Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bring on the Sooners...again

Vanderbilt lived to play another day, beating Stony Brook 9-4 in the elimination game of the NCAA Tempe Regional Saturday afternoon.

The Commodores will most likely play Oklahoma for the second time Sunday at 3 p.m. CT. The Sooners are currently trailing Arizona State 10-2 in the seventh.

Also, make sure to check out this terrific New York Times feature on Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. It's great stories like these that make it so easy (and enjoyable) to be a Commodore fan.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Commodore Banter (5/30)

No. 2 Vanderbilt takes on No. 3 Oklahoma this afternoon in the first game of the Arizona State Regional and you can watch the game live for free on

This could be the end of an era for the Commodores, as Maurice Patton notes.

Next year, Vanderbilt will be without seniors Alex Feinberg, Dominic de la Osa, Shea Robin and David Macias, as well as juniors Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Flaherty, who will be selected early in the 2008 MLB Draft. Redshirt junior Jonathan White, and junior pitchers Brett Jacobson, Nick Christiani and Steven Schwartz also could be gone. The same goes for redshirt sophomore Andrew Giobbi, who is draft eligible.

The good news for Commodore fans? "Now it's just all about reloading," said coach Tim Corbin. "It's not all about rebuilding."

One player that is definitely coming back is outfielder Steven Liddle, who was destined to be a baseball player.

Vanderbilt has an unreal recruiting class coming in and the star of it, Smyrna's Sonny Gray, followed in the footsteps of David Pricee, asking major league teams not to draft him.

As NYDore of The College Baseball Blog put it, the score is now Vanderbilt 1, MLB Draft 0. Within that story, NYDore reports that several future Commodores are receiving attention, including Connecticut SS Anthony Hewitt, New Jersey OF Matt Marquis, Rhode Island OF Ryan Westmoreland and Walters CC OF Adam Milligan.

Assuming most of these guys wind up in school, it looks Vandy is going to be a national powerhouse for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Arizona State is taking a gamble by starting freshman Matt Newman against Stony Brook tonight. The former outfielder has made just four appearances all season, but coach Pat Murphy wants to save his top two pitchers, Mike Leake and Josh Satow, for games on Saturday and Sunday. Murphy better hope that the Sun Devils continue to rake so that this plan doesn't backfire...

Rivals' Kendall Rogers has a Tempe Regional Preview and likes the Sun Devils to advance, but lists the Dores as a dark-horse candidate.

The Orlando pre-draft camp is in full swing and Vanderbilt's Shan Foster is struggling to find his stroke.

We're only in May and people are already saying "Maybe Next Year" for the Vanderbilt football team.

Finally, Brandon Barca is an animal.

SEC to create own TV network?

A year after the Big Ten Network was launched, the Southeastern Conference is interested in creating its own television network after its current deals with CBS, ESPN and Raycom expire next spring, the AJC first reported Wednesday.

Negotiations on new deals should be in place by this fall, but the SEC wants the option to create its own network as part of the negotiations. The league has toyed with this idea for a while but now it is time to decide.

"The charge we have received from our institutions is to explore two models when it comes to the future of TV in our conference," said commissioner Mike Slive. "One is the traditional route that we have now. The second is to incorporate an SEC network that gives us a greater opportunity for exposure for all of our sports."

The Big Ten Network received criticism due to the fact that since the league did not have a deal with a major cable TV provider, only a third of the people in Big Ten markets could see the games. The Big Ten will soon sign a deal with Comcast.

The SEC won't have that problem. It will probably require "100 percent distribution from day one" to make sure that games would be available in most of the SEC markets. Imagine what would happen if an SEC fan couldn't watch their team on television.

"In the Big Ten something like that would make people mad," one TV executive told the AJC. "In the SEC there would have been bodily injury."

Point taken.

Officials from Fox Sports Net/SportSouth and CSS both told the AJC they are interested in having discussions with the SEC about carrying a conference network.

