Vander-Built to Lose
By: Matthew Hays
On October 25th a new batch of Ivy League rejects from around the country will shuffle into classrooms across the campus of Vanderbilt University with eyes wide and heads full of recast dreams. As these nerdy neophytes cast away their LARP weaponry and begin the school year they unwittingly sign away their souls to an exclusive society of futility.
Since I was born in 1991 Vanderbilt has experienced some of the greatest athletic success in its history. In basketball, they placed 1st in the SEC’s East Division once and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 1993, 2004 and 2007 before being sent back to Nashville. In football they enjoyed one winning season and a bowl victory, a dominant 7-6 campaign culminating in a 16-14 postseason victory over Boston College. Seriously. Three Sweet Sixteens and one bowl win in the past two decades. That’s considered a cause for celebration in the Music City. As far as major sports prominence is concerned, Vanderbilt is like the ugliest dog at the pound. It gets food and water and the volunteers dutifully walk it, but everybody really knows what’s going to happen to it eventually.
Not all the dogs of Vanderbilt get put down though. The women’s bowling team beat the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s team in 2007 to win the school’s only NCAA-recognized national championship. Yep, Vandy’s only national championship acknowledged by the NCAA is in women’s bowling.
Now after knowing all of that the real question is why would Vanderbilt even be considered a rival of our Wildcats? What gets our blue blood boiling before we play them? Why are we writing this article about them instead of UNC or Indiana? It’s because Vanderbilt is so damn annoying.
Every single thing they do is annoying. Consider this: One summer night between his sophomore and junior seasons, AJ Ogilvy stepped out of his lavender-scented bath water and looked at himself in the mirror. He admired his flabby, pale physique then looked at his hair and said to himself, “You know what? I really never want to be respected again.” So, he skipped to the hair salon and two hours later emerged a changed man. His stylist, Francisco, coiffed his hair to the point that it would have made any *NSYNC diehard swoon and, with spiky highlights in tow, Ogilvy returned to the hardwood as the SEC’s first lady of the paint. Did this new hairstyle make Ogilvy a better player? No. Did it add an intimidation factor? Definitely not. Was it annoying? You bet your ass it was. Ogilvy’s hair is an apt analogy for Vanderbilt sports as a whole — clearly not a threat, just really irritating.
Step into Vandy’s Memorial Gymnasium on a winter Saturday and experience what I mean. Don’t skip any detail in your analysis. Notice how the unappealing student body masses together. Listen very carefully as they proudly raise their voices to sing the fight song, Dynamite. Yes, you heard those lyrics right. The song does have an out clause in case of a loss, …Win or lose the fates will choose… So when Vandy loses it’s because of fate, not because its players are outmatched and less talented. Fate really hates Vanderbilt.
See those benches on the baselines? They’re in those unusual spots because Vanderbilt has to be annoying in even its bench location. Look at that man on Vanderbilt’s side. No, he’s not Kevin from The Office. He’s the guy who somehow won SEC coach of the year last year, Kevin Stallings. I know that’s a strange coincidence but he really isn’t on The Office. He’s just the guy who honestly believes he’s able to compete with UK year-in and year-out and he’s not alone.
Scan the crowd. All of these gold clad fans believe that their team can win. They even think they play a part, that their presence is some kind of “Memorial magic.” Make sure to take a good look around after we beat them because these people will basically disappear until next year. They certainly won’t be at any of Vanderbilt’s football games because then there wouldn’t be enough seats for the opposing fans. No, Vandy fans can only support one delusion at a time and for now those misplaced dreams ride with the mediocrity of the basketball program.
Be thankful UK fans that you have been blessed with the opportunity to beat up on the most bothersome society in college sports. Don’t try to think about it too much and accept them for what they are because just like *NSYNC, Vanderbilt is going to annoy us until they finally disband, then they’ll come out of the closet.
Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt: a bigger rivalry than you think!
By: John Wilmhoff
When you think of Kentucky’s most anticipated games on the hardwood each season, you think of games like Louisville, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida. Indiana has been a traditional rival as well over the years and Duke has given us both of our greatest and worst memories from the NCAA Tournament. There’s another team that Kentucky has been playing nearly every season since 1912 that many of us don’t even consider a huge rival, but they certainly are. I highly doubt that many UK fans circle the dates of both of the Vanderbilt basketball games each season as huge games on their calendars while looking through the upcoming schedule in October. However, through the years, the home-and-away series with Vanderbilt in the SEC East has had the most overall importance to success of a basketball season at Kentucky.
