Monday, February 19, 2007

Golden era: top tier sports succeeding at VU

When Vanderbilt restructured its Athletics Department to merge it into the Division of Student Life (now the Office of the Dean of Students), folks were quick to say that Vanderbilt athletics would shortly devolve into Division III quality, and that the Varisty Football team might have to share practice space with the Sigma Chi intramural team.

Almost four years later, it seems the nay-sayers were wrong. Vanderbilt football notched a 5-6 season, with a 4th-in-the-East finish, including a win over archrival Tennessee in 2005, and in 2006, the same team, minus first-round draft pick Jay Cutler, saw a 4-7 season with a win in Athens over the Georgia Bulldogs. In 2007, with most of the team, including many starters, returning, and with 8 home games, Vanderbilt looks set, within the next 2-3 years to finally achieve a winning season and the accompanying bowl invitation.

The story is the same for men's basketball. With Saturday's win over then No. 1-ranked Florida, the Commodores have all but clinched an invitation to the NCAA Tournament: the program's second in four years. In addition, the Black and Gold squad was ranked No. 17 in the nation by the Associated Press just this week; ESPN predicts that the 'Dores could be as high as a fifth-seed in the tournament, come March.

On the women's side of things, Vanderbilt has been consistently ranked in the Top 25 every year of Melanie Balcomb's tenure as Commodore head coach. And though she has yet to knock off the arch-nemesis Lady Vols, an SEC Tournament championship has helped soften the frustration.

Finally, the most resurgent of Vanderbilt sports, especially since the restructuring, has been the Vanderbilt baseball team. Under head coach Tim Corbin, the Diamond 'Dores have progressed each season toward becoming one of the nation's elite clubs. In 2006, the Black and Gold went all the way to the SEC Tournament Championship before falling to the Ole Miss Rebels. And this month, Vanderbilt baseball, after knocking off three teams in the Top 10, has done something that no Vanderbilt men's team has ever done in the history of Commodores intercollegiate athletics: just today it was announced that the Vanderbilt Commodores are the number one team in the country.

The marketing slogan may be cheesy, but for once, it's accurate: in 2007, it's "good to be Gold."

LISTENING TO: You guessed it -- 'Dynamite


At 4:38 PM, Blogger Austen said...

Dillon, I like the support of Vanderbilt and hope that life is treating you well these days. If you wanted another blog on Vandy Sports Josh Burgener, Rob Williams, Stan Overby, and regular contributions by Jonathan Brown on The Vanderbilt Sports Line is pretty good.

Hope all's well buddy.


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