Additionally, even if an SEC network is created, CBS and ESPN would still get the first two picks for conference football games. The SEC network would take priority for the next pick to which Raycom currently owns the rights.

QUESTION: Would you guys approve of an SEC network? What downsides do you see to it? Do you think it'd be successful?

Here's my quick take: SEC fans are unhealthily obsessed with their teams. 78,200 people showed for Alabama's spring game. If Tim Tebow could run for governor of Florida, he'd win easily. Grown men wear jerseys of their favorite players and cry after losses. College students send hateful Facebook messages to opposing teams and have resorted to "poking" the star quarterback with the hope of distracting him.

My point? Of course the network is going to work. What SEC diehard would not watch it? And as long as the SEC guarantees that the games will be showed in nearly every home across the region, I don't see many significant drawbacks.

If the SEC does go ahead with the network, David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel has some compelling programming ideas.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Vandy baseball was somewhat of a hot topic in the Keith Law chat today, mostly because of our monster recruiting class. There was one particular question however that caught my eye:

Tony, Chicago:
Given the baseball renaissance at Vandy recently, for a non-big state school to do the same, in what order of importance do you put the following factors: weather/conference/coach/facilities/academics?

SportsNation Keith Law: That's a cool question. Totally my opinion, but I'd say academics, coach, conference, weather, facilities. Corbin and whoever does his recruiting deserve credit for scouring cold-weather states for kids like Flaherty, Hewitt, Marquis, Loftus, etc.

I find that answer both extremely interesting and somewhat hard to believe. Law must be talking about how important those are for non-big state schools, but even at that I find calling academics the top reason for going to Vandy to play baseball a little questionable. Baseball, unlike basketball and football has many private universities that do extremely well and many of these are very good academic schools as well. However are academics an important factor in their success on the field?

Six schools from the 2008 USA Today's top 20 colleges play Division I baseball (non-ivy's). Three of those six are either #1 of #2 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. This seemingly suggests some kind of correlation between academics and college baseball success. However there is a clear difference between the three that made it (Stanford, Rice, and Vandy) and two of the three that didn't (Northwestern and Notre Dame, Duke was the sixth). Conference and weather, in college baseball they're pretty much the same with only the Big 12 being a top 10 conference not primarily in the southeast or on the west coast, are better indicators for success than academics for these non-big state schools.

In college baseball trying to be a successful program in a cold weather location outside of a major conference is almost impossible on a year in year out basis. Location and conference are an even bigger predictor for success for private schools, going further down USA Today's rankings, except for Duke and Wake Forest, every southern or west coast school in the top 75 is either a traditional power or enjoying recent success like Vandy. Although most northern academic schools do not play baseball, the ones that do are all terrible, despite their high academic status.

Academics seem to be more of a cherry on top than the real determining factor of a team success. However if a school has favorable location and conference affiliation than academics can almost guarantee success. Again it is amazing to look at the college rankings, every school in the top 50 of the rankings that has location and conference on their side made the NCAA tournament except Duke and Wake and UCSB. Over 80% of schools that have all three made it.

The question is why is this. Why do academics seem to put teams in good situations over the top? In other sports kids choose schools based on things that matter more like the other reasons mentioned in the question as well as fan bases, traditions, and numerous other factors that are more important than academics. My guess is the format of the MLB draft is to blame. Anybody not interested in taking college seriously can go pro straight out of high school. What's left are kids interested in a good education. However getting smarter will always be secondary to getting better which is why weather matters more.

I'm not trying to take credit away from Coach Corbin and his staff, they have done a great job the last few years and it looks this will continue into the foreseeable future, but with a great combination of conference, academics and weather it was seemingly only a matter of time until our baseball program began to dominate.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Price gets rave reviews from future Hall of Famer

David Price got the best of a future Hall of Famer tonight, pitching six shutout innings to lead Class A Vero Beach past Pedro Martinez's St. Lucie Mets 2-0.

