Vanderbilt students have every reason to show up to football games. So why won’t they?

Vanderbilt plays Notre Dame on Saturday. September 15, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

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.

17 COMMENTS

  1. There are two reasons people do not come:
    1. The ticketing system is absurdly complicated, requires 9 or more steps on multiple devices, and could simply be a “Show your card at the gate for entry.” Until that policy is instituted (like, at say, the well-attended basketball games), I will not listen to complaints from ticketing or student affairs about a lack of attendance. Students have protested for a change time and time again. If athletics wants an immediate 100% or more improvement in attendance, they will institute this policy for the game this weekend, no questions asked.

    2. Drinking for four hours in the hot sun to go sit in bleachers in the hot sun against bad competition is a tough sell. Additionally, even when Vanderbilt played a quality opponent in Alabama last year, the stands were packed, but the game day experience of massive crushes of bodies ruined many students’ vision of what going to a game is like. To be honest, many of the people that attend college football games in other stadiums have been fans for life because of their parents, families, or towns. Vanderbilt’s history has not offered the same experience.

  2. If the school allowed students to tailgate, and didn’t put every fraternity on suspension besides DTD and ATO, then more students would be in attendance – I certainly would. It’s hard to support Vanderbilt when the school doesn’t support us.

  3. 1. It’s hot as balls outside. Saturday won’t be hot as balls, but it will be hot, and raining.
    2. None of my friends are going.
    3. It’s midterm week.
    4. I don’t like football.

  4. Students, faculty and staff do need to support OUR team! We are all busy, but take a few hours and let them know that their hours of practice and hard work are appreciated, they deserve our support!!!!

  5. They’re not going to Cutler. It’s a combination of the school’s losing tradition and laughingstock status in the SEC and a general ambivalence towards sports by the administration and student body. We’re a 6500 student body trying to fill a 40,000 stadium when no one in Nashville cares either because a lot of them are transplants. If 10% went to start the game I’d say that would be average. But I think we both have to come to the sad conclusion. Unless this team gets ranked within the season, a vast majority of students at this school just don’t give a fvck.

  6. As someone who has been to all but one of the home football games between this and last season (although I admit I haven’t stayed for the whole game each time), I’m also disappointed at how little Vandy students are interested in showing out to the games. I made the trip to the Notre Dame game last weekend and the atmosphere in the stadium was truly incredible. Every seat was packed, and it stayed that way all the way until the alma matter song had finished playing. If we could incorporate even a fraction of that same football school attitude into our Saturday tailgates it would make the vandy experience better 10-fold. Unfortunately, I think its kind of a catch 22 situation, people don’t want to show up unless others are there. Its tough to enjoy the game to the fullest when the stands are empty, but when the stands are packed and everyones cheering its a whole other story. So maybe slowly but surely we can make a movement to show up to the games, but in order for it to be a lasting effect, the entire football culture of this school really needs to amp up its game. And the responsibility of that change lies on us as students to make it happen.

  7. Vanderbilt Football: Why students don’t go to games

    There’s some pretty clear cut reasons Vandy football home games look so sad. Football culture in the south is so vastly different from anywhere else. With a large chunk of students coming from areas in the US (and overseas for that matter) where the football culture barely exists, we can’t expect everybody to be interested in football. It also comes down to how students perceive our team: Vandy isn’t known to be an SEC powerhouse. If you conducted a survey on students and asked them about big name college football programs, I can say with some decently high certainty that Vandy isn’t ever named. You’ll probably hear teams like Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and Clemson (among some other teams, but since the past CFB Championship games have included these colleges, many people know these names as the powerhouses of college football). Going to football games isn’t a matter of Vandy students have a lack of school spirit. It’s not that students don’t love to support Vanderbilt. Possibly, the lack of students at games is due to a lack of knowledge of football amongst the student body and/or a lack of interest in sporting events. To add on, our student population is incredibly small compared to teams like Alabama or Georgia. We aren’t a state school with an undergraduate population of 30 thousand so our student section is naturally going to be smaller. We have a higher chance of having students who aren’t interested in football. To add on top of this issues, Vanderbilt isn’t a top team and the hype surrounding our team isn’t as large as Alabama or Georgia.

