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February 2009

THE OPPORTUNITY AWAITS 2009 BASEBALL PREVIEW


table of contents

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2 Connecting With The Web 4 National Commodore Club 6 In My Words

Merideth Marsh

7 Commodores Cubed Know your Commodores

8 Point of View Vijay Paul 9 Perfect Bowl Attendance Friends have been to all four bowl games 10 Riding Momentum Into 2009

Bowl win increases VU’s odds for success

11 Game-Winner Caps Career

Bryant Hahnfeldt ends career on top

13 It’s My Turn — Rod Williamson

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Strike up the band

15 The Final 4

Brad Tinsley

16 Commodores Reload

2009 baseball preview

20 Quick Hits A look at Vanderbilt’s sports teams 22 The Internet and recruiting How recruiting has changed 24 The Last Look

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Connect with

VUCOMMODORES.COM Editorial Publisher: Vanderbilt University

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Ryan Schulz

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Vanderbilt’s Blog

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Daniel Dubois

The newest addition online is the official Vanderbilt blog. The blog is updated throughout the day, providing fans with informative and fun content that they otherwise wouldn’t see on vucommodores.com.

Decorate your home or workplace with the purchase of exclusive Vanderbilt photos. The photos range from images of Vanderbilt’s campus and athletic venues to action shots from Vanderbilt’s sporting events.

Steve Green Stan Jones John Russell

Contributors: Andy Boggs

John Erck Larry Leathers Vijay Paul Thomas Samuel Chris Weinman

Administrative

Chancellor: Nicholas S. Zeppos Vice Chancellor for University Affairs: David Williams II Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs: Beth Fortune

Podcasts Download archived audio files to your computer or media device. Audio files available for download include postgame interviews, weekly news conferences, Joe Fisher’s daily updates and weekly radio interviews.

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Letters Fifty-Three Years In The Making I was too young to remember Vanderbilt’s Gator Bowl win in 1955, and I never imagined it would be 2008 before Vanderbilt won its next bowl game. The wait was long, but it was definitely worth it to experience the energy in that stadium after beating Boston College. It is my proudest moment as a Vanderbilt fan. Fred, Hermitage, Tenn. To experience a stadium with 50,000 fellow Commodore fans was the best experience I have ever had as a Vanderbilt fan. I have never worn my black and gold more proudly. Susan, Madison, Tenn.

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Vanderbilt University’s Mission, Goals and Values Vanderbilt University is a center for scholarly research, informed and creative teaching, and service to the community and society at large. Vanderbilt will uphold the highest standards and be a leader in the quest for new knowledge through scholarship, dissemination of knowledge through teaching and outreach, and creative experimentation of ideas and concepts. In pursuit of these goals, Vanderbilt values most highly intellectual freedom that supports open inquiry; and equality, compassion and excellence in all endeavors. Vanderbilt University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action university. ON THE COVER: (left to right) Brian Harris, Mike Minor and Andrew Giobbi (Photo by John Russell)

After Vanderbilt had lost six of its last seven games, I was hesitant to purchase tickets for the bowl game. I had pretty much made up my mind that I would not be going to the game until Christmas Day when I received a pair of tickets from my wife. I can honestly say it was one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received. Dave, Memphis

To submit a letter, e-mail CN at: commodorenation@vanderbilt.edu. Letters should include the writer’s name and address and may be edited for clarity and space.

POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to National Commodore Club, 2601 Jess Neely Drive, Nashville, TN 37212. SUBSCRIPTION: To subscribe to Commodore Nation, please contact the National Commodore Club at 615/322-4114. ADVERTISEMENT: To advertise with Commodore Nation, please contact Vanderbilt ISP Sports. Jeff Miller, General Manager 615/322-4468 jmiller@ispsports.com


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C O M M O D O R E C LU B

COR N E R

PHONE: 615/322-4114 vucommodores.com MUSIC CITY BOWL • NCC EVENT AT WILDHORSE SALOON

The NCC held a free event for Commodore Club members on December 30 at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville.

Clockwise from top left: Henry Harris, Bill and Genelle Themann, Jim Waggoner, Daniel Stockton, Valerie Evans and Christy Waggoner.

Vice Chancellor David Williams with his wife, Gail, and children Nick and Sam.

MUSIC CITY BOWL • LIMELIGHT TAILGATE Vanderbilt hosted a pre-game tailgate at the Limelight, which is next to LP Field.

More than 1,100 people attended Vanderbilt’s pre-game tailgate at the Limelight.

Left to right: Chase, Megan, Carder, Mitch and Steve McCoy, Ricky Anderson, Marvin Thomas, and Chris Krause

ATHLETICS FACILITIES IMPROVEMENTS If you’ve been by Dudley Field, Hawkins Field or to a basketball game at Memorial Gym recently, you’ve seen the renovations to the facilities. Whether it is the addition of outfield bleachers to Hawkins Field or the improvements to the exterior of Dudley Field, the facility improvements are another indication of the progress of Vanderbilt athletics. To find out more about how you can contribute and be involved in the project, call the National Commodore Club at: 615/322-4114.

Former football player Louie Stephenson (in black Vanderbilt shirt) leads a line dance at the Limelight.

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Left to right: Dave Logie, Jeff Cartwright, Chris Krause, Marvin Thomas, Steve McCoy, Mark Johnson, Ricky Anderson, Darryl Denson, Louie Stephenson, and Tom Black.

Soul Incision, made up of Vanderbilt employees, administrators and surgeons, including Robert Early, Steven Smartt, Jeffrey Byrd, Norman Urmy, Deborah Kemp, C. Wright Pinson, Edward Shultz, Carol Byrd and Bryan Brand, performed at the tailgate.

JOIN THE BLACK AND GOLD ENDOWMENT SOCIETY Vanderbilt Athletics and the National Commodore Club endeavor to endow all athletics scholarships. To help in that task, the NCC has created an endowment level called the Black and Gold Society. Black and Gold Society members create an opportunity for a student-athlete while receiving full benefits of the Dudley Society with a five-year, $100,000 commitment. For more information on the Black and Gold Society and Athletic Scholarship Endowments, please contact John Erck at: john.erck@vanderbilt.edu or 615/322-7922.

DEC. 16 SOUTH FLORIDA GAME

Anne and Joe Maddux, NCC members and scholarship donors, attended the SEC/Big East Challenge to see Vanderbilt defeat South Florida.

VANDERBILT FEVER CROSSES THE WORLD

Nikolaj, Andreas and Martin Nøhr, sons of Dr. Christian Nøhr, a colleague of VUMC Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Dr. Nancy Lorenzi, at Aalborg University in Aalborg, Denmark, have been sporting their Vanderbilt gear on and around the Aalborg campus.

JOIN THE NCC OR RENEW TODAY! You recently should have received your membership renewal for the National Commodore Club. Please mail it in, call 615/322-4114, click vucommodores.com or stop by the office in the McGugin Center to make your gift. Every gift is allocated toward the goal of funding student-athlete scholarships. This year’s membership deadline is May 30 (Vanderbilt’s fiscal year ends June 30). Thank you for your continued support of Vanderbilt Athletics. Your Membership Matters!

