skuchas is one of the more intelligent players on a team loaded with them. He's often kidded by his teammates for his retro tastes in music; last May, Skuchas and his father jetted to London to check out the reunion of Eric Clapton and Cream.

Stallings will have to rely on youngsters for post depth. Alan Metcalfe (1.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg), a 6-10, 251-pound sophomore, 6-9, 245-pound red-shirt freshman Davis Nwankwo and 6-10 freshman Kyle Madsen will compete for minutes. Ross Neltner, a 6-9, 245-pound LSU transfer, will keep all of them on their toes during his red-shirt season.

Metcalfe, from St. Helen's, England, didn't get a lot of playing time last season, but he showed signs of being a productive player. In his only start, against Ole Miss, he scored five points in a season-high 17 minutes. Metcalfe, who can face up or score inside, shot 82 percent (9-of-11) from the free throw line as a rookie. That's a good sign for a guy who figures to get fouled a lot.

Numerous injuries led to Nwankwo being red-shirted last season. He averaged 13 points and 11 boards two year ago at Georgetown (Md.) Prep [how many other SEC schools are able to recruit men from elite East Coast prep schools?].

Madsen seems to be another in a long line of perimeter-oriented big men who have suited up for Vandy. A year ago he averaged 16.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks for Dublin (Ohio) Coffman High School.

Another newcomer is 6-3 guard George Drake, a decorated Alabama prep who led Calera High School to the 2005 5A championship while averaging 22.6 points and 8.5 rebounds. He was chosen to the state's Super Five team and selected 2A Player of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Drake was also runner-up for the state's Mr. Basketball award. He's the only player in state history to be chosen MVP of his region four times.



Vanderbilt basketball is on a roll. Stallings and his staff have put together several solid recruiting classes in succession, classes that significantly upgraded the Commodores' athleticism and depth.

The result: Vanderbilt, formerly notorious for folding down the stretch of the regular season, has been talented enough to battle with its SEC opponents in February and March.

That in turn has allowed the Commodores to win 20 or more games and secure postseason tournament berths the last two seasons.

Expect the trend to continue. This, in fact, could be Stallings' most talented team. Certainly no other team in recent Vanderbilt history possessed the firepower the Commodores have.

If Vanderbilt can win nine SEC games, the Commodores should return to the NCAA Tournament. Less than that and they're probably looking at the NIT, but that wouldn't be anything to be ashamed of.

This program is now established.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Daring to believe

Or, Why I Have Hope That Vandy Can Beat South Carolina.

* * *

As many of you know, I am an avid reader of the sundry fan-operated websites that discuss Vanderbilt sports, among them and I was reading there today (yes, yes, when I should have been reading Civil Procedure or Torts or some-such) about this weekend's SEC contest in Columbia between the goodly and faithful Vanderbilt Commodores and the impure and benighted South Carolina Gamecocks, coached by the evil Darth Visor himself.

Here is the post that brought hope to my impending weekend:

Statistical Break-down:

Our record this season against teams we were good enough to beat: 4-1
Our record this season against the Top 10: 0-2

- Comment: We're good enough to beat S.C., no doubt, and in that
position so far we're only a blocked FG attempt from being 5-0

Our record this season on the road: 2-0
Our record this season in the SEC: 2-2

- See above. 2-0 against the "Bottom Six". SC is in the Bottom Six.

Our record this season in games decided by 8 points or less: 3-1
Our record this season as road underdog: 2-0

- I picked 8 because that's the line. If you think we will lose by
much more than that to SC there's no point in continuing to read this

S.C.'s rushing offense: 188 yards per game
Our record this season when rushing for 188 yards or more: 2-0

- I think we'll run it through and around them until they can stop us.
It's this type of running attack that got us off to a 2-0 start in the
SEC. I think that if we fix our special teams problems, the trends
are in our favor. Add to that an opponent that will come out flat and
looking ahead. If we take this game to them early on we have an
excellent chance of coming out with a win.

* * *

I was so inspired by this quote, that I emailed it, spam-style, to a couple of close friends and brothers. Replying with his own thoughts was Mark Halling, BYX -- Vanderbilt Nu '03. It was a fascinating anaylsis, and it was both thorough and well-considered.

I believe sharing it would provide further hope for this weekend:

In my estimation, there are three classes of SEC teams...

