KLEIN: Reflections of an outgoing Vanderbilt Hustler sports editor

Back to Article
Back to Article

KLEIN: Reflections of an outgoing Vanderbilt Hustler sports editor

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

Back in November of 2018, I was going to Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball’s Friday night showdown against Alcorn State.

It was the first Friday of Thanksgiving break, so I fully expected a light crowd as most students would be either be on their way home or resting after a long month of midterms and papers. However, that’s not what I saw when I walked into Memorial Gym.

Instead, I saw a packed student section that was rowdy and interested in what was happening on the floor. These were simpler times for Vanderbilt Basketball, when Darius Garland was healthy and the team looked to be a dark horse in the SEC. The student section was transfixed when Garland fed fellow high-profile freshman Simisola Shittu and allowed the big Canadian to rack up 20 points in a decisive Vanderbilt victory.

While everything would change for Vanderbilt Basketball a week later with Garland’s injury, the atmosphere in Memorial Gym for that late November game demonstrated something I’ve come to learn about this wonderful place: when you give students something they want to be invested in, they will come out in droves.

As I prepare to graduate and (reluctantly) move on from Vanderbilt, I wanted to share some parting thoughts about why Vanderbilt’s sports teams matter, and what the future holds for the Commodores. I have dedicated my last four years to telling the stories of the teams and athletes that represent this university, and while I still can, I hope I can show you the importance of those teams and athletes.

Vanderbilt is not a university that can rely on history and tradition to sell its athletic programs to the student body. Instead, it’s the promise of a good in-game product, a fun atmosphere and an event worth the time that could have been spent studying or going out that will bring students out to the stadium.

That’s what makes me so excited for the future of Vanderbilt Athletics.

Ziyi Liu
Fans as Vanderbilt lost to #6 Kentucky 87-81 at Memorial Gym January 10, 2016.

This year, Vanderbilt has shown how exciting products and a great atmosphere lead to excitement among students. The early buzz about the Men’s Basketball team before Garland’s injury was palpable on campus. Vanderbilt Soccer drew record crowds and generated massive interest because the team was exciting to watch and won lots of games. Vanderbilt Baseball is drawing extremely well thanks to an elite offensive team and new additions to the in-game experience such as the Home Run Lounge in the outfield.

Going into next year and the years beyond, Vanderbilt is keeping that momentum going. Vanderbilt Football brings back numerous high-octane players on the offensive side of the ball that should make games in Vanderbilt Stadium must-watch events. Vanderbilt Soccer is returning most of its SEC champion 2018 squad and should continue to thrill crowds.

And then, of course, there’s Jerry Stackhouse.

I’ve had more students ask me about Stackhouse as Vanderbilt’s new Men’s Basketball coach than any other person or team in my four years here. Stackhouse’s ventures to Rand for lunch and trip to a fraternity house for a pickup game of Basketball show that he is willing and able to directly engage with the student body and generate the necessary buzz to get students to support a team that just went 0-19 in the SEC.

Photo by Emily Gonçalves

Stackhouse’s energy and enthusiasm is emblematic of the attitude that new AD Malcolm Turner is bringing to Vanderbilt Athletics. With a new approach and perhaps some additional resources behind some of these programs, there will be even more reasons for students to get excited about the teams that represent them on the field and on the court.

Even though I won’t be around on campus to experience all of the excitement that is coming in 2019-20, I implore each and every Vanderbilt student to buy in. Even if you aren’t a sports fan or have never been to a Vanderbilt sporting event, give it a shot. I know that life at Vanderbilt can be crazy and hectic, and with everything else that you have going on, you need a very good reason to drop all of that to spend a few hours in a stadium watching a game. But if you take a few minutes to find out what’s going on in the world of Vanderbilt Athletics, you’ll find there’s a lot to offer that will make your Vanderbilt experience that much more enjoyable.

I come from a unique background, having called the Commodores my team since I was in elementary school. I could probably tell you more about Commodore teams from 2008 than I care to admit. At times in my four years here, I’ve been frustrated at the number of students that have come out to games. But, I also understood that there’s a give-and-take involved. If the team didn’t give any incentive to come out to the game, then why would anyone want to go?

With new leadership and a new approach, coupled with high-quality teams that have been built with years of development, there’s no better time to get invested in Commodore sports. I urge every Vanderbilt student to continue to make Vanderbilt’s teams a part of your Vanderbilt experience.

I have spent the last four years trying to shed light on why the Commodores should matter to this university and its students. Even after I graduate and move on to the real world, I hope that the teams that wear the Black and Gold continue to matter to you, and to everyone that has the privilege of walking this campus every day.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story