In Tuesday’s Vanderbilt Football press conference, I asked tight end Jared Pinkney a simple question.
“What is your selling point to get the students that you see in the classroom every day out to these games?”
Pinkney and his teammates chuckled at the podium, because they know the question is so simple, and yet the answer isn’t obvious. Because time and time again, the student section at Vanderbilt Football games has been empty despite the team’s hot start to the season.
“I don’t know,” Pinkney said. “You saw that we took a top-10 team to the ropes. We probably made a couple of mistakes down the road that we could have secured it. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
I don’t blame Pinkney at all. In fact, that’s how I’m beginning to feel.
That flabbergasted response is how many in the Vanderbilt community feel about fledgling student attendance at Vanderbilt Football games. Against MTSU on opening night, attendance got a boost from freshmen required to be there for the Anchor Dash. In Week Two against Nevada, however, there were likely 50-100 students at the game at kickoff and that number dropped even further as the game wore on.
For an 11:00 AM game against a lackluster opponent in 90-degree heat, I can understand why most students wouldn’t want to even get out of bed, much less make their way to Vanderbilt Stadium for a blowout win.
This week, however, there are no more excuses.
While most of you on campus weren’t watching last weekend, Vanderbilt marched into Notre Dame and came painfully close to springing an upset over the eighth-ranked team in the country. National sports pundits paid attention and were enthralled by Vanderbilt’s performance.
However, by some reports, the game wasn’t even on the TVs at the Vanderbilt Student Recreation Center.
That has to change, and this weekend is a great place to start. Vanderbilt plays at home against the South Carolina Gamecocks. It’s the team’s first SEC opponent of the season. After taking a significantly better Notre Dame team down to the wire last week, Vanderbilt has a real shot at winning this game. The betting line is only two-and-a-half points (in layman’s terms, Vanderbilt is an underdog, but not by much at all).
The game kicks off at 3 PM CT. The last time I checked, that’s not very early.
The weather is cooling down, so unless there’s a tropical storm rolling through the area, that’s no excuse. You’ll already be at tailgates, so why not make your way over to the stadium afterwards for some high-quality football?
Head coach Derek Mason made it very clear why you should come out to this game.
“You need to come out and support this team because it’s you,” he said. “You are Vanderbilt, they are Vanderbilt. These students go into the classroom every day and compete with ‘first-round draft picks’ which are our student body. Come on out and support these dudes on Saturday.”
None of this is hyperbole. This team is good, and they are fun to watch. Ke’Shawn Vaughn can break open a long run at any time. Kalija Lipscomb makes highlight-reel catches game in and game out. Kyle Shurmur is a gunslinging quarterback that will eventually play in the NFL.
It’s good football. Don’t let Vanderbilt’s history fool you. This is not a team that buys into the “That’s alright, that’s okay, you’ll be working for us some day” Vanderbilt mentality.
If that’s not enough, then come out to support your classmates and hall mates. Come see your lab partner or discussion group member play on the field on national television. Come support the guy that lives next door to you. They’re your friends, acquaintances and colleagues. It’s personal here.
Is that not enough? Okay, then I’m genuinely curious: If none of that can sell you on Vanderbilt Football, what would it take to get you to a game?
Seriously. Leave a comment on this post on Facebook or below here describing exactly what it would take for you to go watch a Vanderbilt Football game.
A free T-shirt? Alcohol at the games? A domed stadium? Free tuition?
If none of what I have described interests you, please tell me what will. Because this team deserves your support and deserves a raucous crowd when they take the field to take on the Gamecocks. Instead of hitting the books on Saturday afternoon, hitting the bars or hitting the pillow, make an effort to support your fellow students that you see every day around campus, the same way you support your friends in theater shows or dance performances or in other campus activities.
Show some support. Show some school spirit. Pack Dudley this Saturday.