Upper Division
Upper Division teams beat Lower Division teams with 95% success and Middle Division teams with 80% success. They usually go undefeated in conference play, with perhaps one non-conference loss to a BCS-caliber team. The only competitive games are among each other -- among the best teams in the nation.
This season,
1) Georgia, 6-0 (4)
2) Alabama, 6-0 (5)
3) LSU, 4-1 (9)
4) Auburn, 5-1 (16)

Middle Division
Middle Division teams beat Upper Division teams 20% of the time and Lower Division teams 70% of the time. Usually lose a non-conference game, unless they have a 'Kansas State' caliber non-conference schedule. December bowl teams.
This season,
5) Florida, 5-2 (20)
6) Tennessee, 3-2 (19)
7) Vanderbilt, 4-3 (55)
8) South Carolina, 3-3 (57)

Lower Division
Lower Division teams beat Upper Division teams 5% of the time and Middle Division teams 30% of the time. They don't go to bowl games and have losing records.
This season,
9) Ole Miss, 2-4 (76)
10) Miss. State, 2-4 (82)
11) Arkansas, 2-4 (81)
12) Kentucky, 1-4 (100)

The numbers in parenthesis are the CBS Sportsline rankings for all 119 teams. Among each division, winning percentage is probably around 50/50. Now, Florida and Tennessee probably belong somewhere between Upper and Middle, but for the sake of 4-4-4 distribution we'll leave them where they are.

Being in the Middle Division is a HUGE accomplishment for Vandy -- all these people saying we needed to beat LSU or UGA to "prove we were for real" don't understand Vanderbilt's history and how meaningful just achieving mediocrity is.

This Saturday's game should be extremely competitive. Carolina's wins (Central Florida, Troy, and Kentucky) aren't very impressive -- their whole reputation is on what Spurrier did with superstars at Florida and their 'morale victory' in Week 2 at Georgia (losing 17-15).

Losing to MTSU in a fluke game (we played better than them the entire time, but just never capitalized) obscures that we are good enough to goto a December bowl game (meaning, we are one of the 50 or so best teams in the country). And, South Carolina probably isn't.

It would still be an upset because homefield means so much, but this is overwhelmingly winnable.

Ladies and gentlemen, keep an eye out for that Mark Halling -- you'll see him writing for someone, somwhere eventually.

An Apologetics of Christian Fraternity

My brother in Christ and brother under Christ Casey Zumwalt, BYX -- Mississippi State Omicron '05, brought a very interesting blog to my attention tonight. After reading it, I couldn't help but respond.

I thought it might be beneficial to post its contents here.

* * *

As a past president of Nu Chapter of Beta Upsilon Chi at Vanderbilt University, I feel like I can answer the concerns your raise.

We should have a group of guys that hang out together, have meetings together, worship God together, and love each other with a Christian love. That sounds like a great idea. So do Bible studies, which are basically the same thing, without the added cost of dues.

First of all, BYX is not just a Bible study. As you (sarcastically) point out, we have dues, and our membership is closed. BYX is a Christian, social fraternity -- we host tailgates, parties, semi-formals, and swaps. I haven't heard of too many BCMs or RUFs hosting swaps with Tri-Delt (though I suppose that could happen, I imagine it would be awkward for the women of those organizations).

Any IFC fraternity has parties, which Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) also says they will do. So that’s not different.

BYX is very different: in Beta Upsilon Chi, all brothers and pledges are required to attend a weekly accountability group called a Cell Group. These groups are designed to keep the brothers and pledges strong in their Christian faith and grow them into leaders. Being in BYX means that you're in a Cell Group. We require it of all our members.

I don't know of any IFC fraternities that require all of their pledges and members to be in a Christian Bible study. Maybe in Starkville, but certainly not in Nashville.

What about alcohol? According to some people I’ve talked to, BYX plans on allowing alcohol. "Jesus turned water to wine," [is] a common response from Christians who favor drinking to those who are against it. I honestly have no response to that.

These remarks really demonstrate an ignorance about Beta Upsilon Chi that I feel like the author should have addressed before opining on the subject.

All BYX brothers and pledges are required to adhere, under penalty of suspension or expulsion, to our Code of Conduct. That Code addresses alcohol:

(1) If you are under the legal drinking age in your State, you may not consume alcohol. Period. At school, at a fraternity function, at dinner, at home, over the summer: no how, no way, no where.

(2) If you are at or above the legal drinking age in your State, you may consume alcohol, but you are prohibited from drunkenness; you are prohibited from drinking at all Fraternity events; and you are prohibited from drinking while wearing Fraternity paraphernalia.

