Boclair: Vandy wins come at a cost — other coaches’ jobs

Monday, November 12, 2012 at 10:05pm

For much of the country, Vanderbilt’s rise to the middle of the Southeastern Conference over the past couple seasons is a nice story.

After all, there is no shortage of folks who like to root for the underdog. The bigger the better, in fact, and the Commodores traditionally rate as something of a Great Dane of underdogs. Factor in the academic demands, and there is a lot to like about Vanderbilt’s storyline.

Yet there are examples — an increasing number, in fact — of how Vanderbilt’s improvement has closed the book on coaching tenures as well.

Just last week Kentucky fired its coach, Joker Phillips, the day after a 40-0 loss to the Commodores. It was a little over a year ago that Ole Miss canned Houston Nutt fewer than two months after his team lost 30-7 in the first conference game for the new VU coaching staff.

The carnage is not likely to stop any time soon either.

It’s been a foregone conclusion for weeks that Gene Chizik won’t make it to next season at Auburn. Part of the problem is that this year his team lost 17-13 to Vanderbilt. There is talk at Army (a 44-21 loser last season) that coach Rich Ellerson will suffer a similar fate, although a recent loss to winless Eastern Michigan was particularly damning.

With the University of Tennessee headed to town this weekend, it seems safe to wonder how much time the Volunteers’ 27-21 overtime victory last Nov. 19 in Knoxville bought Derek Dooley. Had that thing gone differently, he might have been long gone long ago.

The point is this: Everyone likes to have an opponent on the schedule they feel like they can kick around. For years and years and years that opponent was Vanderbilt, which as the joke goes is one of the nation’s all-time leaders in homecoming games.

When that expected easy victory doesn’t happen, boosters, alumni and university presidents feel like the best thing to do is to kick their coach to the curb.

The undesired result, in their view, can’t be because Vanderbilt has made steady progress toward respectability over the past decade or so under three different head coaches. It can’t be because the overall talent level and depth of the program have improved, or that the belief level within the locker room hasn’t been this high for almost three-quarters of a century.

A bowl victory following the 2008 season signaled a change, but no one wanted to believe it. Thus, they still can’t believe when their team actually falls to the Commodores.

Brian Reese, the athletics director at Presbyterian College, might be the only one with real perspective in the wake of such a defeat, in his case 58-0 back on Sept. 15.

Football Championship Subdivision programs such as Presbyterian used to schedule Vanderbilt as a “what-if” game. That is to say, they looked at the contest and thought “What if everything goes right and we get a couple breaks?” The hope was they might actually pull a shocker.

That probably was the case for Presbyterian as well, but when it did not happen — or even come close to happening — Reese didn’t sweat it. As the final seconds counted down on that contest, he stood behind the end zone and remarked how much size and speed Vanderbilt has these days. It was clear to him why the final score was what it was.

Reese, of course, was the director of football operations under Bobby Johnson in addition to several other roles he filled in eight years along West End Avenue. So it was clear to him just how far the program has come.

If others don’t figure it out soon, there’s no telling how many coaches will lose their jobs in the coming years.

6 Comments on this post:

By: Bennyhaha on 11/13/12 at 6:49

Heck,without researching it, my recollection is that its been going on for years, since the Jay Cutler days every SEC coach that VU has beaten other than Richt and Spurrier were fired not long after a loss to Vandy, and those 2 coaches are VERY aware it a BRAND NEW VANDY.

By: Rasputin72 on 11/13/12 at 7:17

I have too much history of watching Vanderbilt football since 1948 to buy into the BRAND NEW VANDY theme just yet. I will admit that I am enjoying what I see. Next year they have four victories built into their schedule. This may not bring in many fans but it will help boost the programs status and recruiting.

It is my understanding that Vanderbilt has two more games. Tennessee on Saturday and Wake Forest the following week.

This will be very interesting for both the blindly loyal Vanderbilt supporters and those that are happy with what they are seeing but very very skeptical.

If they beat Tennessee and Wake Forest this will become the best team Vanderbilt has ever produced and that includes the Gator Bowl team and the 1948 Red Sanders team.

This is as far as I go back.

I will be delighted to see this happen.

By: vandyc84 on 11/13/12 at 9:24

It is nice to see Rasputin actually appreciates the improvement being shown by the program. However, I think he has forgotten the wonderful team from 1982 that had zero expectations and finished the regular season by whipping UT and finishing with an 8-3 record before losing in the Hall of Fame Bowl, which by the way they had won until a letdown in the 4th qtr. Led by Whit Taylor, Allama Mathews, Norman Jordan and others I will never forget how fun it was watching that team. Truly a great bunch of guys. I sincerely hope that with Coach Franklin we can sustain this level of success for years to come.

By: joe41 on 11/13/12 at 11:27

People should get used to seeing Vanderbilt win SEC games. Just like Northwestern and Stanford winning games in their respective conferences. The point is that there are enough smart athletes who can play football. And they value going to a University where they can be a student and classmate.

The Knox County mayor made a disparaging comment about UT football the other day and it didn't have anything to do with winning or losing. It was about character. I am proud of this Vanderbilt team because of their character.

Go Vandy.

Joe

By: wiseguy1 on 11/13/12 at 12:34

Moronic article ... chronic losing resulted their dismissal. Not just losing losing to Vanderbilt. Or more policitally correct, failing to achieve the university's "high expectations of continuing the winning tradition".

To extrapolate, is this to say Hugh Freeze on his way out after 1 year? Not likely. Why wasn't Jim Grobe fired at Wake after last year's thrashing by VU? Simple anwer is WF went 5-3 in ACC and eventually to Music City Bowl.

By: 4gold on 11/14/12 at 7:54

Well it does seem to happen on a regular basis. In fact Auburn has fired their coach the last two times they lost at Vandy. Twice in a row. True progress will be when it is not such a shock to lose to Vandy.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!