Two conference games with Vandy each year has traditionally held more significance on an overall season’s success more so than any other rivalry game, including Louisville. A single game in the month of December really only serves as bragging rights for UK fans. In 1998, Kentucky lost to Louisville in December of Tubby Smith’s first season but ended up cutting down the nets in April. On the contrary, they were able to run away with a last second victory at Memorial Gym that season against Vanderbilt. When it comes to winning SEC Championships and earning a high seed in the NCAA tournament, the Vanderbilt games are always crucial. On rare occasions, it has even been the difference between dancing and playing in the NIT.
You can go as far back as 1961, for example, when Mississippi State won the regular season SEC crown. In those days you had to win the conference regular season championship to even make the tournament. Mississippi State refused their invitation to the tournament that year because they had a policy against competing against African Americans. This actually forced a one game playoff between the two teams that were tied for 2nd: UK and Vanderbilt, with the winner going to “the big dance”. The game was played on a neutral court in Knoxville. Kentucky won and advanced into the NCAA Tournament.
More recently, the Cats were off to a horrible 6-7 start in 2008 in Billy Gillispie’s first year. The season seemed like it was lost before conference play had even began, but it was the Vanderbilt game at home that completely changed that season. Kentucky was 6-7 with losses to Gardner Webb and San Diego. Now, they had to open up the SEC slate against 16-0 and #13 ranked Vanderbilt. The Cats pulled it off in front of a frenzy crowd at Rupp in double overtime. They then proceeded to go 12-4 in conference play to miraculously make the NCAA Tournament despite the 6-7 start. The second game with Vandy at Memorial Gymnasium, however, was one of the most embarrassing losses in UK history, as they lost 93-52 in front of a nationally televised ESPN audience. The first win over Vanderbilt though was just enough for the Cats to earn a 16th straight NCAA Tournament birth. It was the signature win of that season and changed everything.
Both Vanderbilt games were also very memorable in the 2003 season. Tubby Smith’s Cats’ had faced early struggles that season. They had lost 3 early games and even lost an exhibition game to Team Nike. They were just starting to find their niche in SEC play, however, they were trailing Vanderbilt by 14 points early on. They were able to cut the deficit to 8 points at halftime, but the last 20 minutes of the game at Memorial Gymnasium is what really sparked that team into eventually winning 26 games in a row. The Cats’ suffocating defense caused havoc for the Commodores in the 2nd half. Kentucky outscored Vandy 46-16 in the second half and ended up winning the game by a score of 74-52. Later that season, there were heavy hearts in Rupp for one of the most memorable UK Senior Day game’s in history. The Cats slaughtered Vandy 106-44 while honoring would-be UK player John Stewart, a UK signee that tragically collapsed and died in a high school game after he had committed to play for the Cats.
You don’t have to think back too far at all to remember the thrilling game this past season at Memorial when John Wall blocked a potential game winning shot with less than 10 seconds to go. Vanderbilt was able to get the ball back for a second shot at the win at the buzzer. John Calipari admittedly called a stupid timeout which allowed Kevin Stallings to set up another potential game winner, but A.J. Ogilvy’s final attempt fell just short and the Cats escaped Nashville with a huge win. The first Vanderbilt game in 2010 was pivotal as well, coming right off the heels of the young Cats’ first loss of the season at South Carolina. They now had to play a ranked Vanderbilt team with Lebron James watching over them in the first row of Rupp, but the Cats took care of business and won by double digits over a ranked team and maintained their lead in the SEC East.
The Kentucky-Vanderbilt rivalry is more than just a few great games over the years. Believe it or not, the Commodore’s have given UK the most trouble, especially on the road, than any other team. UK’s 25 losses at Memorial Gymnasium (23 against Vandy) are the most losses the Cats have had in any building in history outside of Lexington. They’ve lost 4 straight years in that building on two different occasions, from 1988-1991 and more recently from 2006-2009. Vandy has also beaten Kentucky four times while UK has been ranked #1 in the country, including in the 1951 SEC Tournament Championship Game in Louisville. No other program has beaten Kentucky as many times while ranked #1. Kentucky’s rivalry with the closest SEC school to the state’s border is one of the most under appreciated rivalries in all of college basketball.
Now, let’s not get carried away though. I just realized that I was supposed to make fun of Vanderbilt in this piece and all I’ve done is compliment them and our rivalry with them. Comparing Vanderbilt and Kentucky as a whole is like comparing the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees since 1908. It would also be about as ridiculous as naming Kevin Stallings SEC Coach of the Year last season over John Calipari (wait…that actually happened, never mind). I mean, they pride themselves on academics but I doubt they have anyone with a GPA higher than Brandon Knight’s 4.3. We even have them beat there! UK has beaten them a measly 133 times. Vandy has only made it past the Sweet 16 once (the elite 8 in 1965). They’ve won only one SEC Tournament Title (in 1952) compared to UK’s 26. They’ve won 3 SEC Regular Season Titles compared to UK’s 44. And the only two hot girls that have ever gone to school there will end up looking like this again when they lose to us for the 134th time next year.