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In My Words

Merideth

Marsh

O

ne of Vanderbilt’s most versatile players, junior guard Merideth Marsh is able to handle the point guard and shooting guard duties for the Commodores. The Louisville, Ky., native began her Commodore career as a point guard before shifting to shooting guard during her sophomore campaign. A deadeye shooter, Marsh’s move off the ball has enabled her to become one of the team’s most prolific scorers. On her aspirations after graduation I would definitely like to go overseas and play. After that, I’ll definitely try to get into college-level coaching. On how she became interested in coaching I’ve been interested in coaching since I was little. I have a very strong passion for the game, and I understand it a lot. On the flip side, I love to help people learn. When I’m given the opportunity to help other people, it is just something that gives me joy. People tell me I’d be a good coach, and they come to me when they have questions. I still may like to coach high school because in high school you are still in position to be an influence to someone. There are so many girls out there that are gifted in high school basketball but don’t even think they can play in college. You are just in position to influence someone on the court and off the court. That is my element. I could be in the gym for hours. On if her coaching interest gives her a different perspective on games and practices Yes, it does, especially at the college level. When I got here, I started learning stuff about the game of basketball that I didn’t even know. In high school, I was in a position where I was running one through five, whatever was needed. Here, I’m in a position to learn one or two specific spots and roles. Coach (Melanie) Balcomb instills certain stuff about character and being a good teammate and stuff like that on the floor that makes our team chemistry very good. On her tendency to overanalyze the game With basketball, I have such a strong passion for it that I understand a lot, and regardless of the situation I‘m going to think and analyze something. Sometimes Coach Balcomb has to tell me to stop analyzing and just do what she says. It is really hard for me because if there is something I don’t understand in basketball, I’m going to question it because if I don’t understand it, I want to know why.

On coming to Vanderbilt My experience of being recruited was probably a lot different than everyone else. I came to team camp the summer before my senior year, and the coaches pulled me aside and started talking to me about coming to play here. What really drew me to come here was the coach-

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JOHN RUSSELL

On growing up as a Kentucky fan It is different when our men’s team plays them because I was never a Kentucky women’s basketball fan growing up, I was just a fan of their men’s team. I enjoy playing them because they didn’t recruit me. I probably would have liked to play there, but they never recruited me. Playing at Kentucky is a lot of fun because I have a lot of friends that go to Kentucky, and they get to come see me.


ing staff and how much they showed they cared about me as a person and as a player. They wanted to develop me not only on the court, but also later on in life. It wasn’t just coach-player it was coach-player-friend.

Commodores Cubed

On the chemistry of the team One of the biggest positives about our program at Vanderbilt is that we are so close as a team, and I think that is one of our biggest recruiting tools. When we hang out, we all hang out together. We just get along really well, and that doesn’t happen a lot of places.

On why she wears No. 23 Pistol Peete. I’ve watched the highlight videos, and that is kind of the way my dad raised me. My dad focused on shooting a little bit, but his main focus was teaching me the basic fundamentals. He emphasized ball handling, passing and just being a person on the floor that reads the floor. On being in the same class as fellow AAU teammate Amber Norton It was just kind of random because we were at the same team camp together when Vanderbilt started recruiting both of us. We had played AAU together since we were 10 years old, so I’ve known her for a very long time. I wouldn’t say that her coming to Vanderbilt was a big influence, but it was just a neat thing to keep playing with her. n

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Cross Country

festus EZELI

Basketball

laura KEENAN

amber NORTON

People say I look like

Kasey Kahne

Greg Oden

Courteney Cox

My teammates call me a panda bear

Favorite gadget

Computer camera for web chats

Samsung BlackJack

TiVo

HP laptop

My first pet

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

A cat

My dog, Buster

A rabbit named Thumper

I could eat ___________ every day

M&M’s

Lucky Charms

Maryland crabs

Fried chicken

Lacrosse

Basketball

’Dores Vault Past Vols

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t is hard to classify any victory in the first week of SEC play as being more important than any other regular season win, but if there is an exception it came on Jan. 11 when Vanderbilt defeated No. 7 Tennessee 74-58. Vanderbilt’s victory put to rest a 16-game losing streak to the Vols that dated to Feb. 2, 2002. But maybe most importantly it gave the Commodores the signature win they had been looking for this season. The Commodores had lost two of their previous four games and four overall in nonconference play, which was not the start most predicted after Vanderbilt was tabbed to win the SEC in the preseason. The early losses, combined with the losing streak to Tennessee, made Head Coach Melanie Balcomb prepare the team differently than she had for any other Tennessee game in the past. “In preparing for this game, I did it differently than we’ve ever prepared for Tennessee before,” Balcomb said. “I decided we would have some fun. We put Tennessee uniforms

and headbands on the (male practice team), played “Rocky Top,” and made the crowd noise so deafening that they couldn’t hear each other on the court. I think it definitely worked.” Worked it did. Vanderbilt took an eightpoint lead into the half and never looked back. The Commodores had five players score in double figures and extended their lead to as many as 21. “We just had a different talk at halftime than we usually do, and we took the momentum into the second half and ran with it,” said senior Jennifer Risper, who hadn’t beaten Tennessee in her previous seven tries. “This win is pretty awesome, especially for it to come as a senior. n

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JOHN RUSSELL

On switching to shooting guard Shooting has always been a positive of mine, but now as I’ve come here, Coach Balcomb has brought it to the forefront that shooting, as well as passing and dribbling, can be put together at the shooting guard spot. I showed that I could shoot the ball, and now I’m in a position to be an extremely solid shooter. That is what we need on the floor. My shooting has definitely gotten better here than in high school.

kyle REWICK


Point of View

Providing Student-Athletes With Opportunities By Vijay Paul Editor’s Note: Each month “Commodore Nation” will ask a varsity athlete to sound off on a point of personal interest. A native of Medford, N.J., Paul is a junior on the tennis team.

