KLEIN: Off-campus football stadium proposal should anger students

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KLEIN: Off-campus football stadium proposal should anger students

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

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

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

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

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

Imagine: you’re sick, and your doctor gives you medicine to help you.

Only that medicine actually makes you sicker than you were before.

That’s exactly what Vanderbilt’s proposal to share an off-campus stadium with a potential Major League Soccer franchise does to the Vanderbilt student body. 

According to The Tennessean, Vanderbilt has until October to decide whether or not to partner with a potential MLS ownership group on a new stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds. This stadium would serve as the home for both the hypothetical MLS franchise and Vanderbilt Football.

While it’s no secret that Vanderbilt’s current football stadium is in need of a facelift, this proposal to share a stadium off-campus could drastically alter the future of the football program and the Vanderbilt student body.

Vanderbilt faces two primary issues with regards to football: its cramped stadium and a student section that’s glaringly not cramped. 

By trying to put Vanderbilt’s football stadium off campus, the school would essentially solve one problem by making the other infinitely worse. 

Earlier this year, the Hustler conducted a student survey on Vanderbilt’s sports attendance habits. We found that 24.9% of students surveyed did not attend a single football game this past season. In addition, 58.1% of students attended two games or less.

If student attendance is that abysmal when the stadium is right in front of their faces, how bad would attendance be at a stadium 15 minutes away from campus? 

If the university decides to collaborate with the MLS group on this potential stadium, the university would fail to understand its own students. Compared to other SEC schools, the vast majority of Vanderbilt students are not local. The school cannot fill a student section with students from Nashville (see: literally any home game during Thanksgiving break). 

A school like Alabama, with a total enrollment more than five times bigger than Vanderbilt, would be able to fill up an off-campus stadium simply by their sheer volume of students. Vanderbilt does not have that luxury. 

If this stadium plan comes to fruition, Vanderbilt will essentially be playing 12 road games each season. Local fans would likely still show up, but the Vanderbilt student body would likely turn a blind eye to the team more than they already have. 

This is not to say that Nashville shouldn’t get an MLS team. This city is absolutely ready for a MLS team. But, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of Vanderbilt Football. 

No matter how big college athletics become, it always comes down to the students. The Commodores take the field on Saturdays to represent Vanderbilt students in competition. Students are the lifeblood of this team, and the athletic department. 

With an off-campus stadium, what would the student game day experience be like? Would tailgates still be on campus? Would there even be tailgates at all? The game day experience would never be the same, and may collapse entirely. 

Even if you’re not a football fan, or have never been to a Vanderbilt football game in your life, the loss of the traditional tailgating experience should catch your attention. 

This stadium proposal turns a blind eye to those students, and completely disregards their interests and influence. 

In an effort to save money on upgrading Vanderbilt’s stadium, the university would be setting a precedent that the student body does not matter to the university if there is money to be saved.

Vanderbilt should be making efforts to encourage more students to attend football games, not make them harder to attend. And if they university has not understood that up until now, there are many ways to make them understand. 

Write to the Vanderbilt Board of Trust. Call David Williams’ office. Call Chancellor Zeppos’ office. Use #SaveDudley or #SaveOurTailgates on social media. Make your voices heard and tell your school that you don’t want your interests sold to an MLS franchise. 

Don’t let Vanderbilt swindle the student body and sell your game days away. 

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