For Derek Mason’s first SEC game on 6 September, he’ll be playing a couple of miles down the road at LP Field, the home of the Tennessee Titans. Is this a good idea? Let’s take a look at the facts, benefits and drawbacks.
One of the best things about the game itself is the date: the matchup is the only SEC–SEC Matchup of the day, which bodes well for both fan bases. This probably means that the game will be on “SEC on CBS” that evening, because frankly all of the other games of the day in the league completely suck. (I mean really suck. The best games would be Tennessee vs Arkansas State or South Carolina vs. East Carolina. That bad.) The fact that the best league in the nation has such a pitiful Saturday slate is truly sad, and hopefully these types of days won’t happen again. I have no idea as to how the SEC Network will choose which three crappy games out of twelve crappy options to show, and where the other nine will be shown (if anywhere). Thank God that Texas A&M at South Carolina is on the network the week before, because no one has any need to get the network for the Week 2 slate. But I digress. At the end of the day, it’s good news that Vanderbilt and Ole Miss get the spotlight again early on in the college football season, and I hope that the league continues to keep us at the beginning of each other’s schedule. Being the only meaningful matchup of the day down south means that the game will get some more eyeballs on the TV set and in the stadium, leading to more dollars.
One of the advantages brought up is that the LP Field venue will bring up the pizzazz of the event. The players and the band members (such as myself) will really enjoy being able to play in an NFL stadium. Vanderbilt has control of the stadium (concessions, ticketing, parking, etc), so we stand to make a lot of money from the event. Additionally, LP Field’s infrastructure is more capable than Vandy’s for a national broadcast. Also, if we were going to go through with this at some point, this would be the year to do it; we have 8 home games this year. Being able to switch it up early in the season against an SEC foe with a similar opponent in the midst of a Vandy 4-week home stand is great. I, personally, am especially excited about playing at LP Field. I wasn’t able to go to the Music City Bowl at the end of the 2012 season, so the chance to have the opportunity to play at LP will be awesome. One thing that everyone can agree on is that playing at LP will lead to more money for Vandy.
Despite these advantages, the decision has not been met by universal praise by Commodore fans. The main qualm espoused by detractors of the idea has to due with losing the ‘true home game advantage’—something Vanderbilt desperately needs. LP Field seats 69,000; Vanderbilt Stadium only seats 40,550, and last year we made up only about 75% of the stadium. With a larger venue, many fans fear that the possibility that the majority of the additional 30,000 available tickets are most likely going to go to Ole Miss fans, not Vanderbilt fans. Yes, we had an excellent showing at the past three bowls, but given that the event happened over Winter break with lots of promotion ahead of time greatly contributed to that (not to mention that for most, Vandy in a bowl game is still a novelty).While AD David Williams is pushing for Vanderbilt to fill up the stadium, there are only so many fans we can fill it up with—we’re pretty small, and Ole Miss has quite a large number of alumni in Nashville already. Estimates have the crowd ranging from 55/45 Ole Miss to 70/30 Ole Miss [which, in my opinion, is ridiculous]. But there are other factors to consider: Will student attendance suffer? I personally don’t think it will suffer too greatly being the home SEC opener. Also, the administration plans to have vans for students that go back and forth between LP and Vandy, but that’s still more work for the student than just waltzing up to the stadium and poking in for a few minutes. What about tailgating and Star Walk? These Vanderbilt traditions are also an important part of the “Dudley Experience” (I totally just made that up). These will be a bit more difficult to do logistically, and we need to ensure that Ole Miss doesn’t have an equivalent on their side of the stadium.
At the end of the day, the deal has already been done. It’s going to happen, logistics will be worked out, and the players will play ball regardless of the crowd balance. I couldn’t be happier, and if you’re a Commodore fan, you should most certainly be there, cheering on the Commodores in Coach Mason’s first SEC game. I know I will be.