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DANIEL DUBOIS

n casual conversation two years ago when I entered school, I was not quick to boast about my enrollment at Vanderbilt University, largely due to the fact that I struggled to fit in initially to its Greek-heavy culture. Invaluable professors, teammates and experiences have since shown me how wrong I was and how blessed I am to be here. Vanderbilt is a place that prepares you for any road. I’m beginning to learn that while we can map out a plan for our future, the plan always seems to change. What then becomes important are the tools that you have at your disposal to deal with the change. Vanderbilt has the unique reputation of an Ivy-league caliber university with the moniker “athletic powerhouse” forthcoming. That’s a truth that my father realized when I was a skinny 17-year-old kid whose only real awareness of the world consisted of striking a tennis ball with relative fury. Thirteen years of junior tennis in the greater Philadelphia region, two years of collegiate tennis in the unrivaled SEC and one summer of touring tennis through Germany have passed, and I realize now more than ever the great challenge a career in professional tennis poses. Most aspiring tennis professionals graduate directly from high school to a life on the road traveling the tennis circuit, sometimes banking only enough to cover the bus fare to the next tournament. They train tirelessly on their forehand approach shots, backhand volleys and kick serves, but the one weapon that they cannot hone is a Vanderbilt education. Indeed it’s a rare attribute offered to the privileged athletes at this school. The peace of mind that comes with it is even more precious and allows the student with aspirations of a professional athletic career the ability to live as big as their dreams. When I mull over my future in the sport with my parents, they always bring up the fact that I have an active investment in the craft I’ve worked at for 16 years. This point in our conversation has always been uneasy for me — characterizing myself a type of mutual fund rather than a human being. But as is always the case with parents, they’re right. Every athlete here has put in countless work on the court and in the classroom growing up. Vanderbilt only enhances both skills. It is a school that gives one the freedom to take an entire summer traveling through Germany playing tennis, and it is a school that prepares one for a corporate law internship in Philadelphia the following summer (the horizon I find myself approaching). It is only fair then that we, as Vanderbilt student-athletes, allow ourselves the opportunity to reach for our athletic dreams after school because if we fall short, we know we will land in the security of a Vanderbilt diploma. n

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Friends Keep Bowl Attendance Record Perfect

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The couples also couldn’t have been happier lot had changed in the 53 years between Vanderbilt’s Gator Bowl victory in 1955 with having the game in Nashville. The game and its Music City Bowl victory in 2008. not only allowed them to stay with the DaughThere had been 10 different U.S. presidents, erty’s, but it also gave them an opportunity to Alaska and Hawaii became U.S. states, the Ber- see their son, Steven, who is Vanderbilt’s cross lin Wall was constructed and torn down and the county coach. “We had decided if there ever was another number of bowl games went from seven to 32. For as much that has changed in the world bowl game, we would absolutely have to go since 1955, one thing that has stayed the same is wherever it was, and as it turned out it was great the attendance record at Vanderbilt’s four bowl because it was in Nashville,” Sharon Keith said. games by Vanderbilt graduates Sharon and “We try to come every year to see at least one cross country meet, and Bob Keith of Williamsthis was just a bonus to burg, Va., and Betty come back again.” and Charlie Daugherty Making the experiof Nashville. ence even better for The friends have both couples was the seen all four of VU’s performance by the bowl games in perCommodores. son, which is some“It was one of my thing only a handful of proudest moments as a Commodore fans can Vanderbilt fan,” Charlie say. The couples have (left to right): Bob Keith, Betty Daugherty, Daugherty said. “Back been friends since Sharon Keith and Charlie Daugherty have in 1955, I’d only been their time at Vanderbilt attended all four Vanderbilt bowl games. out of school for a few and were even in each other’s weddings, but attending every bowl years and I didn’t realize that we wouldn’t win another bowl game for so many years.” game wasn’t in their plans until years later. The couples have special memories from each “When we left Legion Field after the (1982) Hall of Fame Bowl, Charlie Daugherty and I made a of Vanderbilt’s bowl games, but the Music City vow then that we would be at the next bowl game Bowl will always be held in a special place. “There was more excitement with this seaand all others that we could,” Bob Keith said. However, neither couple thought it would be son than any of the others because of Vander26 more years before Vanderbilt would be invited bilt’s 5-0 start,” Bob said. “Then we were really pleased when they got invited to the Music City to another bowl game. “We thought it would take maybe four or five Bowl because that allowed us to come back to years and we’d be back some other place,” Bob Nashville. That was exciting and it was somesaid. “It didn’t happen that way, but we are glad it thing that probably wouldn’t have been as unique if we’d had to go somewhere else.” n happened the way it did.”

COMPLIANCE

COR NER

Q: A:

Speed Demon is a junior in high school and is very interested in running track in college. She has e-mailed several college coaches throughout the year. Several of the coaches provided Speed with a toll-free number to contact them about setting up a visit to their school next year. Is it permissible for college coaches to receive calls from Speed if she uses the toll-free number? It is only permissible for coaches to receive such calls ON OR AFTER July 1 following Speed’s junior year in high school. NCAA Bylaw 13.1.3.6 states that institutional coaching staff members (see Bylaw 13.1.3.4.1) may accept collect and toll-free (e.g., 1-800) telephone calls placed by prospective student-athletes, parents and legal guardians, provided the calls are placed not earlier than July 1 following completion of the prospective student-athlete’s junior year in high school. (Adopted: 1/10/92; Revised: 1/11/94, 12/12/06) NCAA Bylaw 13.1.3.6.1 Exception—Men’s Basketball In men’s basketball, institutional coaching staff members may accept collect telephone calls placed by a prospective student-athlete, parents and legal guardians, provided the calls are placed not earlier than the conclusion of the prospective student-athlete’s sophomore year in high school. The institution may use a toll-free number to receive such calls from a prospective student-athlete, parents or legal guardians. (Adopted: 11/1/01 effective 4/1/02; Revised: 12/12/06) NCAA Bylaw 13.1.3.6.2 Exception—Women’s Basketball In women’s basketball, institutional coaching staff members may accept collect and toll-free telephone calls placed by a prospective student-athlete, parents and legal guardians, provided the calls are not placed earlier than the date on which an institution may begin placing telephone calls to the prospective student-athlete (see Bylaw 13.1.3.1.3). (Adopted: 11/1/07)

Compliance questions? Please contact: Candice Storey Lee Director of Compliance 615/322-7992 candice.storey@vanderbilt.edu

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George Midgett Compliance Coordinator 615/322-2083 george.d.midgett@vanderbilt.edu

John Peach Compliance Coordinator 615/343-1060 john.w.peach@vanderbilt.edu

By The

NUMBERS 5

out of the 22 bowl games played before New Year’s Day had a higher attendance than the Music City Bowl, which drew 54,250.

95

percent of Vanderbilt’s 2001 freshman football class has graduated—the highest percentage in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

3.005

The GPA of Vanderbilt’s student-athletes during the fall semester.

11

of Vanderbilt’s athletic teams achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher during the fall semester.

3

The number of wins Vanderbilt’s football team had against opponents that were ranked at the time of the game—the most in school history.

5

The number of days after the Music City Bowl before wide receiver Jamie Graham began practicing with the basketball team.

1

Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball team is the only program in the SEC without a senior on its roster.

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JOHN RUSSELL

Bowl Win Bodes Well For 2009 Season

Captains Reshard Langford (left), George Smith (center) and Bradley Vierling hoist the Music City Bowl trophy after the team’s 16-14 win over Boston College.

