A match made in purgatory
At the end of the tennis match when I shook hands with my opponent at the net, I apologized. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you a better game.” The match, lasting less than an hour, was a waste of time for him. It was a wake-up call for me.
Until that afternoon I was an undefeated freshman on the Wingate College tennis team. Early in the season I reviewed the schedule and saw that we had a match scheduled against UNC-Chapel Hill. My first thought was “Oh my gosh, whose idea was this? We’re gonna get killed!”
My second reaction brought some relief as I thought it was likely a typo, with the correct team likely being UNC-Charlotte which was less than an hour away. Then I saw an asterisk that clarified it was UNC’s B-team. I didn’t know UNC-Charlotte, or any other college for that matter, had a B-team—the equivalent of junior varsity in high school. I felt my initial panic subside and my confidence return at the thought that my upcoming opponent was a B-team player at UNC-Charlotte.
Good news and bad news
The actual truth was bad news and good news. The bad news is that we were indeed scheduled against UNC-Chapel Hill. The good news (if there could be any) is that it was their B-team.
A few months later, on the tennis court against my UNC opponent, the only good news was that my suffering was not prolonged. The 6-0, 6-0 shellacking was a blur, like his serve and passing shots. In reality, my opponent got some tennis practice, not a match. And I got a free, yet costly, tennis lesson.
The lesson was not just how to hit a topspin crosscourt winner, but that my tennis game could not compete with Division 1 talent. Indeed, 18 months later when I enrolled at Wake Forest University to begin my junior year, alerting Wake’s tennis coach of my transfer was not even a thought.
I believe I know what the Vanderbilt University football program must silently feel about playing the sport in the SEC. And fans can’t kid themselves that Vandy is David among the Goliaths. Goliath has been crushing our Dave for decades. Sure, there have been some encouraging wins and even an upset or two along the way, mainly during the brief James Franklin era.
On Saturday on its home turf Vanderbilt was steamrolled by the University of Georgia, 62-0. If college football had the Mercy Rule that Little League baseball employs, the officials would have called off the game before the end of the first quarter when Georgia led 35-0.
Georgia actually showed mercy in pasting just 62 points on Vanderbilt. It could’ve been much worse. By midway in the 3rd quarter Georgia’s starters had given way to 2nd and 3rd stringers, equipment managers and backup cheerleaders.
A broken record about breaking records
Was this Vanderbilt’s worst loss ever? Nope.
Bama beat Vandy 71-0 in 1945 and 66-3 in 1979. In 1994 the Vols beat Vandy 65-0. But for the worst whuppin’ in Vandy history we have to go back to 1917 when the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech demolished the Commodores 83-0.
Thankfully, there was no Class of 1917 alumni still alive and present at Saturday’s game to say, “Oh, stop your whining. We had it much worse. The score was worse. The seating was worse. There were no concession stands and no bathrooms. The attendance, however, was much better back then.”
Ah, the attendance. The Vanderbilt student body and fan base should be required to fill out a missing persons report every Saturday in the fall. There is no home field advantage for Vanderbilt. Students and fans from other SEC schools always outnumber the Vandy ticket holders 4:1. If Commodore stadium was a large ship it would tip over due to the disproportionate weight distribution.
No blame, no shame
But it’s hard to blame Vandy fans for not getting enthused enough to donate their Saturday to a charitable cause. And I don’t blame the players and coaches for “not putting a better product on the field.” I believe they give it their all.
The Vanderbilt Commodores are competitive in the SEC in every other sport (men’s and women’s) except football. The team has not won an SEC football game since 2019 when they upset Missouri.
The feel-good peak was 2012 when Vandy won five SEC games and lost only three. It’s been a steady downhill roll ever since. And the SEC is only becoming more dominant, and that’s even before Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC in 2025.
I’m a Vandy fan so I truly mean no disrespect to current and former players, coaches and the administration, but it appears that Vanderbilt football program and the SEC are going in very different directions…and picking up speed. Vandy football and the SEC are simply an incompatible couple in a dysfunctional relationship, and it is cruel to both partners to force them to stay together.