Commodore Nation, we’ve made it. It’s been an incredibly eventful year and there have been times that the chances of a college football season looked bleak. We’ve seen a worldwide pandemic that still affects the world today. We’ve seen social justice issues rip at the core of the world and nation. There are incessantly divisive political narratives prevalent throughout the media. In many ways, it’s been an incredibly difficult and painful year.
On the West End, we’ve seen lots of change and movement. Daniel Diermeier took the helm at Vanderbilt as the newest chancellor. Candice Storey Lee officially became the athletic director, the first African American woman to lead an SEC athletic department and Vanderbilt’s first female athletic director. Additionally, we’ve seen Vanderbilt (controversially) restructure the athletic communications department and hire two new deputy athletic directors in Dr. Kristene Kelly (deputy athletic director for internal affairs) and Tommy McClelland (deputy athletic director for external affairs and revenue generation). On top of all that movement, Vanderbilt has continually received criticism for a lack of commitment to winning in athletics and investing in Vanderbilt student-athletes. Who knows if recent football opt-outs, transfers, and rumored low morale around the football program are attributed to why these student-athletes are leaving.
That doesn’t even address the lack of specific facility upgrade plans that haven’t been announced and are long overdue, nor does it address the increasing apathy among the Vanderbilt fan base, especially towards an underachieving football program approaching year 7 under Coach Derek Mason. During Coach Mason’s tenure, the Commodores have seen some bright moments, big wins and bowl berths, yet have never had a winning season. At any other SEC school, it’s safe to assume a change in direction would have been made.
There are more storylines inside and around the athletic department that have been in the news and reported, but let’s not get into those. That’s not the purpose of this article.
This article is about hope.
Now, I’m not naive. The 2020 football season is going to be filled with bumps. There are new coordinators implementing new systems, fans (those who are left) who don’t believe in the program’s leadership, completely new quarterbacks, unclear answers in the run game after Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s departure, questions about consistency and legitimacy of the offensive line, and a seemingly endless list of questions (including how playing through COVID-19 and its restrictions will go). Ultimately, no one will argue that there are many unanswered questions and facets of Commodore football that must improve for the program to consistently make bowl games, let alone compete for the SEC East.
For this week, however, Commodore Nation can rejoice because the men in black and gold suit up on Saturday. They can hope for improvement after a disappointing 2019 season and look forward to new systems that could revitalize a dormant offense and a lackluster defense.
Amidst all difficulty and odds, there is SEC football in 2020. There is Vanderbilt Commodore football in 2020. So take a deep breath and enjoy the fact we’re here. No, the perpetual problems that have plagued Vanderbilt Athletics for generations won’t disappear overnight, nor will the questions fans long to have answered be responded to all at once. Unfortunately, the political turmoil and worldwide pandemic won’t be solved this weekend either. So, Commodore Nation should celebrate and be joyful, if at the very least during the buildup to kickoff Saturday. Hold your loved ones close and enjoy some wings this weekend, for the Commodores will be competing on a beautiful fall evening at historic Kyle Field. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.