Biddle was right: Lots of VU coaches are leaving

<i>Tennessean</i> columnist <b>Joe Biddle</b> wrote last week that Vandy's latest athletic restructuring will cause some of the school's top coaches to leave. "Believe me," he wrote, "you will see some of them get out as soon as they can." I did some informal checking at McGugin Center Monday, and sure enough... a lot of the coaches were leaving.

Last week, in a column titled, "Athletic wellness not part of Vandy's plan," the Tennessean's Joe Biddle painted a rather gloomy forecast for Commodore athletics in the wake of yet another restructuring by Vanderbilt's athletics department.

Under the latest realignment announced last Friday, Vandy athletics, much like ancient Gaul, has now been divided into four parts. The announcement didn't sit well with Joe, who referred to it as a "cock-eyed scheme," that was "half-baked and out of touch."

Biddle was certain it will cause some of Vanderbilt's top coaches to reconsider whether they want to stay around. "Believe me," he wrote, "you will see some of them get out as soon as they can."

Before I get too deep into this, let go on record as saying, I like Joe. I bump into him often in the press room at Vandy, and he's always very nice and good-humored. And may I add, he does a wickedly funny Johnny Majors impression.

Famous for his "random ruminations", Joe stays pretty plugged into the local sports scene-- so when he wrote that lots of Vandy coaches would soon be leaving town, I figured I'd better check it out.

So I did some informal checking Monday around the McGugin Athletic Center.

Turns out, Joe was on to something. A lot of the coaches there are planning to leave.

Cathy Swezey, for instance, is getting ready to take her women's lacrosse team up to Princeton, N.J., where they'll be playing Friday in the NCAA Final Four. Probably no one really planned on or budgeted for this unexpected excursion, but here is Vandy, the reigning ALC champions, playing top-ranked Princeton for a shot at the national title match. (Have a great trip, Cathy.)

Geoff MacDonald, the women's tennis coach who has coached Vandy into the national tournament for nine straight seasons, is planning on leaving too. He's heading for Athens, Ga., where the No. 3-ranked Commodores will take on Tennessee in the NCAA Sweet 16 Friday. Last year his team "merely" made it to the Elite Eight, and the Dores will be trying to improve on that. Their nemesis Florida won't be around to bother them, either; the Gators have already been eliminated.

Lo and behold, men's tennis coach Ken Flach also has a trip planned. He's heading west to Tulsa where his team will meet Georgia Friday in the NCAA Sweet 16. After a regular season that didn't quite measure up to the previous year, few expected the Dores to be making this trip.

But on Sunday it all clicked for Flach's squad, which frustrated SEC champion Ole Miss on its own courts to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. Jetting with Flach will be five players from last year's Commodore team that nearly won it all.

(Gasp) Martha Freitag is leaving. Her SEC champion women's golf squad is bracing for the NCAA Championships at Auburn, Ala., on a course with which the team is already intimately familiar. They'll have to do it without May Wood, but don't count them out by any means. (High score would've gotten thrown out anyway.)

And good gosh, Press McPhaul is traveling too. He's going to New Haven, Conn., where his team was invited to the NCAA East Regionals.

It's not a done deal yet, but Vandy baseball coach Tim Corbin should soon be booking a trip. Pending a three-game weekend series against Kentucky, Corbin's itinerary should include Hoover, Ala., where Vandy would play in the SEC Tournament for the second straight year.

The following week, the Commodores will be headed out somewhere for their first NCAA Regional appearance in 24 years. With 35 wins already recorded, Vandy is on track to equal or surpass the school record for wins in a season (37).

Women's track coach Lori Shepard will be accompanying Ashleigh Wetzel, Amanda Mullins-Hall, Josie Hahn and Erika Schneble to the NCAA Regionals. All have already set NCAA qualifying marks, and last week the Commodores brought home two first-place trophies from the SEC Championships for the first time in history.

Thus, if you're in the Metro Airport this weekend, your chances of seeing a Vanderbilt coach either coming or going are pretty good. With all these coaches leaving, one wonders if there'll be anyone left to run things around McGugin Center.

Men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings isn't going anywhere, but just two months ago he was taking his team to the NCAA Sweet 16 in Phoenix. Likewise Melanie Balcomb, who coached her team into the women's Sweet 16 in Norman, Okla. in March.

It all brings to mind the words of the infamous Vandy Lance: "God forbid what would happen if Vanderbilt was ever to do good in FOOTBALL, because dang it, we're already good at everything else!"

Strangely, it looks from here as though most of these coaches have been too consumed by getting their teams to compete for conference and national championships to do too much hand-wringing over modest administrative changes.

"This could be the beginning of the end for competitive intercollegiate athletics at Vanderbilt," wrote Biddle of the latest reorg. Oh, my!

Perhaps it's time to join the 21st century, eh? Besides football, Vanderbilt athletics appears to have an extremely high "wellness" quotient at the moment.

Yeah, maybe there was a time not too long ago when Vanderbilt was a revolving door for coaches.

The difference now is, the door keeps steadily revolving only because of the parade of coaches headed out to compete for conference and NCAA championships.

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Contact Brent at brent(at)vandymania.com

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