NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Schools across the country have opened up for voluntary workouts, but we haven’t heard much from Vanderbilt about what they’re doing.
That’s by design.
According to Chris Lee, publisher at VandySports.com, the Commodores have been holding voluntary workouts. Sixty player are on campus working out in groups of 10. He said they’ve set up one entrance and one separate exit and are following all necessary safety protocols, but other than that, we don’t know much about what the Dores are up to like we do at other SEC schools.
Why? Because they don’t have to tell us.
“The main difference is they’re not nearly as transparent,” said Lee. “Vanderbilt is a private school, it doesn’t have nearly the student-base, the alumni-base, so between the privacy and the fact that there aren’t as many people pressing down on them for answers, I think that’s probably one reason you see the differences that you see. At Vanderbilt, sports has never been the tail that wags the dog.”
So what does?
“First of all, it costs $75,000 a year to go to Vanderbilt (room, board and tuition), which is a lot of money, and that is a hard price-tag to justify when you’re doing online classes. So I think the school is in this little mental tug-of-war between, we need our income over here, but we have our health and safety concerns over here. Especially for older professors and staff members, I think they want to have classes in person. I think that’s the plan. The problem is, will the school be able to do that all semester? That’s a concern, and I think that tug-of-war drives a lot of the decision-making or maybe a better way to put it is the not decision-making. I think there’s a lot of hesitancy to decide to communicate those things. So that dynamic in play is the back drop of how everything works not the least of which is Athletics.”
But just because football’s not king on campus like is common among opponents, it doesn’t mean they don’t need it.
“There is a lot of income that’s tied to football. There’s an SEC Network check that I think last year was about $44 million dollars from the league, that’s a lot of money anywhere. Especially at a place like Vanderbilt. I think that football is still important to them in some ways. We can talk about the investment or lack of it, that’s a topic that has been discussed many times, but I think that the check is very important to them. I do think it’s very important over there to them that there is a season because financially to them, they’re in a spot that as a school, they had a $30 million dollar budget shortfall. That hurts anybody, even a place like Vanderbilt that has a lot of resources and money, so I think for that reason alone, just the check means it’s important for them to play football if it’s possible.”
“It’s the driver at every place and even a place like Vanderbilt where the football hasn’t been great and the other sports have been better, it’s the thing you can’t afford to live without. I heard somebody say this at some other SEC schools, everybody can afford probably to do without one football season, two would be catastrophic, but make no mistake about it, one is going to hurt a lot of people and Vanderbilt would be included in that.”
The SEC Network check is important, but for a school that doesn’t sell nearly as many tickets as its conference counterparts, does not having fans hurt Vanderbilt as much as another SEC school?
“It hurts for sure. They’ve started to jack ticket prices up to take advantage of the out-of-town takeovers from LSU and Georgia like we saw last year, and a lot of those fans are paying maybe $80, $90, $100 per ticket. You multiply that by twenty thousand, the math of that adds up quickly. Is it as hurtful to Vanderbilt where you might have twenty thousand fans in the stands for a game this year? No. You compare that to LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee and you can do the math on that, right? But it still hurts because the numbers from revenue from other sports also aren’t as great. And, you also have that coming against the backdrop of they’ve had lagging years of attendance. So again, you can do the math on ticket prices and empty seats and it hurts. It might not hurt to the level as other schools, but it still hurts.”
Although they’ve flown under the radar, their goal is the same as every other school.
“I would expect them to have football. I would be surprised if they don’t. I don’t think they’re going to be like the one school that comes out and says we’re not going to play. Now I wouldn’t rule it out, if you said there would be one school in the league that’s not going to play, it’s probably Vanderbilt, right? But I do think this is sort of a moment of truth. Nobody knows exactly what we’re dealing with, so I don’t think this is all unique to Vanderbilt entirely.”