The 2007 No. 1 overall pick gave up just two hits while striking out nine and walking none in his second professional start. Price has now pitched 11 scoreless innings to begin his career.

Martinez, meanwhile, gave up two runs on four hits, striking out six and walking none in six innings. Price said he found out he'd be going against Martinez the day before.

"You always have butterflies," Price said. "You're throwing against a former Cy Young winner. It's fun. It's a challenge. It makes you want to compete a little more. You know you can't give up one or two runs and get the win because he's that good.

"I want him to go home and one day tell his grandchildren about me. That's the impression I want to leave on everyone."

The way Price is pitching, there's no doubt that he will.

UPDATE: Afterwards, Martinez gave Price quite the compliment.

"He's amazing, that kid. He's amazing," Martinez said. "That kid is very mature for his time in [the pros], and very talented. Oh my God. God bless him and keep him healthy."

Martinez could not believe that Price was making just his second career start.

"Wow," Martinez said. "He's a big lefty with superb talent. At that age, I don't think I was like that. He seems far superior."

Wow is right. To be called "far superior" to Pedro Martinez?! It doesn't get much better than that.

"That kid did a hell of a job of throwing first-pitch strikes and pounding the strike zone and jamming hitters," Martinez said. "I was watching that. He did it like a big leaguer. He had such a command. Right there, I'm challenging you. I'm going to do what I gotta do without any fear. That's the kind of talent you love to see."

And the kind of talent that makes Vanderbilt fans proud.

Commodore Banter (5/28)

A few links to pass along as we wait for Vanderbilt to take on Oklahoma Friday at 4 p.m. CT. Life sure is boring without sports...

The Commodores received a pep talk from Terry Crisp, the Nashville Predators’ radio and television color analyst, about winning championships and teamwork before heading for Tempe, Ariz. Within that notebook, Brett Hait mentions an interesting wager between Shea Robin and baseball media relations director Thomas Samuel.

The Tulsa World has a preview of the Tempe Regional.

Baseball America's Aaron Fitt wonders how Oklahoma even got into the tournament. Even the Sooners' coach didn't expect his team, which went 9-17 in the Big 12 and finished in eighth place during the regular season, to be playing.

Here's a cool story: Tonight David Price will take on a future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez when the St. Lucie Mets host the Vero Beach Rays. Martinez is expected to make one rehab start before rejoining the Mets.

The Pirates are considering Georgia High School shortstop, Tim Beckham, Florida State catcher Buster Posey or Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez with their No. 2 pick, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

And in this notebook, the Pirates say that Alvarez's agent (Scott Boras) and high contract demands will not deter them from drafting him. Pittsburgh maintains it has increased its signing budget by 50 percent, and said they will go over it if necessary.

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith loves the SEC, especially the Commodores.

Bobby Johnson is the 11th best (or second worst) coach in the SEC, according to this list. Back in April, I put together my own rankings and had Johnson 10th.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Commodore Banter (5/27)

When Vanderbilt takes on Oklahoma Friday afternoon (4 p.m. CT) in the NCAA Tournament, it will not have the home-field advantage, nor will it have the pressure.

In 2007, the Commodores were the nation's top-ranked team for 15 weeks and as the No. 1 overall seed, hosted their first-ever Regional. Led by National Player of the Year David Price, the Commodores were a lock for the College World Series in Omaha. And then Michigan's Alan Oaks hits an improbable home run off Price in the top of the 10th and just like that, it was over.

The point? No one is expecting anything of Vanderbilt, seeded second in host Arizona State's Regional, this time around, which suits the players just fine.

Coach Tim Corbin says that playing in Tempe earlier this season should make playing on the road easier for the Commodores, writes Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

The way former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler has dealt with his April diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes has been quite impressive, writes the USA Today's Jim Corbett.