    Regarding Vandy almost beating a top-10 Notre Dame team:

    I’m going to argue that Notre Dame is not a top 10 caliber team so saying “oh we almost beat a top 10 team” isn’t remotely accurate. Notre Dame isn’t that great of a team. I fully expected Vandy to cover the spread on the game as ND hasn’t looked good this season. Their (ND) past three games have been against low quality opponents where the point spreads have all been covered. ND should be blowing out a team like Ball State, but instead they only won by 7 points. Sure, they beat Michigan, a team that was ranked 12th at the time, but Notre Dame is being hailed as some kind of National Championship contender while Michigan isn’t. If Notre Dame is so good, they should have blown Michigan, Ball State, and Vanderbilt out by at least double digits. But they didn’t. The line according to ESPN for the Vandy-ND game was -14.0 for ND (meaning Notre Dame were projected to beat Vandy by touch touchdowns/14 points). We shouldn’t be giving any credit to a team who hasn’t met the expectations set by a ranking system and several football analysts at the beginning of the season. I’ll give Pinkney credit for taking ND down to the wire in a very close game but Notre Dame isn’t as good as he thinks.

    Regarding why the student section is always full during the beginning of the season:

    As a sophomore, I’m only going to talk about the past two seasons of Vanderbilt football. The first three games of the 2017-2018 football season were played against Middle Tennessee, Alabama A&M, and Kansas State. The first three games of this season were against Middle Tennessee, Nevada, and Notre Dame. Obviously, the student section during the first home games are always going to be full due to having all of the freshmen at the game. Last year, parents’ weekend was the same weekend as K-State and it was a night game. This also increased the number of people/students at the game. Last season during the first three games we went 3-0. This year we’ve started 2-1 and I would argue that Notre Dame this year compared to the K-State team we played last year is slightly stronger, but that’s a separate issue. As the year progresses, more students have more work due to classes and other obligations that are more important than going to a football game. Three weeks into football season, you can expect home games to have decently sized student sections. However, as the season goes on and Vandy plays opponents who are more likely than not going to demolish us in football (Alabama, Georgia, etc.), for many students, going to those games isn’t worth the time. If I remember correctly, last year’s game against Alabama brought about a lot of students who were under some fake sense of hope that Vanderbilt could beat Alabama. After the first quarter, everybody was practically gone (shoutout to the sad Vandy kid meme). We were getting blown out. Not to mention that it was in late September during the day/afternoon and around 90 degrees outside (all approximations, so don’t quote me on exact numbers). There’s some much less incentive to go to football games as the season progresses. We had a 5 game losing streak last year where in two of the games we were blown out by 40+ points at home. This drop off in attendance is slightly influenced by a lack of interest and/or knowledge for football. Vandy students are prideful and in a group setting, more likely than not, students aren’t going to want to admit that they have no idea how football is played. They don’t ask questions and then lose interest as they are watching a sporting event they don’t understand. To finish, sporting events at the beginning of seasons are typically always going to produce higher attendance rates as there’s a new sense of hope for the season. Once we start dropping games and getting blown out, I can see why people lose interest.

    Vanderbilt’s Player Quality (More of a gripe against the Hustler):

    Okay, I’m not sure which member of the Shurmur family is paying the Vanderbilt Hustler to speak nothing but endless praise for him, but Kyle Shurmur is the most overrated player on the entire Vanderbilt football team. First off, while Shurmur might play in the NFL, he’s not a top college prospect for NFL teams. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if his dad, Pat Shurmur, who coaches the New York Giants, drafts his son to replace Eli Manning. My opinion of Shurmur is pretty clear cut if you’ve ever asked me about him. While his stats may tell one story where he appears to be a relatively decent quarterback in the SEC, watching him play in games is a whole other one. Shurmur’s football IQ is less than average. He constantly throws into double or triple coverage on his receiving core. This results in either several incomplete passes, or in many cases, an interception. Against lower quality defenses and teams, Shurmur performs relatively well. However, in order to be a [insert positive adjective here] quarterback, you need to perform well against top level competition. This is the SEC. If you can’t do well against your own conference, which is the most difficult in the country, you probably need to consider a career path that isn’t football. Against SEC opponents during the 2017 season, Shurmur’s completion percentage floated around 50% for most of the games (against Alabama he had a completion percentage of 27%, and against Kentucky it was approximately 70%). Now, I can’t place all of the blame on Shurmur, but some of his boneheaded plays cost us in games. Granted, he might not be calling all of the plays, but throwing into double coverage is a terrible idea. He also for some reason doesn’t know how to read a defense that is clearly blitzing (heavily rushing the quarterback). I fail to understand why on 3rd down with one yard to go why we’re throwing the ball with either Vaughn or Webb. I also don’t understand why when we have 10+ yards to go we run the ball (1st down here is an exception, unless it’s 1st down and >10 yards). I understand that the Hustler needs to hype up our players, but I have yet to see a piece written by any sports editor who objectively breaks down Vanderbilt’s football team and player. The only reason I read any articles in the Hustler is to see what kind of nonsense is being written about Shurmur or the football team. Very few articles on the team are objective in nature and I have started to question how much the Hustler sports editors actual know about football. There’s always some false sense of hope in the articles. No matter how many times you write an article about how we can beat Alabama, it is not going to boost our chances. Sure, there’s a chance of winning against Alabama or Georgia, but it’s a slim chance at best. The Hustler needs to discuss facts and be objective on games.