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n the days and weeks in the aftermath of Vanderbilt’s 16-14 win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl, it was hard for fans to think of anything besides the game and the 2008 season. Now as the triumphant victory gets smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, it is hard not to look forward to what next season may bring. The Commodores return nine of 11 starters on offense and defense and must replace just nine seniors that were listed on the team’s two-deep heading into the bowl game. The youthful talent was showcased throughout the Boston College game. Vanderbilt started eight underclassmen in the game, including redshirt freshman quarterback Larry Smith and sophomore defensive end Teriall Brannon, who were making the first starts of their careers. Vanderbilt also got strong play from freshman defensive backs Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson. Hayward played well in place of D.J. Moore, who was injured for most of the game, and Richardson scored the team’s lone touchdown. “We had a bunch of guys hurt and a bunch of guys stepped up, and I thought that was huge,” Head Coach Bobby Johnson said. “Hopefully that is going to be a good indication that we’ve got more players available now to make those kind of plays in big games.” That kind of depth, along with the momentum gained from ending the pro-

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gram’s reign of 25 consecutive losing seasons should give the Commodores a large boost going forward. “It does feel good (to win), but it also gives us a place that we can move on from,” Johnson said. “We want to get our program better, and this certainly ups the ante a little bit with our program.” The adage is that numbers don’t lie. If that is true, the odds are in Vanderbilt’s favor going into 2009. In the past five seasons (2003-08), 71.76 percent of teams that have made it to a bowl game have returned the following season. In the past three seasons alone, that percentage has been even higher. This season, 73.43 percent of teams in bowl games were making at least their second straight bowl appearance. The number was 75.8 percent in 2007-08 and 75.0 percent the year before that. Johnson understands the odds are in his favor, but knows the team must work even

PERCENTAGE OF TEAMS RETURNING TO BOWL GAMES (last five seasons) Year 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total

Overall 73.4% 75.8% 75.0% 64.2% 69.6% 71.7%

After Win After Loss 81.2% 65.6% 83.8% 67.7% 82.1% 67.8% 71.4% 57.1% 75.0% 64.2% 78.9% 64.6%

harder if it wants to maintain its success in the Southeastern Conference. “We want to make sure that we continue to move forward, and I think we have got enough players coming back from this football team that we are going to have a good chance to do that,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take an awful lot of hard work.” Just making it to its first bowl game since 1982 gives Vanderbilt positive momentum going forward, but it was even more important to beat Boston College and finish the season with a winning record as opposed to losing seven of its final eight games.

2009 VANDERBILT SCHEDULE Date

Opponent

Time

9/5

Western Carolina

TBA

9/12

at LSU

TBA

9/19

Mississippi State

TBA

9/26

at Rice

TBA

10/3

Ole Miss

TBA

10/10

at Army

TBA

10/17

Georgia

TBA

10/24

at South Carolina

TBA

10/31

Georgia Tech

TBA

11/7

at Florida

TBA

11/14

Kentucky

TBA

11/21

at Tennessee

TBA


JOHN RUSSELL

“Amongst ourselves the main emphasis for us was knowing if you win a bowl game you can have a winning season,” Johnson said. “We wanted to be called winners, we wanted to be called champions and we will. We will be the Music City Bowl Champions, we will have a winning season and all of these things are extremely important to a program that is trying to move up, especially in a tough league that we play in.” Winning the bowl game also makes the odds of Vanderbilt making consecutive bowl appearances that much greater. In the past five years, teams that are coming off bowl wins have returned to bowl games almost 80 percent of the time (78.9 percent). The number is even higher in the last three seasons. Of the 32 teams that won bowl games in 2007-08, 81.25 percent returned to games this year. All but five of the teams that won bowl games in 200607 returned the following season (83.87 percent). The return rate for the previous season was 82.1 percent. When you compare the value of winning a bowl game to that of losing one, the difference is even greater. Just 64.62 percent of teams that have lost bowl games in the last five years returned the following year. Of the teams that lost bowl games in 200708, 65.62 returned this season. That is 15.63 percent lower than teams that won bowl games. The lowest percentage of teams to return to a bowl after a loss in the last five years

Redshirt freshman quarterback Larry Smith made his first start against Boston College. came during the 2004-05 season when just 57.14 percent of the losing teams returned the following season. One of the largest factors that fuels a team’s momentum is its confidence level. And after winning the bowl game, the team’s confidence was sky high. “Hopefully (the win) gives us a boost,” Larry Smith said. “I know I have a lot of confidence now.” Just as confident in the future of the team is senior kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt, who believes the victory was just the tip of the iceberg for what is to come for the Commodores.

“There is no doubt about it,” Hahnfeldt said. “If you look at the guys that are out there, there are a lot of young ones that played and they played great. They’ve seen the work that we have put in and how hard we worked to get here, and they know what to do to get the job done. I feel like they are definitely going to take it, and run with it, and be more successful than we were.” Given the momentum, the depth returning and the statistical evidence, it is safe to say that the 2009 season will be the program’s most anticipated in years. n

Hahnfeldt Ends Career on High Note

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Hahnfeldt began the 2008 season on fire, hitting his first seven attempts of the season while breaking John Markham’s school record for most points in a career along the way. Hahn­ feldt then missed five in a row before ending his career with six consecutive makes. His final three makes came in the Music City Bowl, where he hit from 42 and 26 yards out before hitting the game-winner of 45 yards.

“It has been an up and down career,” Hahn­ feldt said. “I feel like I had a good year this year getting the (all-time scoring) record, which was a goal I set for myself coming in. To get the game-winner just puts a final stamp on my career. Even though all that stuff happened in my past, I’ve moved on from it and gotten better.” n

JOHN RUSSELL

N

o player on the football field can go from being the most disliked player on the field to the most revered player on the field faster than a kicker. Vanderbilt senior kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt knows both sides better than most. After beginning his career on a high note by winning the kicking job as a true freshman and making 12 of 17 attempts (70.6 percent) en route to earning SEC All-Freshman honors, Hahnfeldt saw his career take another path during his sophomore season after coming back from offseason knee surgery. Hahnfeldt made just 8 of 17 kicks, which brought much criticism his direction in 2006. However, it was his 33-yard field goal that sank No. 16 Georgia, 24-22, in Athens that was the biggest kick of his career until the Music City Bowl. In the Music City Bowl, the Nashville native hit the game-winning 45-yard field goal with 3:26 to play. The kick will forever be remembered by Vanderbilt fans as the kick that gave the Commodores their first bowl win in 53 years. Fittingly, the game came after what had been a roller coaster past two seasons for Hahnfeldt. Following his disappointing 2006 season, he recovered to make 13 of 20 attempts in 2007, but it was his miss against Tennessee that closed the season on a sour note.

Vanderbilt players celebrate Bryant Hahnfeldt’s (right) game-winning 45-yard field goal with 3:26 to play in the game.