Shan Foster's shooting ability, along with his humility, has scouts impressed. In Foster's workout evaluation, he compares favorably to NBA shooters Kyle Korver and Jason Kapono.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dores earn No. 2 seed, headed to Tempe

The Commodores' road to Omaha will not be an easy one as they head to Tempe as a No. 2 seed in host Arionza State's Regional.

Vanderbilt will play No. 3 Oklahoma on Friday. No. 1 Arizona State will play No. 4 Stony Brook. The winner of this regional will play the winner of the Long Beach Regional, hosted by Long Beach State, next weekend in a three-game Super Regional.

The Sun Devils, led by Brett Wallace and Ike Davis, can absolutely rake and beat the Commodores 18-6 back in February. Check back later for a full recap; I'm off to Memorial Day BBQ.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pedro #1?

With the Commodores recently getting knocked out of the SEC tournament, unlikely to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament, and me having nothing else to do, I thought now might be a good time to take a look at Pedro Alvarez's draft status. Before the season he was considered by most to be the likely top pick in the 2008 draft. However an injury-plagued junior season combined with the hiring of Scott Boras as his "adviser" have put his status as number one in jeopardy.

There are two questions to be answered here: is Pedro the best talent in the draft and should the Rays take him first overall? In baseball more than any other sport the best available player mentality should win out almost every time, especially with the first pick, but there can be circumstances where that isn't the case.

Firstly though, is Pedro the best player in this years draft? Probably not.

Yes, Pedro can mash. His ability to hit has never been in question, his two full healthy years of college baseball show that. Last years .385/.463/.684 to go along with 18 hrs and 68 RBIs was a complete domination of the competition. However, his strikeouts are a concern.

Through his sophomore year he struck out more than once a game, and although that has changed this year, he has only played half the season. A pro who strikes out 160 times a year is going to really struggle to hit .300. As somebody expected to hit third or fourth this puts tremendous pressure on his ability to take walks. Pedro has had good walk totals so far, but it is hard to know how much of those are intentional or ab's where he was pitched around. In what is basically just an educated guess, I think Pedro will peak at around.280/.380/.500 for his prime 26-30 years.

Which brings me to his defense. Those numbers are great for a 3rd baseman. That .880 ops would have ranked 5th in baseball last year at 3b. However, Pedro is not a 3rd baseman. Although fielding percentage is a little simplistic in trying to identify what a good fielder looks like, it can easily point out a crappy fielder. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, he posted fielding percentages of .910 and .917, this year he is down to .905. To put those in perspective only twice in the last five years has a 3rd baseman had a % under .917. Last year three guys were under .950, two have been moved off 3rd base (Ryan Braun, who at .895 was historically awful, and Miguel Cabrera) and one should be (Kevin Kouzmanoff). So we must look at Pedro for what he is, a 1st baseman.

Being a 1st baseman instead of a 3rd baseman really hurts Pedro. Since 1980 only one player was drafted first overall that was a full time 1st baseman before he turned 30, Adrian Gonzalez in 2000 by the Marlins in what was both a signability pick and an awful draft. That .880 ops knocks him down to barely being top 10 in his position at 1b. Also moving across the diamond would lump him in with other outstanding prospects Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso, and my personal favorite, Eric Hosmer.

So now that it is at least debatable whether or not Pedro is the top talent in the draft, we come to the real reasons he has no chance at being drafted #1. Firstly is Boras. Early rumors are that Pedro is demanding $8-$10 million and with Boras as his agent, he'll get it from somebody. As a player who has not distinguished himself from other top players it makes no sense to pay 2-3 times as much as the other guys would potentially cost. Secondly is that the Rays have little use for him. Carlos Pena had an absolutely huge 2007 which Tampa responded to by locking him up long term. This could be said for almost anybody they would be likely to pick however, because Tampa is pretty much loaded everywhere right now which puts even more of an emphasis on signability.

