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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt’s potential bowl destinations after Tennessee win

Ziyi Liu
Tennessee missed field goal as Vanderbilt beat #17 Tennessee 45-34 at Vanderbilt Stadium November 26, 2016. Photo by Ziyi Liu.

With a decisive 45-34 win over the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, the Vanderbilt Commodores threw away all of the convoluted and headache-inducing five-win bowl scenarios and clinched a bowl berth the traditional way.

Now, Commodore players and fans have to wait to hear which bowl game they’ll play in.

The Southeastern Conference has 11 bowl eligible teams for 10 bowl tie-ins plus the College Football Playoff (presumably where Alabama is going). In order to decide which teams go to which games, there is a tiered ranking of bowl games, and, in theory, better teams get to go to the better games.

The two bottom-tier SEC bowl games are the Birmingham Bowl on December 29 in Birmingham, Alabama, vs. an American Athletic Conference team and the Camping World Independence Bowl on December 26 in Shreveport, Louisiana, vs. an ACC team.

With Vanderbilt and South Carolina as the only 6-6 bowl-eligible teams, it seems likely that they will be going to these bottom-tier SEC games. Each has an outside shot at a higher-up bowl, like the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, but that would be unlikely.

Here’s where the major College Football sites have Vanderbilt bowling:

CBS Sports:

Birmingham Bowl vs. Tulsa

SB Nation: 

Independence Bowl vs. North Carolina State

NBC Sports:

Birmingham Bowl vs. Houston


Birmingham Bowl vs. Memphis

Campus Insiders:

Independence Bowl vs. Wake Forest

SEC Country:

Independence Bowl vs. Wake Forest

Sporting News:

Birmingham Bowl vs. Tulsa

Sports Illustrated:

Independence Bowl vs. North Carolina State

Fox Sports:

Independence Bowl vs. Wake Forest


Mark Schlabach: Birmingham Bowl vs. South Florida

Brett McMurphy: Independence Bowl vs. Wake Forest

So it appears the experts are conflicted as to which bowl Vanderbilt will go to, but they seem to have settled on either the Birmingham or Independence Bowl. From a Vanderbilt perspective, the Birmingham Bowl would be the preferred game for a number of reasons, but may not be the one they get.

The Birmingham Bowl is very close to Nashville (a quick two-and-a-half-hour drive down I-65), is in a bigger city and takes place on a much better date that is further away from Christmas. It will be easier for Commodore fans to travel a short distance well after Christmas than have to drive all day on Christmas to Shreveport for a bowl game on the 26th. Vanderbilt would have a much bigger presence at the Birmingham Bowl than at the Independence Bowl.

A berth in the Birmingham Bowl would also allow a lot more students to attend the game. Students that want to attend the game but don’t live in the Southeast would be able to fly to Nashville, stay in their dorms (if they fill out the appropriate paperwork) and drive down to Birmingham either the night before or day of the game. The only way to get to Shreveport from outside the Southeast is through a convoluted connecting flight.

So it’s clear that Vanderbilt should be rooting for a bid from the Birmingham Bowl. However, because it is the objectively better bowl, some may argue that South Carolina, a bigger school with a larger fan base, should and will get preference over Vanderbilt for that bowl.

While that might be true, Vanderbilt’s proximity advantage will likely outweigh any population advantage South Carolina might have. Because Nashville is so close to Birmingham, Vanderbilt’s fan turnout could be around equal to a South Carolina turnout.

On top of that, South Carolina might actually be able to sell more tickets to the Independence Bowl than Vanderbilt. Let’s say only 30 percent of potential attendees for both Vanderbilt and South Carolina would be able or willing to make the trip to Shreveport on Christmas Day to attend a bowl game the next day. Because South Carolina has a larger group of potential attendees, a 30 percent draw for it sells more tickets than a 30 percent draw for Vanderbilt.

This is why the Commodore program should do everything it can to convince the Shreveport officials to pick the Gamecocks and the Birmingham officials to pick Vanderbilt. Postseason bowl games are big moneymakers more than anything. When something like a national title isn’t on the line, profits have to make a difference in selecting bowl teams.

Based on the rationale above, the Independence Bowl would make more money by inviting South Carolina and the Birmingham Bowl would make more money by inviting Vanderbilt. Of course, the bowl organizers might not see it that way, so it still really is a toss-up between the two bowl games for Vanderbilt.

Either way, Vanderbilt should be thrilled to be in a bowl game. But, for everything else, Birmingham should, and could, be the ideal destination.

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About the Contributors
Cutler Klein
Cutler Klein, Former Sports Editor
Cutler Klein ('19) was the Sports Editor of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He previously served as Assistant Sports Editor. He majored in communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. When he's not writing stories, tweeting silly GIFs or watching any hockey game he can find, Cutler is running the sports department of VandyRadio, hosting VU Sports Wired on VTV and covering the Nashville Predators as a credentialed media member for Penalty Box Radio. Cutler has had bylines on and
Ziyi Liu, Author
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7 years ago

Were ever Vanderbilt play and when they play we will be there from Los Angeles California. We are so excited Anchordown.

7 years ago

If we beat Memphis, we are the champions of Tennessee! MTSU, TNST, UT, Memphis! Anchor Down!

7 years ago
Reply to  Geezer

Vandy is Tennessee champs either way.