As the gentleman approached me I realized he was a representative of the Chick-fil-A Bowl and was handing out promotional material for that Atlanta bowl. The thought briefly crossed my mind that he might skip me since I was wearing a Vanderbilt jacket and Kentucky was already bowl eligible. Surely he couldn't be interested in Vanderbilt who hadn't been to a bowl since 1982. Of course he gave me my Chick-fil-A coupons and bowl information but the point is it has been a long time since Vanderbilt got win number six.
Later, after I had finished watching the on-the-field celebration, I returned to the press box to pack up all my belongings. There I noticed the Chick-fil-A material. For one fleeting moment I had a rush of joy combined the frustration that it took 26 years for VU to get bowl eligible again. A tear of joy or two may have glistened my eyes and I quickly removed the damp evidence.
It's indeed been a long time for Vandy fans. One of our VandyMania forum posters, VUDores, who is a Vanderbilt fan in the state of Kentucky but did not make the trip to Lexington, gave us an example of how long it has been. In 1982, at 35 years old, he attended the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham with his wife and 9-year-old son. This year the Commodores are finally bowl eligible and that young son is now 35!
The Chick-fil-A Bowl would be an ideal bowl for Vanderbilt and its fans. Atlanta is an easy driving distance from Nashville and has one of the busiest airports in America which means Commodore fans from all over America could fly in to see the game fairly easily. There's also a nice payout ($3.25 million) for each school. The Georgia Dome is a great facility and ensures a comfortable climate for the game. One other advantage is that many Vanderbilt players (21) are from the state of Georgia and the VU staff recruits Georgia hard.
The big advantage to any bowl in the extra practices the team gets. The NCAA allows 15 additional practices between the end of the regular season and the bowl game. This is a time when the staff can conduct somewhat of an additional spring practice and develop the young players who will be critical to the 'Dores future success. We've missed out on this advantage for the past 26 years.
D.J. Moore's play on Saturday night in Lexington was simply remarkable. He's a prime example of how a hard working staff can turn around a program through recruiting. Two interceptions and two touchdown catches in a game... simply amazing. It takes performances like that to win in the SEC and you have to have those special kinds of players to get that kind of performance. Bobby Johnson found D.J. Moore before South Carolina and already had Moore sold on Vandy when the Gamecock staff came calling. Hopefully D.J. will be back for his senior year at Vanderbilt but you can bet that there is another D.J. coming up the pipeline that will be wearing the Black and Gold.
Saturday's game with Tennessee will mark the final appearance in a Vanderbilt uniform for 21 Commodores:
St. Simons Island, Ga.
Jefferson City, Tenn.
Bloomington Hills, Mich.
Chris Nicks on
Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Kickoff is at 11:30 a.m. Bring lots of Black and Gold and a loud voice.