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It’s My Turn By Rod Williamson

Strike Up the Band

I

’ve been humming fight songs lately, probably a hangover from watching too many bowl games. Then again, I once owned an audio tape (or was it an LP record?) of the nation’s best fight songs, so this isn’t surprising. When I was around 10, I’d count the days until it was time for the Big 10 Game of the Week. In the early 1960s the game of the week meant it was the only one televised for seven days so I watched them all— Northwestern at Wisconsin, Purdue at Minnesota—it didn’t matter. I can still hum the show’s opening theme—a Sousa march—and hear that booming voice: “Big Ten Basketball is on the air!” I’d wear a plain gray sweatshirt with a partial zipper—my version of a basketball warmup jacket—and shoot imaginary lay-ups over the bedroom door. It was as close as an Iowa farm kid could get to college athletics but that was OK. I was a moth to its flame. With rah-rah in my DNA, I’ve always gotten cold chills from great fight songs and marching bands— the soul of college athletics. The other day I decided I liked Michigan’s “The Victors” better than Southern Cal’s “Fight On, USC”. Next week I plan to solve world hunger. Fight songs are like family pets, you tend to like your own. Our “Dynamite” was written by Francis Craig, an undergraduate in 1922. In all honesty, it rates a 5 on my adrenaline meter with one unique lyric: “…down the field with blood to yield, if need be save the shield…” Please tell me this isn’t suggesting surrender! I’m not in favor of dropping "Dynamite" for a newer tune, something that gets whispered over cold drinks since we are in Music City USA. Not a chance. When I was overseeing our cheerleaders 20-some years ago, it seemed nobody liked Mr. Commodore. Our mascot wasn’t fierce or cuddly, but he made up for it by being flabby and unathletic. We prevailed upon Roy Kramer to have an extreme make-over, hiring the company that did the Sesame Street characters. In effect we wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger in ’Dore duds. We were fixated on Mr. C’s upper torso, making certain he was chiseled with six-pack abs. Up close he looked like Tarzan but upon his Memorial Gym debut giggles broke out. Not a good sign. He was quickly dubbed “Captain Crunch” for while he had big shoulders he also sported pencil thin legs that were accentuated in the big arena. “What happened to our good ole Mr. Commodore?” rang the cries of despair from our previous Silent Majority. You’d have thought we had ditched the "Star Spangled Banner" in favor of "Blue Suede Shoes." Live and learn. Good bands are golden. With all due respect to Southern units, they cannot touch Big 10 bands for marching and music. They understand their primary responsibility is to set an inspiring, traditional theme. (Name a football power that doesn’t have a quality band or a have-not that has a great one.) When the Michigan band pours from that tunnel in high-stepping, quick time and marches up and down the field playing “The Victors,” it’s worth a touchdown. Golf legend Jack Nicklaus, a Buckeye, once said dotting the “I” in “Script Ohio” was his biggest sports thrill. Maybe a tad exaggerated. Many members of these traditional bands earn college credits or receive scholarships. That’s why I so admire “The Spirit of Gold," who march for the fun and honor of representing Vanderbilt and get little more. Here’s a tip: next time you hear about the wonders of the NFL, give ’em two words: Boola Boola! n

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COM MODOR E

T I DB I T S • Vanderbilt has begun the nomination process for the 2009 Athletics Hall of Fame class. The deadline for nominating someone for the hall of fame is March 6. Nominations made last year do not apply for this year. Each person must be nominated again. • Vanderbilt’s multimedia rights holder, ISP Sports, has created a commemorative DVD for the 2008 football season, titled March to Music City. The DVD takes fans through the memorable season, while providing exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and highlights. The DVD costs $29.95 and can be purchased in person at Vanderbilt’s bookstore or online at vucommodores.com. • Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler became just the fifth Vanderbilt player to be selected to the NFL Pro Bowl since 1971—the first Pro Bowl after the AFL-NFL merger. Cutler joins Corey Chavous (2003), Will Wolford (1990, 1992, 1995), Jim Arnold (1987, 1988) and Dennis Harrison (1982) as the only other Commodores to play in the Pro Bowl. • Vanderbilt won the 2008 Academic Achievement Award from the American Football Coaches Association. The Commodores earned the honor after 95 percent of their 2001 freshman class graduated—the highest graduation rate in the FBS. • For the fall semester, Vanderbilt had 51 student-athletes (37 football players and 14 soccer players) named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. The number surpassed the marks from the previous two fall semesters of 37 in 2007 and 38 in 2006. Freshmen are not eligible for the award. • Vanderbilt hosted its annual Memorial Madness event on Jan. 14 before the Georgia men’s basketball game. The honorary alumni at the event were ESPN’s Buster Olney and former NBA center Will Perdue.

The Final

4

BRAD TINSLEY • Basketball • Freshman Guard Brad Tinsley is one of six Vanderbilt freshmen averaging double figures in minutes played. The Oregon City, Ore., native made an immediate impact for the Commodores, scoring in double figures in his first seven games. What has been the biggest adjustment from high school to college for you on the court? It has been speed and strength. Guys are a lot quicker, faster and stronger, and I think that is the biggest step I have had to make. You played baseball in high school; did you give any thought to playing baseball in college instead of basketball? I played pitcher and outfield, but I was mainly a pitcher because I didn’t really like to hit. I thought about playing baseball in college a little bit. I played football, baseball and basketball throughout high school because I just liked sports and loved the sports atmosphere. Playing a collegiate sport at any level was always a dream of mine. What is it that makes this freshman class unique? I think it is selflessness. None of us are really “me” guys. We are all “we” guys. We’d rather have the team win than individual stats, which I think is the best quality. What was the biggest influence for you to come to Vanderbilt? I think the biggest thing for me was the coaching staff. We really connected from the head coach all the way down to the assistants. I thought they all were really great guys and knew their stuff on the court.

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S

outheastern Conference regular season and tournament championships, SEC Coach of the Year, three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, a No. 1 national ranking, 36 players drafted and two players selected in the top two of the draft. The list of accomplishments would read like a career resume for most, but for Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin, the achievements are a snapshot of his past three seasons alone. To say Vanderbilt’s baseball program has arrived would be an understatement. However, before the Commodores can advance to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament, they must overcome the loss of virtually their entire offense from last season. Gone from last year’s squad that finished 41-22 overall and 15-14 in the SEC are 73.8 percent of the team’s runs scored, 68.5 percent of its RBI and 69.2 percent of its hits. The majority of that production came from the likes of Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty, Alex Feinberg, David Macias, Dominic de la Osa and Shea Robin, who have all either graduated or moved on to the minor leagues. Showing just how far Vanderbilt has come as a baseball program, Alvarez’s selection to the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 2 overall gave Vanderbilt the distinction of being the only school—high school or college—to have players picked either No. 1 or No. 2 overall in consecutive MLB Drafts since Major League Baseball began having just one draft per year in 1987. David Price was selected No. 1 overall in 2007. The 2009 team will not only have to overcome the loss in production of players such as Alvarez, it must also replace the leadership the group provided. A good portion of that leadership may come from the pitching staff, which will be the most experienced group on the team. Having a team with experienced pitchers and a host of wet-behind-the-ears position players will be a complete 180 from the outlook

NEIL BRAKE

for the 2008 season when the team returned 85.5 percent of its hits, which helped offset the losses of Price and Casey Weathers. “We will be inexperienced on the field,” Corbin said, "but we bring back 87 percent of the innings on the pitching staff, led by Mike Minor and Caleb Cotham.” Because of the team’s lack of experienced position players, the Commodores will lean heavily on the freshman class to provide an immediate impact. The 13-member class was touted as the No. 2 class in the country by Baseball America and the No. 3 class by Collegiate Baseball. Of the 13 members of the class, eight were drafted in the 2008 amateur draft. Of the position players in the class, six are listed on the three-deep, while shortstop Jason Esposito and third baseman Joe Loftus are penciled in as starters. “In the seven years that our staff has been at Vanderbilt, this class will have more of an impact on the field than any previous group,” Corbin said. “We are fortunate to have a class that is this talented and this deep.”