Hipster’s Lost and Found: Commodore Diarium
By: Chris Thomas
I only go to Music City for two reasons: tuneage and bowl games. Nashville has offered Cat’s fans plenty of both in past years. My most recent trip found me unconscious, with my face melted to a speaker, thanks to Jim James/My Morning Jacket. Once I cleaned the blood from my ears, I grabbed a XX and a PBR at a totally alt mexi-bodega (the Vandy sorority girl dancing on the bar in formal attire told us Nashville promotes double fisting). Suddenly, a cavalry of SouthernAristoBros stormed the bar in their black and gold ties. Needless to say, we closed out and dipped, but not before I spotted a small diary laying on the ground. While scooping it up, I noticed the name Percival G. McNulty, Esq. stitched in gold lettering right above the Vanderbilt logo. One of those gents with the frat-style comb-overs dropped it, I realized. With the calligraphy in purple gel pen and pre-antiqued vintage leather, it didn’t take long to remember why I hate the Commodores. Percy left these inside the cover:
Percy likes to pay homage to his ancestors (via his ‘stache)
August 28, 2009 – “I GOT IN TO VANDY! Classes *technically* started a week ago, but the ‘rents donated a yacht’s worth and pulled some strings, so now I’m set to chug Keystone with my brah’s in the dorm. Wonder if I will get a badass nickname up there, like P-Dogg. Percy sounds too rich for living in the big city. Mom packed my tuxes for the sporting events already. <3 her.”
October 5, 2009 – “OMFG. Spilled nacho cheese on my best suit at the football game! Some bro’s cummerbund whacked me. It’s impossible to move in this tiny stadium while everyone is dressed to impress. Even worse, found out that the school was named after Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, a shipping and railing mogul, which made me realize I’ve done no railing whatsoever since enrolling. BUT I did get hooked up with a sweet ‘non-traditional’ roomie named Wyatt. He smokes the dankest of dank, buys our beer, and has a sweet collection of shades/bow-ties. Just wish he didn’t stink the place up with Ben-Gay.”
Wyatt got carded last night and received the ‘too old to be here’ wristband
January 29, 2010 – “Tots just ‘iced’ A.J. Ogilvy at his apartment. Met him at a Memorial a few weeks ago – I was sitting in the front row at half court. Out of nowhere, he takes the biggest flop I’ve ever seen, crying for a charge. The 7-footer goes flying, sliding, and rolling, and lands with his head on my lap. We smiled at each other, and as he limped back onto the court he said, “Nice Chacos.” Apparently, he thought it was a good idea to prep for the big UK game by throwing a huge party at his place. My first time having Foster’s out of a keg was awesome, minus the creepy French guy who refused to wear a shirt. A.J. kept forcing the hairy-chested dude back into his room. Luckily, I took French in high school, so I translated his muffled yells: “Has anyone seen the chocolate syrup?!”
January 30, 2010 – “Just watched Ogilvy get owned by DeMarcus Cousins. Thinking about having mom send some flowers to my new biffle to cheer him up.”
May 4, 2010 – “Just took my last exam for the year. More importantly, finally hooked up with a chick… I think. The flannel and short hair threw me off for a minute. Probably a good thing since Ma/Pa are going to bury me somewhere out in our plantation when the academic probation letter hits the mail. FML.”
I read Percy’s entire diary with disgust until I couldn’t hold my eyes open. Early the next morning, my amigos and I decided we should hit up the local breakfast hotspot where Taylor Swift was last seen. My internal debate omelet vs. pancakes was interrupted by an abrupt thud – we ran over something. I turned around and examined the damage. We smashed four thirty-packs of Keystone Light, narrowly missing another six that were being used as a bed by a seemingly well-dressed, albeit disheveled, hobo. We got out and crept closer, looking for life from the body as if we were soldiers happening upon a fallen enemy during war, kicking and prodding with dismay and hesitance. He was, surprisingly, breathing, with his head lying just outside a puddle of his own vomit. Sure enough, it was P-Dogg – iPhone in hand still, with an unsent text to Ogilvy on the screen proclaiming the magnitude of the previous night. I threw the diary down at his feet and we walked away. Pancakes sounded about right.
We only received entries from three of the four contestants in this group so Chris, Matthew, and John will advance by default. Will Totten is the missing blogger who obviously can’t handle the life. The fame, the women, the cars, the money – it’s hard out there for a KSR blogger and it’s not for everyone. I just hope you don’t regret turning down the lifestyle, Will.
(1) Chris Thomas – PBR? Now, that’s American.
(2) Matthew Hays – “Home Alone” is older than you.
(3) John Wilmhoff – Not mean enough. If you have hate in your heart, let it out.
(4) Will Totten – SMH