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Music City Bowl Numbers Could Adversely Impact Vandy’s Future Bowl Chances

gfx - honest opinionMusic City Bowl officials announced today that last December’s game between Vanderbilt and NC State had a $13.9 million positive impact on the city of Nashville.  The problem, however, is the fact that that’s the third smallest economic boom since the bowl began matching SEC and ACC teams back in 2006.

Why might the money have been down?  Uh, Vanderbilt is located in Nashville, of course.  Bowls were initially started as a means of bringing tourists into touristy destinations in non-touristy times of year.  To an extent, that’s still the goal for bowl and city officials.  And when it comes to tourism, grabbing a local team never makes sense.  Indeed, fewer than 30,000 out-of-towners traveled to Nashville to watch the Commodores and Wolfpack butt helmets.

Last year’s game ranked #3 on the list of least-profitable bowls for the city since ’06 and we bet you can guess which one finished dead last.  Yep, the 2008 Music City Bowl which also featured Vanderbilt.  That game brought in just $9.9 million for the city and just 17,000 visitors as the Dores were matched up with faraway Boston College.

Some bowls hold their nose on the travel numbers in exchange for creating a good television matchup.  What’s more valuable — bringing thousands of fans into Nashville for one game or promoting Nashville as a tourist destination in front of millions of television viewers?  But the television numbers for last year’s Music City Bowl were also lackluster.  Its 1.62 national household rating was the game’s lowest in seven years.

The problem for Vanderbilt is one of reputation.  James Franklin and the VU administration are having to build a program out of the ashes of dozens of failed football seasons.  Until Vandy gets a better name, it likely won’t become a major television draw (the school also lacks the massive alumni base of many of the nation’s larger state schools).  Bowl committees know what kind of television draw Vanderbilt is.  They know, too, about the smaller alumni base.  Those issues are largely to blame for the Commodores being trapped inside the Volunteer State — Music City Bowl twice, Liberty Bowl once — during their recent uptick in success.

To continue to move forward and grow Vanderbilt into an honest-to-God football program, VU officials need to loudly trumpet the fact that the school sold out its allotment of tickets for the 2011 Liberty Bowl.  Otherwise future bowl committees looking at sub-standard TV ratings and generic stories regarding low economic impact — even though its unfair to blame Vandy for not bringing fans into its own city — might decide to pass on inviting the black and gold to their party.

Northwestern has traveled the same road.  Ditto Stanford.

Franklin and Vanderbilt have made tremendous strides in the past two years alone.  But there are further issues to overcome before the school can start to land invitations to top-notch, out-of-state bowl games.  And until that happens, Vandy’s success story will remain more of a regional story than a national one.



Thanks for the lecture. I'll counter by saying the only thing worse than a journalist/blogger with zero objectivity is one that also has thin skin.

I don't have on blinders. I understand the perception that Vanderbilt has faced for years. And 90% of the blame can be placed at the feet of Vanderbilt. It's the other 10% that is hard to change. 

I will say that in my opinion, you are in that 10%. Anyone can see that Vanderbilt has made great strides under Franklin. Vanderbilt doesn't get the same level of coverage here for many of the same reasons you address in your opinion piece. I get it. At the same time, it's hard to change that perception of a program when history repeats itself. Personally, I think coverage of Vanderbilt outside the Southeast is more objective because those writers don't have years of impressions, graduated from one of the SEC member schools or are merely homers trying to gain reader, viewer or listener loyalty.

I will continue to read this site because it does give me additional insights to other schools and programs. I just hope one day Vanderbilt will be on equal footing.


I actually thought Vanderbilt's bowl turnout was pretty impressive last season in the context of how poorly bowls were attended nationwide and probably was among the top few in the SEC bowls. Off the top of my head, Florida and Mississippi State had embarrassingly bad fan representation. Florida's reputation prevents that from mattering for them moving forward, but I bet the folks at the Gator Bowl came out of bowl season wishing they had invited the better team rather than the "better" fan base.


Vanderbilt brought at least 35,000 people to the bowl game.. You can't ignore that fact. Making the leap that Vanderbilt will not travel based on the Music City Bowl is comparing apples to oranges. Why don't you add the hotel rooms, rental cars, airfare and other miscellaneous cost associated with bowl travel and see where the 35,000 would stack up. Do you think maybe that had something to do with the amount?

And that's a black eye on Vanderbilt? Bringing 35,000 to a bowl puts  them on par with Stanford and Northwestern?

If given an opportunity to travel, I think the fan base would do surprisingly well. But then again, we won't know until you and others change your perception. Vanderbilt is doing its part.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


Vanderbilt got two stories on the site on Tuesday, more than any other SEC school.  So you picked the wrong day to cry.  Also we've written as many positive things about Vanderbilt as we have negative over the past five years... same as every other school in the SEC.  So you're barking up the wrong tree in terms of that objectivity dig, too.  I, personally, couldn't give two hoots in hell who in the SEC wins or loses. 

All you've proven is that every fanbase in the SEC -- including Vandy's -- has a number of over-biased whiners in it.  On that, Vanderbilt is on 100% level-footing.

Finally, I enjoy the fact that people come to these comment boxes, misinterpret what's written (thanks to their own biases), lob false accusations... and then call ME thin-skinned for responding in kind.  Where in the great Book of Life is it written that I -- as writer -- must allow other people to insult me and spin what I've written without response?    

Hope you enjoyed that lecture,


John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


First, Vanderbilt isn't likely to get credit for "bringing" 35,000 people across town.  That's why I said they should be trumpeting the fact that they traveled well to the Liberty Bowl.

Second, I'm not ignoring any facts.  I'm telling you that bowl selection committees might just ignore facts and make choices based upon low television ratings and stories of so-so economic impact.  That's not me, that's a possible perception Vandy might have to overcome.

Third, if there's anything I hate more than a fan with zero objectivity, it's a fan with zero objectivity who's so darn defensive that he doesn't know who's taking up for his school and who's not.  In the above post, James Franklin and Vanderbilt were credited for "making tremendous strides."  It was stated clearly that "it's unfair to blame Vandy for not bringing fans into its own city."  You ignore all this and instead think that someone saying, "You're going to have battle perception" is actually pushing that perception.

If/when Vanderbilt gets snubbed in the bowl process moving forward, please bite your tongue.  I've told you how these numbers could unfairly impact your program in a negative way.  So no crying if that's exactly what happens.



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