It's hard to know which is more despicable... Mathews' transparent attempt to damage recruiting efforts of the university for which he once played... or the embittered hack Larry Woody trying to paint him as a Vanderbilt booster.
In such a damning diatribe by Mathews, one wonders why author Larry Woody would have "forgotten" (mighty clearing of throat here) to mention Mathews' connections with the University of Tennessee? Surely that couldn't have colored Mathews' views at all, now could it?
"I don't understand it and I can guarantee you, recruits aren't going to understand it," said Mathews.
"Yes, we are absolutely committed to Division I-A sports," Chancellor Gee told The Tennessean. "Yes, we are committed to the SEC. And yes, we believe this is the way we're going to win." Sounds pretty easy to understand to me-- but comprehension can sometimes take a dip when one spends too much time in the Eastern portion of the state.
Without question, Mathews is one of the finest backs to play at Vandy in the last half-century. He returned to Vanderbilt to coordinate the defense for one ill-fated year under Watson Brown (1990), and was swept out when Brown was fired after a 1-10 season.
But as anyone with the least bit of SEC football knowledge knows, the most significant block of time on Mathews' resume is a ten-year stint on the Johnny Majors / Phillip Fulmer staff at Tennessee. Mathews had some great years in Knoxville, and he remains a close friend to Fulmer to this day.
So, let's see: Mathews' years as a player and coach at Vanderbilt: three; Mathews' years as an assistant coach at Tennessee: ten.
As anyone who listens to Nashville sports/talk radio knows, Mathews remains an "insider" to the Tennessee football program. Vol fans call his shows to find out the inside scoop. He invested in a sports/talk radio station in Knoxville, and makes part of his living gabbing about the Big Orange. Meanwhile, he's had little positive to say about Vanderbilt in the last thirteen years.
Mathews, the proprietor of a sporting goods store in Cool Springs, hosts "Big Orange Sunday," a Nashville-based radio show devoted to Tennessee football. Any time the "Big Orange Caravan" comes through Nashville, you'll find Mathews there schmoozing. (Presumably, he doesn't wear his black and gold outerwear to these gatherings.)
As an EX-member of the Tennessee staff, he is no longer allowed to recruit for the Volunteers-- but evidently he can't help himself. Tennessee recently self-imposed penalties because of Mathews' role in helping Eric Locke land a summer job. (Surely Larry Woody had read Chris Low's accounts of all this in his own paper, The Tennessean?)
If Doug Mathews is a "concerned Vandy fan", I'm Pat Summitt. Asking him about Gee's initiative is like asking Al Franken about George W. Bush's domestic agenda, or asking Rush Limbaugh about a Hillary Clinton presidential bid. (One VandyMania poster suggested it's like asking Madonna to speak as a product of the Catholic school system, since she represents that institution's values and morals so well.)
Doug may be a little "confused" about Gordon Gee's restructuring-- a lot of us are-- but you can bet he won't be calling the Chancellor's office any time soon for an explanation. Far better to snipe about it in print and on the radio, and propagate a perception that he knows is incorrect.
Oh, Mathews is free, of course, to cheer for any team he pleases-- that's not the issue. Some might insist Mathews was merely voicing concerns expressed by a number of disgruntled Vandy fans-- perhaps so. Mathews is free to lambaste his alma mater in print and on the radio if he wants. It's a free country. (Vanderbilt fans are also free to boycott Doug Mathews Team Sports if they want. It's a free country.)
The problem is that Larry Woody's painting of Mathews as a troubled Vanderbilt fan, and his failure to identify his close ties to the University of Tennessee, is beyond embarrassing-- it's disingenuous almost beyond belief.
And The Tennessean's allowing that distorted piece to slip into print unedited is editorial negligence of the highest order. Sadly, it's what Vandy fans have come to expect on a regular basis from their hometown newspaper.
Woody, a former Vandy beat writer now thankfully relegated to covering NASCAR, is no doubt still cheesed off about the day in 1994 when Eddie Fogler undressed him in front of his peers in the Memorial Gym press room. Fogler was making his first return to Vandy as head coach at South Carolina.
Fed up with the way Woody had covered the Commodores in his four years as Vandy head coach, Fogler railed on Woody as "unprofessional" and refused to answer any of his post-game questions. "While I was here, I had to answer your questions every day," Fogler said, looking Woody squarely in the eye. "I don't have to do that any more, and I'm not going to. Next question." A room full of reporters snickered under its breath.
Of course, Vandy managed to honk off lots of folks back in the Hoolahan-Dinardo-Fogler-Wyatt years. But it's now been almost a decade. Ten years! The faces have all changed since 1994. Most folks have made their peace and moved on. Larry Woody, by contrast, clings to a transparent disdain for all things black and gold, and remains unable to refer to Vanderbilt without resorting to words like "dire", "hopeless" and "on life support."
Most folks would have buried the hatchet long ago. Instead, The Tennessean's Larry Woody chooses to sharpen it up each time he goes to the typewriter to do a job on Nashville's home team.