    NOTE: If there is some rule or law written in the Hustler Code of Conduct that forces writers to post articles that are biased towards Vanderbilt with little to no objectivity allowed, I find this incredibly limiting for writers. Anybody writing articles should be allowed to discuss the quality of our team in an objective manner, regardless of how good or bad the team performs (obviously there should be limitations on the diction you can use and by that I mean don’t be over the top with the criticism). But if the authors of sports articles genuinely believe that our teams are the best to ever play and write articles in such a way, I’m going to question the accuracy of the pieces written.

    Achieving a Higher Student Population at Games:

    Personally, I think the solution into getting more interest in football is to educate the student population on the game. If there’s a lack of interest, maybe is comes from a lack of knowledge. Maybe since the Hustler seems to have such an issue with students not being at the games, they could put on an event with the football team players and coaches to help teach the basics of football and show why the game is so exciting. Obviously you can’t change everyone’s mind about going to games but you might get some people to come to games on a more frequent basis. If you understand the game, it can be way more exciting because you understand what’s going on during the game. But we can’t simply believe that students don’t have anything else to do on Saturdays. We go to a very tough school and having free tickets is a nice benefit. Considering I already go to games, I don’t need any other incentive to go to games. Football for me is fun to watch (granted if the game is a complete blowout either for us or the other team, I’m not going to stay). But that’s my two cents on the subject matter. Take it how you want, this is just my response to this article and several others that the Hustler has posted to their site.

  8. The early game times are brutal. An 11am game is very different than if we routinely had games at 3 or 5pm. If you wake up early and tailgate, and then spend all afternoon at the game, your chances to do work or even just exercise are gone.

    And even if the games are later, most people need to leave to eat after tailgating before they’re ready to stay out 4 more hours. Having food trucks or at least more food present at the end (not beginning) of the vandy fanatics tailgates would be helpful.

  9. @JoshH, I think that while the first point isn’t a large reason why students aren’t coming out, it’s extremely valid. Students should have the luxury of deciding to go to a game last minute, and not feel the need to go through the 9 step process you speak of, which is ridiculous. A card swipe should be more than good enough to attend, like it is for basketball and baseball games. This is a pretty easy fix and I’m not sure why athletics doesn’t fix it.

    Second, this shouldn’t be a tough sell, and night games also don’t draw large crowds, so while I agree being in the sun is rough, and that’s my main issue, it doesn’t seem to be as big of a determining factor as people say. If night games/November games outperformed hot-weather day games, I’d buy weather as a major factor, but I don’t see that as the bottom line. I think there are a lot of reasons students don’t come, apathy at the forefront of those reasons, but the ones you state are certainly valid, especially about historical fandom with this team.

  10. I’ve tried to be a Vanderbilt fan, Cutler, for years now, but the winning aura that came with the Franklin era is gone. I’ve been disappointed far too many times. It was probably most evident in the Notre Dame game, which we should have won. A fumble literally at the 1-yard line. A dropped TD pass in the end zone. A dropped pass on 4th down on a potential game winning drive. Until this team can prove that they have a good chance to win I’ll probably pass on games. Last year with Webb, Shurmur, and Sherfield on O and Burks, Wiley, and Wright on D, there was no excuse to have the record we did. A new stadium would probably get people to go though honestly

  11. It’s worth mentioning that the administration has shown complete and utter disregard and disrespect towards the hard work of our football team. Our facilities are crap and worst in the SEC. Stadium is old and dilapidated. Salt in the wound is Zeppos continually acting like he supports student-athletes. Here’s my prediction: Zeppos undertakes all these initiatives to garner feedback on athletics and the stadium, waits until class of 2021 is gone, waits until the Tennessean and Jordan Rodgers stop bothering him, then stadium and facilities stay the exact same. Maybe marginally improved. Sure sounds like the Vanderbilt way.

  12. Idea: Get all the teams in the SEC to get puppies and host a Puppy Bowl during every halftime. Or the whole game could just be a Puppy Bowl. This is the only way I see to get students to come to the games. Also, if you stay for the whole game, you get to meet the puppies at the end. New tailgating stickers: one for each puppy. The puppies <3 our Dores.

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