Andrew Giobbi

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Infield No area on the field was hit harder by graduation and the draft than the infield. With the losses of Alvarez, Feinberg, Flaherty and Robin, Vanderbilt will be looking for new starters at every position except first base, where junior Andrew Giobbi returns. In addition to Giobbi, junior Brian Harris (2B) will add a veteran presence to an infield that has three underclassmen in sophomore Curt Casali (C) and true freshmen Jason Esposito (SS) and Joe Loftus (3B). After a breakout campaign in 2008, where he ranked second on the team with a .332 batting average, Giobbi returns as Vanderbilt’s top returning offensive threat this season. The Portland, Maine, native also led the team with 22 doubles and ranked third on the squad with 42 RBI. “Andrew (Giobbi) will be a catalyst for our team in many ways,” Corbin said. “He has improved his athleticism greatly and can play several positions on the field. He has come up with a lot of big hits in his career, and he is a very positive influence on our young kids.” Although he is listed as the team’s preseason starter at first base, don’t be surprised to see him spending time behind the plate, where he is listed as the No. 2 catcher behind Casali. Casali batted .317 last year and will likely find his way into the lineup because of his bat even when he isn’t catching. A Nashville native, Harris is one of the team’s most versatile players. Listed as the preseason starter at second base, Harris is also the backup at shortstop and third base. Although Harris was not a regular starter, he was one of the team’s most vital players last year, filling in for Alvarez at third base and Feinberg at second base when they both missed time due to injuries.

NEIL BRAKE

Commodores Reload For 2009

Mike Minor “Brian is the most versatile infielder on our team,” Corbin said. “He has great reflexes and hands. Brian has developed as a hitter in a big way; makes very good contact and has plate discipline. He will be counted on very heavily by our team.” Outfield There were three players who played and started every single game last season. Of those players, two were outfielders. Every game Vanderbilt took the field it could count on centerfielder David Macias and rightfielder Dominic de la Osa being in the lineup. Corbin will try to fill their void by shifting senior Jonathan White to center field and sophomore Steven Liddle to right field. Last season, Liddle and White battled each other for playing time in left field. Likely earning the start in left this year will be sophomore Alex Hilliard, who had just three at bats last season. White started 30 games last season, hitting .286 and ranking second on the team with 11 stolen bases. When not playing in left field, White was the team’s primary designated hitter at the end of last season. White’s production on the field will be key to Vanderbilt’s success, but what may be even more important is the leadership he brings to the locker room as a fifth-year senior. “Jonathan (White) is a rare case of a player who possesses legitimate speed and power,” Corbin said. “He can be an offensive threat and really help our team. His experience and attitude should be a key factor, as well.” Liddle was one of the team’s most pleasant surprises last season. The Franklin, Tenn., product hit .310 and totaled 28 RBI in 158 at bats. His .376 on-base percentage is also the highest among any returning player with at least 100 bats last season. “Steve (Liddle) really came on at the end of last year,” Corbin said. “He is a good allaround baseball player who always plays hard. He has very good fundamental skills in the outfield and handles the bat very well.”


Designated Hitter Vanderbilt used a platoon of players at designated hitter last season, and this year will likely be no different. The biggest difference at the position this season will be the experience level Corbin has to select from. After having a bench full of experienced players to fill the spot in recent seasons, this year’s team will turn to young players in 2009. Among those battling for time at the position will be sophomores Richie Goodenow and Aaron Westlake and freshman Dylan Pratt. Catcher Curt Casali also will see time at the position when he is not behind the plate. Goodenow has been primarily used as a pitcher out of the bullpen, but Corbin has been impressed with his development and sees Goodenow as a two-way player for the Commodores. “Richie (Goodenow) has turned the corner as a player,” Corbin said. “He had a very good fall as a pitcher and also as a hitter.” Westlake missed half of last season due to injury, but should see plenty of action this season between DH and first base. Pitching Vanderbilt’s strong suit should be its pitching staff. The returning members of the staff accounted for 37 of the team’s 41 wins last season and pitched 87.4 percent of the innings. The staff will be buoyed by the return of its weekend rotation of lefthander Mike Minor and righthanders Caleb Cotham and Nick Christiani. The rotation posted a 20-12 mark and accounted for 43.6 percent of the team’s strikeouts. Leading the rotation will be Minor, who posted a 7-3 record to go along with a 4.28 ERA. This past summer he was named College Summer League Player of the Year by Baseball America. Minor earned the honor after helping the USA Baseball National Team win the gold medal game of the FISU World Championships by throwing 9.2 innings of shutout baseball in the team’s 12-inning win over Japan.

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At the back of the bullpen will be sophomore right-hander Russell Brewer and junior right-hander Drew Hayes. Brewer earned Freshman All-SEC honors after posting eight saves and a 3.52 ERA last season. “Russell (Brewer) is as consistent as any pitcher we have,” Corbin said. “He could be used in many roles but really flourishes at the end of the game because of his attitude.” Hayes had two saves last season to go along with his team-leading 3.51 ERA. “Drew has really come on the last year,” Corbin said. “He has a very good arm with a very competitive attitude. We will count on him heavily, and he will end up pitching some very important innings for us. He is very valuable to our club’s success.” Corbin also expects right-handers Mark Lamm and Navery Moore to add depth at the back of the bullpen. Vanderbilt may be young and inexperienced in 2009, but the influx of talent, combined with the proven ability of the coaching staff, has all the makings of another exciting season at Hawkins Field. n

NEIL BRAKE

NEIL BRAKE

Tim Corbin

Minor’s place among the best pitchers in the nation was recognized again this winter when he earned second team preseason AllAmerica honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. “Mike has to be seen as one of top pitchers in the country,” Corbin said. “He brings back a tremendous amount of experience. We have relied on him heavily since his freshman year, and we will continue to do so again this year.” The team’s Saturday starter will be Cotham, who finished the season with a 7-6 record and 4.50 ERA, while averaging over one strikeout per inning. “Caleb (Cotham) had a great summer in the Cape Cod League and continued his progress this fall,” Corbin said. “He has developed into a quality SEC starter with a heavy fastball and two quality secondary pitches. He has improved a great deal over the last year.” Vanderbilt’s Sunday starter will be Christiani, who posted a 6-3 record and a 4.97 ERA. “Getting Nick (Christiani) back for his senior year was very big for our team in many ways,” Corbin said. “He has a lot of experience in the SEC, and he continues to get better.” After being one of the biggest question marks heading into the 2008 season, the middle of the bullpen is one of Vanderbilt’s most stable parts this year. Righthander Chase Reid and Goodenow, a lefty, were solid contributors last season and will once again fortify the middle of the bullpen. Reid finished second on the team with 23 appearances, where he went 4-0 with a 4.30 ERA. Goodenow pitched in 19 games, finishing 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA. Also adding depth to the middle of the bullpen will be righthanders Jack Armstrong and Will Clinard and lefthanders Sean Bierman, Grayson Garvin, Ben Blanton, Corey Williams and Kellen St. Luce.