So what would I do if I were the Rays this year? It sounds like they are down to FSU catcher Buster Posey and Georgia HS SS Tim Beckham. This has been proven as a mistake, but I'd go with whatever guy would sign for the least and use that money in later rounds to pick players that have dropped for whatever reason and give them above slot deals. With no player separating himself from the pack the potential is there to get multiple impact players for the cost of one.

As for Pedro, I don't see him slipping past the Orioles at #4, with the Pirates at #2 also a very likely landing spot. Both of these teams are willing to pay the extra money that the pr boost of taking what the public perceives as the best player will bring.

*Image from

** Also ESPN Insiders should check out Keith Law's latest blog entry, lots of good info on potential Vandy guys. A quick summary is that we should get almost all of our recruits to campus, including rhp's Sonny Gray and Navery Moore as well as catcher/of Matt Marquis. The news isn't as good on likely first round SS Anthony Hewitt and Rhode Island OF Ryan Westmoreland, who has apparently been targeted by the Red Sox despite high bonus demands.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Time for the tournament

Despite a valiant late comeback and a 9th inning Alavarez homer to cut the lead to one, the Dores fell to Ole Miss 8-7 tonight. In all likelihood, they will not be hosting a regional in Nashville this year, and while I speak only for myself, I'm not completely upset by this. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to travel down to Nashville and experience the excitement of hosting (which I have been told was incredible last year), but I can't get past the fact that they didn't move on past the regionals last year. NCAA Tournament baseball is a strange creature, and the fact that Vanderbilt as the number one overall seed last year couldn't make it to the super regionals is evidence of that. Sure everyone would have liked to see them win the SEC tournament this weekend, but to be completely honest, I don't feel any better or worse about this team based on what happened tonight.

I still think they can get hot and make the unlikely run to Omaha just as easily as they can flame out and go 0-2 to start the tournament. So here's to that unlikely deep run to Omaha that will be infinitely more satisfying than last year's early exit. I guess that's just me though, and maybe I'm being overly optimistic. Leave comments below and we'll see if you agree.....

Dores Live to Play Again

In what has become typical Vandy baseball fashion, the Commodores jumped out to a big five-run lead in the third before letting Ole Miss back into the game with a two-run fourth. That was until Brett Jacobsen entered the game, and while he struggled early to find the strike zone, he gave Vanderbilt four huge scoreless (and hitless) innings in the Dores' 7-4 victory.

If you get CSS wherever you are, make sure to tune in a little after 5 p.m. CT today, as the Commodores will play Ole Miss again for the right to advance to the final against either Alabama or LSU.

Don't forget to check out VU Commodores for all the latest, as well as links to the audio for the remaining games if you won't be able to watch.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Vanderbilt moves on in SEC Tournament

Junior Nick Christiani gave the Commodores an effective start, pitching 6 1/3 innings and allowing only one run, and the Vanderbilt offense woke up enough to earn a 7-5 victory over South Carolina in an elimination game in the SEC Tournament.

It was good to see the offense snap out of the doldrums. The top four batters in the lineup, who combined to go 1-14 in the 8-2 loss to LSU, went 7-18 and drove in five runs. Pedro Alvarez had only one hit but made it count: a two-run home run to push the lead to 7-1. David Macias had three hits and scored two runs.

Vanderbilt faces Ole Miss Saturday at 10 a.m. CT in another elimination game.

Thanks to for the statistics.

Video of the Day: David Price is pretty good

Making his much-anticipated professional debut, David Price pitched five shutout innings and faced just two batters of the minimum to lead Class A Vero Beach to a 2-0 victory over Clearwater.

While Price begins his progression toward the Big Leagues, he's still very close with his former teammates. He watched Vandy's contest with LSU before his start and remains best friends with Pedro Alvarez, who he thinks the Rays should draft with the No. 1 overall pick. Check out this interview with the guys of CBS College Sports' "Going Yard."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's do-or-die time for Vandy baseball

The Vanderbilt baseball team finds itself in a familiar situation after losing 8-2 to LSU Thursday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The Commodores lost the first game of the double-elimination tournament last year before winning six straight to capture the title. They'll need a similar effort after the surging Tigers won their 18th consecutive game.