(3) If you are a pledge of our Fraternity, you may not consume alcohol. Period.

(4) If you are an elected or appointed officer of the Fraternity, you are prohibited from drinking alcohol during your term of office.

Caleb, I turned 21 in February 2004 while I was president of Nu Chapter. I did not drink until January 1, 2005, when my term of office expired.

As for your theological comments on alcohol, I must take off my BYX alumnus hat and put on my Christian hat (which I never really take off): drinking is not a sin. Period. If you believe otherwise, I'll gladly agree if you can show me Scripture that says, "Thou shalt not consume alcohol."

The Bible says that it is sinful to be drunk; the Bible talks about fools are often drunkards. But the Bible never, ever says that drinking is a sin.

This is a taboo from recent Christian history (recent = the past one hundred fifty years).

I'll tell you what the Bible does say: Jesus, as you pointed out, did turn water into wine so that He, his friends, and his mother could drink it. The cup at the last supper held wine, not grape juice. For more than two thousand years, faithful Christians gather every week to share a cup of wine.

Drinking alcohol can be a sin: if you abuse it, and become drunk, you are sinning. If you are under the legal age for consuming alcohol in your State, then you are breaking the law, which God has allowed to be passed: this is a sin (in as far as human law corresponds to God's law, it is sinful to break human law).

But BYX says they will encourage responsible consumption. Wow, so does every IFC fraternity.

We don't just "encourage" our brothers and pledges not to drink. We strictly enforce our Code on this provision.

Show me a fraternity who has impeached and removed one of its chapter's vice-presidents for drinking HALF of one beer. That has happened before in BYX.

Let's be realistic, Caleb: while most fraternities tow the party (and University) line about encouraging safe alcohol use, where are most of the alcohol poisoning cases that make it into Starkville hospital(s)? Where do most students know they can get large quantities of free (if cheap and disgusting) beer on most weekends? At least at Vanderbilt, the answer to both of those questions is "IFC fraternities." That is not to say that some houses are less beer-oriented than others, but I've yet to see a Fraternity house that doesn't play beer pong at least once during the year.

You will /not/ see that at an event hosted by Beta Upsilon Chi.

Seriously, what’s the difference between BYX brothers and Sigma Chis?

In two words, a lot.

What IFC fraternity requires its pledges and members to agree to uphold a Code of Conduct, and then actually enforces it (in addition to alcohol, the Code deals with vulgar language, sexual behavior, athletics sportsmanship, fair and honest dealing with University officials, and provisions about hazing pledges)?

What IFC fraternity (1) has a Doctrinal Statement of Beliefs and (2) requires its pledges and members to agree to it?

What IFC fraternity prohibits alcohol at its events?

What IFC fraternity requires all of its members to be actively involved with an accountability group, and has a mechanism to enforce that involvement?

The answer to all of those questions is NONE.

Of course, now you will resort to your Bible study argument.

But again, our parties, and our swaps, and our formals, and our ritual, and our pledgeship all belie that fact.

"Well surely you can't actually be successful, not at a school with fraternities that are actually fraternities."

Au contraire, mon ami.

Let me list how Beta Upsilon Chi is a leader in the Greek community at one of the most Greek schools in the South (Vanderbilt) and yet maintains its Christian identity as described above:

(1) The ultimate Greek "popularity" contest is Homecoming Court. For the past three years, a BYX man has one of five men on the homecoming court, and at Homecoming 2003 and Homecoming 2004, a BYX man was elected Homecoming King. His queen, both times, was a Kappa Delta.

(2) In the two years I was President, and therefore the two years that I have statistics, BYX did as good or better than the IFC fraternities in Rush: in Rush 2003, BYX was third of 15 fraternities in the size of its rush class; in Rush 2004, BYX tied with SAE for first among all fraternities at Vanderbilt.

(3) Our parties are consistently among the largest and most well-attended at Vanderbilt; the only ones bigger are Pike's Peak (Pi Kappa Alpha), ZBTahiti (Zeta Beta Tau), and Paddy Murphy Day Party (Sigma Alpha Epsilon). We are probably about the same size as Derby Days Paint Party (Sigma Chi).

Those are just three criteria by which you can measure BYX's identity as a true social fraternity. And yet, on top of all of this success, BYX men are still meeting weekly for their Cell Groups; they're having Bible studies at their Chapter meetings; and there's not a drop of alcohol at any of our events.

When you really break it down though, the ideas of fraternities and them being Christian are two ideas that are entirely juxtaposed.

