Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Guru: Part 1

About 45 minutes into my conversation with DeFKA Guru (and Vice Chancellor of Vanderbilt University) David Williams told me a story about his first days in Nashville. The Guru told me about a night, like any other, where he and his family were going out for dinner. Driving to pick up their food, the Guru recalled being angry at all the orange he saw on the way. Last he checked, the University of Tennessee wasn’t in Nashville, they had their own city. Nashville was Vanderbilt country…at least it should be.

If nothing else, this story demonstrates that David Williams not only has a vision for what Vanderbilt athletics should be, but also a meter to judge it’s progress: the black and gold he sees on the way to pick up dinner. The Vice Chancellor was very open when he admitted that, in the past, Vanderbilt had been too arrogant it’s own good, particularly in athletics. Worse, the university wasn’t delivering a winning product…or at least, a product anyone wanted to see.

While that has been changing slowly over the past few years, the Guru seemed to think Vanderbilt hosting the NCAA Baseball Regional this past June was a seminal moment. As the Guru is quick to point out, the only way to draw a crowd and get the people of Nashville behind the Commies is to win. This season, Vanderbilt baseball did just that…and the people of Nashvegas came out in droves. Despite the heartbreaking loss, people were excited about Vanderbilt baseball, and are excited about this things going on “the city’s western border.” Scenes like the one at Hawkins Field breeds expectations, and perhaps more importantly, turns casual Nashville fans into Vanderbilt fans. It’s not often you see people not affiliated with the university caring about it’s athletics teams. But under the leadership of the Guru, that’s beginning to change.

The City of Nashville, according to Vice Chancellor Williams has been a great partner for the university. They see the potential in having “big-time” college athletics in their city, and Vanderbilt is certainly progressing to become just that. Just to give you an idea of how committed Nashville is to attracting college sports to Nashville, consider what will be going on in the city for 5 days next March. As the Guru pointed out, between March 5th and 9th of next year, the city of Nashville will play host to the 5 (count’em 5) Basketball tournaments: the OVC’s Men’s and Women’s Conference Tournament, the Atlantic Sun’s Men’s and Women’s Conference Tournament, and the SEC Women’s Conference Tournament. Yet, while that kind of exposure is great for the city over a short period of time, the Metro Nashville and David Williams would like nothing more than for the city to be a college sports Mecca every Saturday during football season, and a place getting national attention over the winter and into the spring with the school’s exploits on the hardwood and the diamond. Now that’s thinking big.

I'll be posting Part's 2 and 3 of my conversation with the Guru later this week.

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