Monday, October 20, 2008

Nashville---It's Not The Little Cow Town It Used To Be

If it's been a while since you've been back to campus and visited Nashville, you might be in for something of a surprise.

The Little Salt Lick on the Cumberland River has grown quite a bit over the last 35 years. Just look at the downtown skyline. When we were in school, the only building of any height was the Life & Casualty Tower. Now, its hard to even find the L&C on the skyline.

Another big way Nashville has changed is the arrival of professional sports. When we were at Vandy, there was no professional baseball (the AAA Nashville Sounds) and certainly no NFL football (the Tennessee Titans).

There was a professional hockey team, The Nashville Dixie Flyers of the old Eastern League. But that franchise was on its last legs in those days, and when it folded, no one would have believed the city would one day be home to an NHL franchise, the Nashville Predators.

But we are, and most of our sports franchises are doing reasonably well at the moment, except for The Sounds. The team is locked in a lease dispute with the city and may well be headed out of town soon unless ownership changes.

The Predators looked headed out of town a year ago. But new local ownership and a more generous lease from the city has given the franchise new life to try and succeed in a non-traditional hockey market. The team's off to a pretty good start so far. But questions do remain about whether the Predators can attract enough fans to remain viable.

The NFL Titans are the sports king of Nashville. Since they opened their new riverfront stadium in 1999 they have sold out every home game. This year the Titans are 6-0, the only undefeated team left in the league. With the rival Indianapolis Colts headed to town for a Monday Night Football game (October 27), excitement about the team has not been higher since the Super Bowl season back in 1999-2000.

Surprisingly, despite all this extra competition for the sports entertainment dollar, Vanderbilt is competing pretty well. The football team has the town excited about beating Duke this weekend and then being on the way to a possible winning season and a bowl berth for the first in over a quarter of a century.

Both the men's and women's basketball teams are coming off multi-year NCAA tournament appearances and more of the same is expected this coming season. Coach Tim Corbin is bringing in another very highly-regarded recruit class, and the baseball team is expected to back among the best in the SEC and the nation again this spring.

Heck, even the Vandy womens' bowling team is continuing its tradition of excellence. After winning Vanderbilt's first NCAA championship in any sport two years ago, they have now recruited the number one freshman bowler in the nation to come to school here.

I think it's fair to say that Vanderbilt athletics is having a renaissance such like all of Nashville. And when you are here this coming weekend for Reunion, you'll probably get a chance to experience it for yourself.

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