Caleb Cotham

2009 Preseason Depth Chart Left Field Alex Hilliard Jordan Wormsley Dylan Pratt

Third Base Joe Loftus Brian Harris Jason Esposito

Center Field Jonathan White Matt Marquis Shortstop Jason Esposito Brian Harris Alex McClure

Middle Relief Chase Reid (RHP) Richie Goodenow (LHP) Sean Bierman (LHP) Jack Armstrong (RHP) Grayson Garvin (LHP) Ben Blanton (LHP) Corey Williams (LHP) Will Clinard (RHP) Kellen St. Luce (LHP)

Right Field Steven Liddle Joey Manning Jordan Wormsley

Second Base Brian Harris Riley Reynolds Gabe Ortiz Starting Pitching Mike Minor (LHP) Caleb Cotham (RHP) Nick Christiani (RHP) Taylor Hill (RHP) Sonny Gray (RHP)

Catcher Curt Casali Andrew Giobbi Drew Fann Aaron Westlake

Designated Hitter Richie Goodenow Aaron Westlake Dylan Pratt

First Base Andrew Giobbi Aaron Westlake Richie Goodenow

Closer Russell Brewer (RHP) Drew Hayes (RHP) Mark Lamm (RHP) Navery Moore (RHP)

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Quick Hits

three occasions and averaging 42.6 yards on nine punts. • Junior cornerback D.J. Moore announced he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft after the team's win in the Music City Bowl.

MEN’S SPORTS Baseball

Golf

• Vanderbilt opens its spring

Tim Corbin

season Feb. 23-24 in Orlando, Fla. at the Rio Pinar Intercollegiate.

Basketball

JOHN RUSSELL

• Vanderbilt opens its season Feb. 20 at Stanford. The Commodores will play two games against the Cardinal and two at California during the road trip.

Tom Shaw

• Vanderbilt finished non-conference play with an 11-3 record. • Vanderbilt’s 78-48 win at Massachusetts on Jan. 3 Kevin was VU’s largest margin of Stallings victory on the road since defeating TCU by 35, 95-60, in 2004.

Jessica Mooney led the team with 15 points in Vanderbilt's 74-58 win against Tennessee.

Tennis

• Vanderbilt was ranked No. 27 in the preseason ITA poll released on Jan. 7. It was VU’s highest preseason ranking since 2005. Ian • VU’s doubles team of soph- Duvenhage omore Adam Baker and Alex Zotov was ranked No. 32 in the nation and No. 3 in the Southeast Region. • Sophomore Bryant Salcedo was ranked No. 29 in singles in the Southeast Region. • VU signee Ryan Lipman won the Bill Talbert Junior Sportsmanship Award from the USTA.

Bowling

• Josie Earnest and Brittni Hamilton finished eighth and 10th respectively at the USA Team Trials on Dec. 19. The fourday tournament will help deJohn termine the USA international Williamson team. The top three finishers earned automatic invitations. • Vanderbilt was ranked No. 1 in the National Tenpins Coaches Association’s second national poll of the season on Dec. 23.

Lacrosse JOHN RUSSELL

• Vanderbilt opens its season Feb. 15 against North Carolina. • The North Carolina match is the first of three straight home matches to open the season.

Jermaine Beal has had more games with three three-pointers than his first two seasons.

Football

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Soccer DANIEL DUBOIS

• Vanderbilt won the 2008 Academic Achievement Award from the American Football Coaches Association. • Vanderbilt earned the honor Bobby after 95 percent of its 2001 Johnson freshman class graduated — the highest graduation rate in the FBS. • Bobby Johnson became the third Vanderbilt coach to be elected to the American Football Coaches Association Board of Trustees. Johnson jointed the 18-member board with Buffalo’s Turner Gill. • Vanderbilt had 37 players selected to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. • The Tennessee Sports Writers Association named Bobby Johnson the state's college coach of the year. • Bobby Johnson was honored for winning SEC Co-Coach of the Year at the Tennessee Titans game on Dec. 21 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. • By winning the Music City Bowl, Vanderbilt earned its first bowl win since winning the 1955 Gator Bowl. The win also gave the Commodores (7-6) their first winning season since 1982. • Junior punter Brett Upson earned MVP honors at the bowl game after pinning Boston College inside its 20-yard line on

Cathy Swezey

• Vanderbilt had 14 players selected to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. Ronnie Coveleskie

Bryant Salcedo was the only Commodore to earn a preseason ranking in singles.

WOMEN’S SPORTS Basketball

• The women's basketball team was one of 11 Vanderbilt teams to post a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the fall. Melanie • Vanderbilt finished nonBalcomb conference play with an 11-4 record. • Vanderbilt's 74-58 win against Tennessee on Jan. 11 ended a 16-game losing streak to the Vols. • The win also was Melanie Balcomb's first win over the Vols in her seven seasons at Vanderbilt. • Christina Wirth has been selected to the initial list of 30 NCAA women’s basketball candidates for the 2008-09 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. Shan Foster won the men’s Senior CLASS Award last season.

Tennis

• Vanderbilt was ranked No. 12 in the preseason ITA poll released on Jan. 7. • Individually, five players were ranked in the preseason sinGeoff gles poll. Freshman Jackie Macdonald Wu was ranked No. 21, junior Catherine Newman was ranked No. 55, freshman Chelsea Preeg was ranked No. 80, Keilly Ulery was ranked No. 84 and senior Coutney Ulery was ranked No. 105.

Track and Field

• Due to repairs to Vanderbilt’s track, the Commodores canceled their 2009 home meets. • Freshman Anna Carr set the school record in the indoor 60-meter dash at the Kentucky Invitational on Jan. 18.

D’Andre Hill


The Month Ahead

Men’s Sports Baseball 2/20 2/21 2/22 2/23 2/25 2/27 2/28

at Stanford at Stanford at California at California Western Kentucky Vermont Vermont

Basketball 2/5 2/7 2/14 2/17 2/21 2/25 2/28

Golf

2/23-24

Tennis 2/1 2/6 2/8 2/13 2/14 2/22 2/28

7:30pm 3pm 3pm 3pm 4pm 6pm 2pm

Alabama Ole Miss at Tennessee Kentucky at Florida at Georgia South Carolina

6pm 12pm 2pm 8pm 2pm 6:30pm 8pm

at Rio Pinar Intercollegiate (Orlando, Fla.)

All Day

at National Indoors Qualifying (Boise, Idaho) Michigan North Carolina State Memphis at Middle Tennessee State Louisville at Oklahoma State (Tulsa, Okla.)

