UT image proposed for mural traditionally used for Vanderbilt

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – There’s a turf war brewing in Nashville over an iconic mural that’s been dedicated to Vanderbilt University coaches for more than two decades.

It’s located off West End, across from Centennial Park.

Every time there’s a coaching change at Vanderbilt, muralist Michael Cooper gets to work on the location.

“I’ve been painting on it since 1992. Whoo! There’s some fans right there,” said Cooper.

But fans are wondering why haven’t former basketball coaches Kevin Stallings and Melanie Balcomb been replaced with images of Bryce Drew and Stephanie White, who was hired last spring.

“It’s like waiting for someone to call and say they are willing to sponsor,” said Cooper.

Radio stations, alumni groups, and business owners have all paid for the updates over the years– with one notable exception: it’s never Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt athletics has been asked many times in the last 24 years about the mural. Their answer on Friday was the same as it has been. They say the mural is on a building that doesn’t belong to them, and it’s not their property so they’re hesitant to get involved.

As the mural sits outdated, it’s been catching the attention of rival fans that see an opportunity to sponsor an entirely new image in big orange.

“Apparently, it’s been floated out there. I don’t know how serious it is,” Cooper said.

A big part of this move is to get a rise out of Vanderbilt fans, but there may be some truth to the rumor.

A Nashville investor with ties to the University of Tennessee athletics department told News 2 “he feels this is the perfect spot to highlight volunteer athletics in Nashville.”

Vanderbilt students, however, disagree.

“No, Nashville is Vandy’s city. Tennessee might be a Volunteer State, but Nashville is Vanderbilt so not so much,” said Emily Daly, a junior at Vanderbilt University.

Vandy fans are quickly raising money for the mural. They’ve collected more than $1,500 in 24 hours. Ironically, they may need a few more volunteers to reach their goal of $5,000.

“I think the public has a whole lot to say about this, too. Like I said, the wall has taken on a life of its own,” said Cooper.

The one deciding voice in the matter will be the owner of the building.