JOE BIDDLE: Vandy dropped the ball

Vanderbilt
(Photo: WKRN)

I couldn’t believe what I read.

Thirteen SEC football programs will showcase their spring football games. Fourteen SEC schools field football teams.

Guess which one will not join the rest of the conference teams to have a spring game?

Not only will they not have a spring football game, Vanderbilt will miss out on having its spring game televised.

The other teams will have their spring games televised on the SEC Network, ESPN or ESPNU.

Those are national outlets. It is free publicity for spring football games.

Instead Vanderbilt will stage a scrimmage for its fans. It will not be televised on a national outlet.

Help me understand their reasoning.

Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason made the choice to do what he has done since he was hired.

Of all the SEC coaches, Mason needs national TV time the most. Instead he declined and obviously Vanderbilt Athletics Director David Williams signed off on it.
Must I remind Mason and Williams that football is the one sport that the SEC has built the reputation of having the top conference in college football?

A retired Tennessee president was once quoted saying the Vols football program is the front porch of the university. Tennessee football is the main draw on Rocky Top.

The retired president knew 100,000-plus people would not fork out hard-earned money to watch a professor conduct an algebra class or any other class.

It’s the gospel in the southeast. Thousands gather in the Grove at Ole Miss in football Saturdays.

The SEC also leads the nation in football attendance numbers.

I can see Alabama Coach Nick Saban canceling the Crimson Tide’s spring game. The A-Game draws thousands more fans than a Vanderbilt home game in the fall.

I can see the reaction if Saban or any other SEC coach (other than Mason) turn the annual spring football game into a scrimmage.

Why not play a two-hand touch game? I can see ESPN’s family televising that.

Or perhaps have the sororities on campus stage a Powder Puff football game at Vanderbilt Stadium.

I find it hard to believe that the Vanderbilt players would rather have a scrimmage than a televised spring game. That’s why they have elaborate, state of the art scoreboards at Vanderbilt Stadium and other SEC stadiums.
In college football games, you have a winner and a loser. They feed the hunger in the South.

Vanderbilt will follow its scrimmage with a post-scrimmage autograph session with the players signing autographs and kibitzing with the fans.

Fine. But they could play a Black and Gold spring game and then have their players signing autographs and mugging for the cameras. You can’t convince me that those in attendance would pass on such an opportunity.

Mason is due to get a contract extension, based mainly on beating Tennessee in the final regular season game. He’s not exactly setting West End on fire after three seasons.

Four SEC schools topped 100,000 fans per home games. Half of the 14 teams drew an average of 86,000 fans per home games. Ten schools had an average of 64,000 fans a home game.

Vanderbilt was last in attendance. The Commodores averaged 31,242 for six home games last year. It is not unusual for the visiting team to bring more fans than Vanderbilt.

And for them to drop the annual Black and Gold spring game makes no sense.

It leaves one to wonder if they are a SEC contender or pretender.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at joebiddle11@gmail.com.