Beta Upsilon Chi, the brothers under Christ, is the living, breathing contradiction of this statement. We are distinctly and boldly Christian; we are proudly and loudly Greek. A fraternity is about brotherhood, unity, and life-long friendship. There is nothing about being a Christian that contradicts these principles -- in fact, Christianity encourages them.

The point is Jesus never told anyone he couldn’t be a part of their group. Ever. Are these Christian Greek groups going to have any sort of cuts? According to what I’ve heard, yeah, they will cut people.

Yes, BYX membership is selective. But there is nothing un-Christian about this practice.

Your statement that Christianity is the most inclusive religion in the world is right on target. Jesus Christ died and rose for the whole world, and His sacrifice is for all.

As a result, any person who "confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised Him from the dead will be saved."

God welcomes them into his loving, covenant community: the Church.

Caleb, you and I may have different notions of what the Church is, but I would assume that we could both agree that BYX is not a church.

Certainly, BYX does not call itself a church.

As such, why is it incompatible with Christian faith to identify those individuals who are most dedicated to being a part of our Fraternity? After all, we are a fraternity, not the church.

Under your logic, it would be un-Christian for the local parks & recreation baseball team to cut players that don't show up for practice or can't make the team.

In your system, the church basketball team couldn't hold try-outs, because it would be (gasp) exclusivistic.

It just doesn't make sense: not being on the little league baseball team or the church basketball team has nothing to do with membership in the Bride of Christ, the Church. It certainly has nothing to do with salvation.

And neither does pledging and being initiated into a social fraternity that happens to believe in Jesus.

Christ tells us to "be in the world, but not of the world." I know he didn’t mean for us to hide in our own social group, hiding behind the idea that we’re trying to protect ourselves from anti-Christian activities.

I think this comment reflects a lack of understanding of how the Greek system works. Beta Upsilon Chi is one of the most involved (if not the most involved) houses at Vanderbilt. We do all the sorority philanthropies, we participate in Dance Marathon, we participate in as much of the pan-Greek activities that we can.

By banding together Christian men into a fraternity, we are not "hiding," we're becoming more and more involved.

Another thing about this comment frustrates me: you seem to think that the Christian character of BYX will either (1) draw all of the Christians out of the IFC fraternities or (2) cause strife to develop between the Christians in IFCs and BYX brothers.

That is completely foreign to reality, at least how it happens in Nashville.

Over in Commodore Country, we actually have men who rush BYX, who really want to join, and who are active in the rush process, but feel led by the Holy Spirit to pledge another house. Do you know how BYX reacts? We pray for our brother -- for after all, he is our brother whether he pledges BYX or not.

There are many strong, Christian men in Vanderbilt fraternities who became interested in the Greek system through BYX and who realized that God was calling them to minister to hurting people in the IFCs.

Even more exciting are the relationships that we continue to maintain with our brothers in Christ in IFC fraternities. We pray for them, we support them, and we do our best to make sure that the message of Christ's love is made known on Greek Row at Vandy.

Let’s be honest, the real problem here is that a group of people want to be in a fraternity, but are too afraid they can’t withstand the burden of saying no to alcohol, taking care of their fraternal brothers, or respecting women when peer pressure might go the other way.

This is a sad statement. Your post was misguided, but well-meaning, until this point. At this point, apparently, you felt it was necessary to attack men who feel led of God to bring this important ministry to your campus.

It's a shame.

The men who rush BYX receive bids to join other houses -- they're not the rejects or the throw-backs. They're not "too afraid" of the so-called burdens that you talk about.

We're in the trenches, fighting for Christ in place where most people would rather not think about His sacrifice. BYX men are loving on Greeks at campuses across this country, and we're growing more every day.

Beta Upsilon Chi is the nation's largest Christian social fraternity, with sixteen chapters across the Sun Belt.

The core of BYX is Jesus Christ: our purpose is "to establish Brotherhood and Unity among college men based upon the Common Bond of Jesus Christ."

We are Christian, and we are a fraternity. It is that simple, and it has worked, under the blessing of God Almighty, for more than twenty years.

My prayer is that God will show you how He is moving through BYX so that you will be blessed by learning of the lives that He is changing through this amazing, mind-boggling creature: the CHRISTIAN FRATERNITY.

So I know it's been a long time...

Sorry for not posting in almost two months. Especially you, Cristy -- I know you lived to read Annales. And probably you, too, Drew. :)

I think I may be back for a while. We'll see.