Vanderbilt will now play South Carolina in a do-or-die game Friday at 3 p.m. CT. Junior Nick Christiani will get the start, while the Gamecocks will send out right-hander Blake Cooper.

Vandy wins opener in SEC Tourney

The Vanderbilt baseball seems to have a second home in Hoover, Ala. The sixth-seeded Commodores continued their success in the Southeastern Conference, defeating Florida 7-3 Wednesday in the opening round after losing three straight to the Gators last weekend.

They will play LSU Thursday at 5 p.m. CT. The Tigers rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat South Carolina 5-4 in 10 innings and have now won 17 straight games.

Corbin said his team enjoys playing in Hoover, and for good reason. They have two runner-up finishes and a championship over the past four seasons.

On Wednesday, senior Dominic de la Osa went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a RBI, while Steven Liddle and Andrew Giobbi had three hits apiece.

"You get to stay in the winner's bracket. It's the difference between playing four games and six games," Corbin said. "We have done both, and I like the first option. I like to stay in the winner's bracket. We like being here in Birmingham. The kids are comfortable in this park."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Video of the Day: Big Drama in the Champions League Final

While it may seem surprising that today's Champions League Final was the most watched worldwide sporting event of the year, it is probably true. Even as someone without any real rooting interest, I found myself completely and totally entertained by the emotion and drama of the whole thing, even before it went to penalty kicks.

If you don't know, the whole thing wound up in PK's after a 1-1 tie through extra time, adding to the excitement of this highly anticipated match. It's definitely worth a look even if you aren't exactly the soccer fan type. It will make you a more worldly sports fan, I promise. Chelsea's big misses are at 6:25 and 9:15 if you're in a hurry....

Athletics Facilities Makeover: Vanderbilt Edition

I had a chance to watch the Vanderbilt press conference outlining the facility upgrade plan yesterday and came away very impressed.

You had the who's who of Vanderbilt in attendance -- Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Student Athletics David Williams, Board of Trust Athletics Committee Chair John Ingram, football coach Bobby Johnson, men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings and women's basketball coach Melanie Balcomb -- all sounding optimistic about this university's future.

Sure, Vanderbilt may never win the "arms race" of athletics facilities, particularly in the sports-obsessed and booster-rich Southeastern Conference, but we don't want to, nor could we afford to. What this project proves to me, as well as the coaches in attendance, is that the administration is committed to winning and providing the programs with the necessary resources to do so, which is all you can ever ask for.

"I'm really pleased that over the last five or 10 years we have changed the perception of Vanderbilt from lovable losers to serious competitors," Ingram said. "That's what we want to be and I think that's where we'll stay."

With improved facilities, coaches believe that their programs will be able to take the next step. For Balcomb and Stallings, it's getting from the Sweet 16 to the Final Four (Stallings is already talking national titles). For Johnson, it's qualifying for a bowl game. Corbin has already seen what renovations can do for his program. The improvements to Hawkins Field have enabled him to attract the nation's top recruits and thus contend for a national title year in and year out.

Here's Vanderbilt's five-phase, $55-million, self-funded project:

Phase I - $11 million-$12 million (currently under way)

• Memorial Gym Basketball Locker Rooms
• Vanderbilt Stadium Facility Renovation:
Work will include a new exterior stadium facade between Gates 2 and 3; renovation of the eastside stadium concourse; and exterior/interior paint and interior signage to Stadium Press Box/Suite Tower
• Hawkins Field Baseball Stadium Expansion: $3 million-$3.3 million
• Football Synthetic Surfaces at John Rich Practice Facility and Wedgewood Recreation Field: $2 million

Phase II - $11 million-$12 million

• McGugin Center Renovation:
Work will include construction of the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame, renovation of position and team meeting rooms for football, and renovation of the athletic training room.
• Vanderbilt Stadium Renovation:
Work will include rebuilding of Gates 2 and 3; exterior facade along Natchez Trace; and development of a plaza in front of Gate 2.