TBA 2pm 12pm 2pm 2pm 12pm 2pm

Women’s Sports Basketball 2/1 2/5 2/8 2/12 2/15 2/19 2/22

Bowling

2/14-15 2/28

Lacrosse 2/15 2/21 2/27

Swimming

2/18-21 2/27

Tennis

2/1 2/5 2/13-16 2/21

Track

2/6-7 2/13-14 2/28-3/1

Alabama at Mississippi State at Kentucky Florida Georgia Auburn at Ole Miss

at Morgan State Invitational (Baltimore, Md.) at Holiday Classic (Bessemer, Ala.) North Carolina UMBC Northwestern

2pm 7pm 12pm 7pm 12pm 8pm 2pm

All Day All Day 12pm 1pm 5pm

at SEC Championships (Auburn, Ala.) at Last Chance Meet (Athens, Ga.)

All Day All Day

National Indoors Qualifying Middle Tennessee State at National Team Indoors (Madison, Wis.) Yale

TBA 2:30pm TBA 12pm

at Rod McCravey Invite (Lexington, Ky.) All Day at Iowa State All Day at SEC Indoor Championship (Lexington, Ky.) All Day

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How The Internet Has Affected Recruiting

T

JOHN RUSSELL

he Internet has changed the way the world runs. Whether it is politics, entertainment, news or sports, the Internet has affected it all. Recruiting is no different. Less than a decade ago, e-mail was hit or miss, cell phones were just becoming popular, recruiting services were nonexistent and if you asked someone if they wanted to surf the 'Net, you may get a puzzled look and have to explain why you would want to surf when there isn’t an ocean within 1,000 miles. Times have certainly changed, and nothing has been more of a catalyst for the change than the Internet. The Internet has changed many things in sports, but few areas have been impacted as much as recruiting. “The advent of the Internet has made it much easier and faster to recruit,” said Andrew Turner, Vanderbilt’s recruiting coordinator for Olympic sports. “When I started this job in 2000, we were focused mostly on mass mailings, but now everything has been streamlined with the Internet.” It wasn’t too many years ago that the only way coaches could communicate with potential student-athletes was through written letters and phone calls to their home. While those methods still are used, they have been supplemented with many other ways, most of which have come through the Internet. One of the biggest changes the Internet has brought in recruiting is the speed to which information is delivered to coaches. As a former receiver at Furman and now Vanderbilt’s running backs coach, Des Kitchings believes the timing with which everything happens has been the biggest change from when he was being recruited as a senior in high school in 1995. “The one difference that stands out to me is how much earlier everything happens,”

Des Kitchings (left) and Head Coach Bobby Johnson.

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Kitchings said. “You now start recruiting juniors as you are finishing up your seniors The whole timing of it all has just sped up.” The Internet has not only sped up the recruiting cycle for football, but across all sports. “I think the Internet has made a huge difference and impacted the whole recruiting process very much,” said Vanderbilt men’s tennis Coach Ian Duvenhage, who is in his 24th season coaching college tennis. “The calendar has accelerated to a great degree. In years past a lot of guys who signed would sign during the April signing date. Since I’ve been (at Vanderbilt), my experience is that it is very rare for someone to sign that late.” Part of what has added to the increased speed with which recruiting takes place has been the advent of the recruiting industry. Today, companies such as Rivals.com and Scout.com track every move of recruits. Because everything is tracked almost instantaneously, coaches can no longer keep their incoming classes secret from other recruits and programs. The companies have made recruiting more mainstream for fans, while making the process of identifying potential players easier for coaches. “They do a lot of the tedious leg work for you,” Duvenhage said. “We have two or three recruiting Web sites that we can go to and research players and pull up all of their results in the last year. The Internet has changed the process radically.” The majority of coaches use recruiting services in some form or fashion, but the degree to which they use the services varies greatly. “We deal with some if we trust their evaluations,” Vanderbilt football Coach Bobby Johnson said. “Basically we are getting information on where the kid goes to school and some grade information, but when it gets down to it, we are going to look at the film and decide who we think can fit in our program. We don’t use recruiting services to tell us that this guy needs to be offered a scholarship.” While the Internet doesn’t tell a coach whether to offer a player a scholarship or not, it does enable coaches to more effectively track players. About 1½ years ago, Vanderbilt teamed with Blue Chip Athletic Solutions to become the first university to go department wide with a recruiting database called Recruiting Radar. The database allows coaches to access and edit information from anywhere in the country through the Internet. Having the information available at the palm of their hand has also forced coaches to move quicker in order to stay ahead of other coaching staffs. “It forces one to recognize things sooner because things happen faster,” said Michael Hazel, who works with Vanderbilt’s on-campus recruiting as assistant director of football operations. “You also have to be more reactive because you are finding out who

has offered a kid before you have talked to them and you are reading that he has offers before we’ve actually talked to him.” In many ways the Internet has also made recruiting more competitive throughout college athletics. One example of this is how it has leveled the playing field for schools with smaller recruiting budgets that were unable to recruit nationally. “I think it has gotten more competitive because schools that don’t have the resources to maybe recruit the large portions of the country, now can use the resources of the Internet and expand their geographic recruiting footprint because the Internet is boundless,” Hazel said. The expansion of recruiting territories has also allowed players who once would go unnoticed, to get noticed. “The Internet just opens up a lot of avenues for the kids that we may not have been able to get,” Kitchings said. “In rural areas or even in the big cities there might be a kid that you wouldn’t have known much about, but now with the Internet, there is just so much information at your fingertips to research and find out about kids.” As beneficial as the Internet can be in recruiting, it can also have a down side. “(The Internet) makes you research (players) even more because a kid can say he has an offer on the Internet and you don’t know how much validity there is to that,” Kitchings said. “Sometimes, kids get some offers that maybe they shouldn’t get based on them saying they have an offer.” The growth of the Internet also has been at the forefront for discovering new methods of recruiting. Among other things that have spawned from the Web are e-mail and video conferencing. Ten years ago no one thought the Internet would be what it is today, and it is likely that 10 years down the road, the top recruiting method will be something that is in its infant stage or hasn���t even been developed yet. “It is hard to predict what direction recruiting will take,” Turner said, “but I believe something down the road will be the use of widgets. Say you have a coaching Web site called timcorbin.com. You will be able to download a widget from his Web site and put it on your desktop. Essentially, it is our Web site running live on your desktop, so anything added to the web site is going to show up on the widget. We are going to be able to push data to that prospect.” It is difficult to predict where the Internet will take recruiting, but no matter the direction it goes, it is sure to have an impact. “I think the Internet has made recruiting more competitive,” Duvenhage said. Coaches have gotten more sophisticated and they have become more organized because of it. The whole process has just been streamlined, and it is a lot more efficient.” n


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The Last Look

Head Coach Bobby Johnson has a bucket of Gatorade dumped on him after the Music City Bowl. This photo and dozens more are available for purchase by visiting the photo store on vucommodores.com.

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JOHN RUSSELL

COLD SHOWER



Commodore Nation - February 2009