As you have most likely heard by now, the greatest athletic conference in the United States of America has announced a new TV network, scheduled for release in August, 2014. Vanderbilt happens to be a member of said athletic conference. Different groups of people are excited at various levels about the SECN for different reasons. Naturally, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Florida Athletic Directors and Football Coaches are excited that their conference has its own network, and of course SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and Co. are excited for the increased revenue that will enter the conference coffers. But the real winner of the SEC network is Vanderbilt for a few key reasons: much-needed exposure (to the public and alumni), recruiting purposes, and for its public reputation.
The SEC bigwigs naturally don’t need any exposure: Drive in a car 5 miles and I’ll assure you that you’ll see an SEC school represented somewhere in the form of a sticker, license plate (or cover), T-shirt, or hat. Those institutions are ok. Ask any of those individuals where Vanderbilt is, and after a few minutes of thinking, will reply “Somewhere in Tennessee, right? Isn’t it Nashville?” It’s not a question they receive often. Being the perennial football doormat of the SEC, Vanderbilt doesn’t have the best brand recognition or exposure. Though saying one attends Vanderbilt rightly impresses the academics, it leaves the average passage by to give a simple pat on the back and a quick congratulations, compared to the response that some of its competitors—Duke—would receive. The SEC Network, soon to be available in millions of homes across the South and the nation, would expose millions to the Vanderbilt culture and tradition through the university’s annual tilts with some of the nations most well-known schools through announcer commentary, university commercials, and home game visuals.
The added exposure from the SECN does two things for Vanderbilt athletics: let the public know that it exists, and tells the public, alumni, and SEC fans that we’re competitive. Though we do not have a historic football presence, we are competitive in varsity tennis, golf, and basketball for both women and men. In baseball and bowling, we are at the top of the nation. Though bowling (our only sport that’s won a national championship) is not a popular sport in the South, baseball is—and we currently have the number 1 team in the nation. With Coach James Franklin’s amazing building program in football, we’ll soon be a story in SEC football as well. The SEC Network will publicize this. Take for example 2012’s VU–AU matchup: Vandy won 17–13. Guess what channel the game was on? The SEC Digital Network—essentially, not on TV. This is a win that we really could have benefitted from having on national TV.
This exposure in turns raises Vanderbilt awareness throughout the nation—thus increasing the number of applicants. If college chancellors and athletic directors didn’t know it before, they know it now: big-time athletics is the key to exposure and bringing in the best students. Though Vandy has already done well in the South due to playing SEC powers annually, the SEC Network publicizes the annual VU–[big SEC school here] matches. If my dad’s guidance counselor hadn’t mentioned Vandy to him in high school, its very likely that I would not have attended the school today. I didn’t even know it existed before mid-junior year, and I’d venture to say that’s the case for high school students—and athletes—all over the nation. This leads to better recruiting. The exposure due to the SEC Network will help Vanderbilt basketball transition from tri-annual rebuilding seasons (like 2012–2013) to annual talent reloading. It would be a mighty thing indeed if every basketball year was like the 2011–2012 season due to annually replenished talent.
Given that no Vanderbilt game will be on “SEC on CBS” anytime soon (save for maybe a Vandy-UT rivalry game), the SECN will ensure that we’re not trapped to ESPNU, 2, or CSS again. Additionally, our other teams, like tennis and baseball, can get the exposure that they’ve worked for. The future looks bright for Vandy. Go Dores!