The Backpage: A (short) history of Vanderbilt bowling

Monday, December 5, 2011 at 12:03am
By Steven Hale

With a win last Saturday, Vandy became bowl-eligible for just the fifth time in their history. Below is a look at each of the dates in the ’Dores’ bowling past. For the whole story, we recommend checking out the work of VU football historian Bill Traughber, which proved quite helpful to Backpage this week and had us waxing nostalgic about the West Enders of yore.


Dec. 31, 1955, Gator Bowl

Gator Bowl Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

Score: Vanderbilt: 25 Auburn: 13

No. 1 song: “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford

National debt: $274,374,222,802.62 

The game: The ’Dores almost faced Ralph “Shug” Jordan’s eighth-ranked Tigers without a quarterback. Signal-caller Don Orr had dislocated the elbow in his throwing arm, while playing safety against Tennessee weeks earlier (yes, safety). Orr led Vandy to victory and was named bowl MVP.  

Notable: According to Traughber, Auburn coach “Shug” Jordan post-game: “We lost to the finest team we’ve played all year. It was a pleasure to play with such a fine team as Vanderbilt. You men are clean and fine in victory and true sportsmen.”

Where are they now? Orr — who overcame a childhood polio diagnosis before shrugging off that dislocated elbow — was drafted by the Chicago Bears, but decided against playing in the NFL because of past concussions (wisdom beyond his era). After serving in the Army, Orr went on to become an NFL official, worked in three Super Bowls and retired from officiating in 1996. He retired from the Nashville Machine Co., in which he had a controlling interest, in 2006.


Dec. 28, 1974, Peach Bowl

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.

Score: Vanderbilt: 6 Texas Tech: 6

No. 1 song: “Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy

National debt: $475,059,815,731.55

The game: In this battle for placekicking supremacy, not a touchdown was scored, but several Peach Bowl records were set. Two still stand today: fewest points scored (12) and most net yards rushing (446). The closest Vandy came to pay dirt was late in the first half, when a pass to the Red Raider end zone was caught! By the Red Raiders. Same Old Vandy.  

Notable: When the Masked Rider led Tech onto the Peach Bowl field in 1974, it marked the first time a woman was behind the mask. Her selection caused quite a fuss. One letter to the school paper read: “The feelings of pride and heart pounded [sic] excitement that each and every Tech fan has experienced while watching the traditional ride, has just been crushed!”

Where are they now? In a turn of events that might befall Commodore Nation again if James Franklin keeps up his winning ways, Steve Sloan was named Coach of the Year and then hired away by Texas Tech just days after the game. He also coached for Ole Miss and Duke and served as athletic director at the universities of Alabama, North Texas, Central Florida and Tennessee-Chattanooga before retiring in 2006. In 2000 he was inducted to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and is now retired and living in Florida.


December 31, 1982, Hall of Fame Classic Bowl

Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.

Score: Air Force: 36 Vanderbilt: 28

No. 1 song: “Maneater” by Hall and Oates 

National debt: 1,142,034,000,000.00 (rounded to millions)

The game: Vandy entered the fourth quarter up 28-17, only to give up 19 unanswered points to the Falcons. Commodore QB Whit Taylor threw for four touchdowns, though, and was named co-MVP.

Notable: Traughber reveals that the bowl selection committee was planning on pitting Stanford against Vandy in the Hall of Fame Bowl, provided that the Cardinal won their final game against Cal. Unfortunately, with seconds left on the clock, the band was on the field, Cal was in the end zone and Air Force was off to play Vandy.

Where are they now? Taylor went on to play in the United States Football League for the Michigan Panthers and San Antonio Gunslingers. He also spent a year with the Denver Dynamite in the Arena Football League before retiring. He is currently the Assistant Principal at Shelbyville Central High School, in Shelbyville, Tenn.


Dec. 31, 2008, Music City Bowl

LP Field in Nashville

Score: Vanderbilt: 16 Boston College: 14

No. 1 song: “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyoncé

National debt: $10,699,804,864,612.13 

The game: Beside the fact that the bowl victory was Vandy’s first in 53 years, there wasn’t much to see here. Want proof? Commodore punter Brett Upson was named MVP.

Notable: The win marked the first time Vandy had ever beaten an FBS opponent with nine wins at the time of the game.

Where are they now? Vandy’s then All-American cornerback D.J. Moore was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2009 NFL draft. As of this writing, he has three interceptions and a touchdown this season.


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