Visit almost any SEC campus this weekend, and you're likely to find a Vanderbilt team competing. The Commodore track team is in Knoxville at the SEC meet; women's tennis is in Gainesville, men's tennis is in Athens, and men's golf is playing at Auburn.
Here at home, the baseball team hosts Tennessee Friday to begin a three-game series, the final one of the season. After an erratic series last weekend in Lexington, the Diamond Dores really need to sweep the red-hot Vols to have a chance at the SEC Tournament. But don't count Tim Corbin's team out just yet-- Vanderbilt seems to play its best baseball at Charles Hawkins Field.
Geoff MacDonald's tennis ladies also face the "Big" Orange-- they'll do so Thursday at the unearthly hour of 8 a.m. ET, 7 a.m. CT. After being knocked out by the Lady Vols last year in California, the women's team has revenge on its mind in a big way. (Don't look now, but this is the sixth year in a row women's tennis has advanced to the Sweet 16, making MacDonald easily Vanderbilt's most successful coach.)
The SEC Track and Field Championships also get underway on Thursday, and Josie Hahn in the heptathlon may be Vandy's best chance for big points. It will be quite a challenge for Lori Shepard's team to improve on the 19.5 points earned by last year's Commodores.
In Athens, Ga., Bobby Reynolds and the men's tennis team try to keep a season going that thus far has almost defied belief. In the NCAA Sweet 16 on the UGA campus, Ken Flach's team meets up with Texas A&M Friday at noon ET. It's all uncharted territory for the Commodores, whose 24 overall wins and nine SEC wins are easily school records.
And in the midst of all the excitement over tennis and baseball, don't forget about golf. The men, ranked 10th in the region and led by senior Brandt Snedeker, earned a berth in the NCAA East Regional, which tees off Friday at the Auburn University Club. (The women, who finished a surprising second at the East Regional last weekend, have to wait until next weekend for the NCAA Championships at West Lafayette, Ind.)
What an extraordinary spring this has been for Vanderbilt sports.
Brian Thornton's departure from the men's basketball team certainly weakens Vanderbilt's inside game for next year, and puts Coach Kevin Stallings in an awkward spot. There simply aren't any unsigned quality big men out there at this time of year.
The good news is, in 6-5 guard Dan Cage of Indianapolis, Stallings is bringing in a versatile player who played just about every position on the floor, including center, at Bishop Chatard High School. "He's got a sophomore-in-college body right now," said Cage's high school coach, Dan Archer.
"Dan played more of a 3 for us," said Archer. "But we had good guards, good play around him, but sometimes we'd clear out and let him bring it up. He can certainly do that if he needs to. In our press break he'd be back there with the guards. In crunch time, he gets to the foul line."
In addition to his 18.8 points per game, Cage averaged six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
"In our close tournament games, our two guards and everybody else would screen to get Dan the ball, and he'd either score or get fouled," added Archer. "He hit 81% of his free throws."
Here are a few of Cage's high school accomplishments:
· Member of the Indiana All-Stars
· Indianapolis Star City Player of the Year (voted by coaches)
· Team MVP for Bishop Chatard High School, which won 2003 state championship
· Indianapolis Star Northside Player of the Year
· Kiwanis Club Academic All-State
· Member of Associated Press All-State Team
· 3A State Finals Most Valuable Player
· Wore No. 1 jersey in Indianapolis City-County All-Star Game
· Scored 1,116 points over four-year career
The tawdry story of Mike Price has now mostly been put to bed (no pun intended). The Tide has a young, energetic alumnus in Mike Shula as its new coach-- Sports Illustrated has now left the state-- and everyone is mostly happy again on the Capstone (with the possible exception of Jesse Jackson).
Bad as Vanderbilt's problems seem sometimes, no one would want to trade with the Crimson Tide, which has seen NCAA probation, the Price scandal, the DuBose scandal, and Dennis Franchione's departure all occur in the space of three star-crossed years.
But before we lay the Price mess to rest, has anyone seriously explored the fact that the story about Price surfaced first on a fan website? The wild tale, which turned out to be accurate (most of it, anyway) circulated on the Internet and was common knowledge among Alabama fans for almost four days before any respectable media outlets would touch it.
It was fascinating to watch this story develop. Not until the Montgomery Advertiser, prompted by the flying rumors, sent reporters to question one of the women involved was there anything that the newspapers and television stations could report.
Though the newspapers probably don't want to admit it, it was a sign that fan websites have come of age. Though they're certainly not reliable sources of information by themselves, they have in just a few short years become an inescapable part of the culture of college sports. Sports reporters-- especially college beat writers-- who ignore them as a source of information do so to their own detriment.
And hey, does anyone besides me realize that since 1980, the storied University of Alabama football program has had more coaching changes than lowly Vanderbilt? Two more, in fact?
Contact Brent at firstname.lastname@example.org