West End mural favors high-profile VU coaches

Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 10:05pm

James Franklin has won nary a game as the Vanderbilt head football coach. 

John Williamson has captured a national title as Vanderbilt women’s bowling coach, an underdog sport if there is one. 

Yet Franklin’s smiling mug graces the highly visible “Vanderbilt Coaches Mural” on the building at 28th and West End avenues, while Williamson’s visage does not.

Nor do the familiar faces of Commodore baseball skipper Tim Corbin, arguably VU’s most nationally respected coach, or any other Dores coaches besides Melanie Balcomb (women’s basketball) and Kevin Stallings (men’s basketball). 

This exhausting, inexcusable inequality dates to 1992, when the newly unveiled mural featured only football coach Gerry DiNardo and men’s basketball mentor Eddie Fogler. In 2000, the artist added the visage of then-women’s hoops coach Jim Foster. The massive mural has remained exclusive to the big three sports ever since. 

But a movement of the milder sort is afoot for muralist master Michael Cooper to add Corbin, who in nine seasons at VU has won twice as many games as he’s lost. Cooper has a layout and design ready to roll once a sponsor, who would pay for the painting, is finalized. 

“There is a ton of people who want Tim Corbin up there,” Cooper said. 

Vanderbilt doesn’t own the building and has never been directly involved with the mural. VU director of athletic communications Rod Williamson said the university preferred to not make Corbin available for either a comment or a photo — so as to keep from perpetuating an urban legend. 

Building owner Jim Crossman defers to Cooper and the private sponsors, who tend to be, of course, Vandy fans. Most recently, Nashville-based Classic Hits 97.1-FM paid to have Franklin’s visage added. 

“I’m sure there are plenty who would pay to have Michael paint Tim Corbin,” said the odd, lovable Crossman. 

Cooper said he doesn’t want to “trash up” the wall with so many smiling faces. 

“I don’t want the wall looking like it’s sponsored by NASCAR with 400 logos,” he said. “It needs to be tasteful. It’s become a neighborhood icon.”