Phase III - $7 million-$8 million

• Vanderbilt Stadium:
Plans call for the renovation of Gates 1 and 4 in north endzone of stadium along with construction of plaza area.
• McGugin Center:
First phase of renovation to support staff of Stratton Foster Academic Center area, and renovation to football coaches' offices, support staff offices and coaches' locker rooms.

Phase IV - $16 million-$18 million

• Vanderbilt Stadium:
Work will include construction of north endzone building and seating; addition of synthetic turf in stadium.
• McGugin Center:
Renovation of the football locker rooms, equipment rooms, and athletic training room; Olympic Sport locker rooms and meeting rooms will be constructed on second floor.

Phase V - $1 million-$2 million

• McGugin Center:
Renovation and expansion of Hendrix Room dining facility; addition of offices and suites.

Thanks to VUCommodores, which has all the latest on the project:

Facilities Upgrade Central (pictures, videos, timeline, etc.)
Official Press Release
Quotes from press conference

Commodore Banter (5/21)

Tuesday was an exciting day for Vanderbilt coaches, players and fans alike as the university announced its plans for a five-year, $55 million upgrade of athletics facilities.

Highlights of the project, which will be self-funded, include:

-Renovating Vanderbilt Stadium, including the addition brick walls around the lower portion of the exterior that will resemble Hawkins Field, increased signage and a revamped concourse area.
-Expanding Hawkins Field's seating capacity to 3,700 by adding permanent seating in the outfield and along the first-base line.
-Construction of a Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame in McGugin Center

Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper discusses how the improvements will impact recruiting.

Maurice Patton of The Tennessean talks with recruiting analysts and comes to the consensus that Vanderbilt couldn't make a better move than to do this.

Meanwhile, columnist David Climer finds himself at a crossroads.

In baseball news, the Commodores begin their SEC Tournament title defense today (1 p.m. CT) when they take on Florida in Hoover, Ala. Losers of five straight, Vanderbilt will try to regain its swagger and I'm confident that it will.

As Ryan Schulz points out, the Hawkins Nine may be down, but far from out.

Senior catcher Shea Robin is quietly having a terrific season and was recently named one of 12 semi-finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the nation's top collegiate catcher.

Meanwhile, five of his teammates earned All-SEC honors, highlighted by Pedro Alvarez and David Macias. How Robin was not one of them is beyond me.

And finally, in football news, the New Orleans Saints recently signed former Vanderbilt offensive tackle Brian Stamper. Congrats, Brian.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Five players earn All-SEC honors

The day before Vanderbilt begins its Southeastern Conference Tournament title defense, five Commodores earned All-SEC recognition, highlighted by junior third baseman Pedro Alvarez and senior centerfielder David Macias, who were named to the first team.

Rightfielder Dominic de la Osa, shortstop Ryan Flaherty and second baseman Alex Feinberg received second-team recognition, while redshirt freshman reliever Russell Brewer was named to the All-Freshman team and Macias was named to the All-Defensive team.

Alvarez hit .338 with seven homers, 14 doubles and 25 RBI in 32 games. In 21 SEC games, he hit .400 with five homers, 10 doubles and 18 RBI. Macias led the team with a .366 batting average with seven homers, 15 doubles and 33 RBI. He hit.347 with six homers, nine doubles and 23 RBI in league play and was error free in 58 chances in the outfield.

De la Osa finished his senior campaign with a .309 average, 10 homers, 14 doubles and 45 RBI. He batted .322 in SEC play with four homers, 10 doubles and 26 RBI, while also stealing 13 bases in 15 attempts. He also became the school’s all-time leader in hits and doubles.

Flaherty batted .318 with a team-high 13 homers and 56 RBI to go with 10 doubles and nine stolen bases. He hit .328 with nine homers and 30 RBI in SEC play, earning all-league honors for the second straight year.

Feinberg finished second on the team with a .324 batting average with two homers, 12 doubles and 33 RBI. The senior missed just two SEC games after suffering a broken jaw and is also a two-time Academic All-District selection.

Brewer led the team with five saves while posting a 4-2 record with a 3.38 ERA. He recorded 49 strikeouts and issued just eight walks in 42.2 innings pitched.

Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham, a potential No. 1 overall pick in June's Major League Draft, was named the unanimous SEC Player of the Year, Georgia closer Josh Field was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year and Georgia coach David Perno was named SEC Coach of the Year.

You can see all of the selections here.

The sixth-seeded Commodores play third-seeded Florida Wednesday at 1 p.m. CT in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. You can check out the entire bracket here.

Vandy to receive major renovations

In less than an hour (9 a.m. CT), Vanderbilt Athletics officials will hold a press conference to detail the multi-million dollar Athletic Facility Project. You can watch the press conference live in All Access (Free) on

The Tennessean reports that it is a $50 million, five-phase plan for upgrading Vanderbilt Stadium, Memorial Gym and Hawkins Field over the next five years. The project includes:

• Memorial Gym: Renovation of locker rooms, postgame press conference area, training room and weight room.
• Vanderbilt Stadium: Renovation of concourses, entrance areas (above) and exterior painting.
• Hawkins Field: Construction of permanent seating outside right-field fence and possible extension of seating area down first-base line.
• John Rich Practice Facility: Installation of new synthetic turf.
• Hall of Fame: Construction of new athletic Hall of Fame

Officials said that project is centered around football upgrades.

"I think people will be very excited about the changes to Vanderbilt Stadium, aesthetically — just creating more of a Commodore atmosphere, a family atmosphere," said chancellor Nick Zeppos . "We've got a series of very exciting projects."

Monday, May 19, 2008

A-Rod has high praise for Price

David Price pitched against the Yankees extended spring squad, which included three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez, who is rehabbing his strained right quadriceps, on Saturday. The results were promising.

Price struck out Rodriguez twice, allowing the third baseman one hit -- a solo homer over the right-center fence.

"He's a competitive guy, I'm a competitive guy and everybody has pride," Price said. "So it doesn't matter who are you are facing, you want to get them out and want to throw good pitches."

Rodriguez came away impressed with Price, whose fastball hovered between 95-97 mph for the majority of his five innings.

"I wish he was on our team," Rodriguez said. "He has a very bright future. The Rays are doing a fantastic job of drafting these young guys."

That's pretty cool stuff.

Price struck out 10 on Saturday and is scheduled to join Class A Vero Beach and make his professional debut on Thursday against Clearwater.

You can read the full story from here.

Stallings excited about program's future

Vanderbilt men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings was a guest on 104.5 The Zone last Friday and sounded very optimistic about the direction of his program. You can listen to the interview here.

This comment should certainly have Commodore fans excited:
"Our staff has really done a nice job in the last few years of continuing our efforts to upgrade our talent level. With the guys that we've added this year and the other guys we have in the freshman class, I think we've got some things going now to where once we grow this team up -- I don't expect us to be ready to contend for a National Championship next November or December or anything. But, I really believe once we have a chance to get these guys some real experience, I think we have a chance to have an outstanding and one that's maybe as good as anyone we've ever had here."

Here are some of the other highlights from the interview:

On Festus Ezeli
If Festus continues to become the player that he has indicated that at some point he will be, he'll be a weapon. He's 6'10" with a wingspan of 7'5" who is going to change how the game is played around our basket defensively.

On the future

We're accumulating some different kinds of talent than we've had in the past and it's going to be excited to see where it all leads.

On Jeff Taylor
Very athletic small forward and a guy that knows how to play. High energy level, plays hard, very good competitor, likes to win, has a knack for scoring the ball. We think Jeff can impact our team immediately.

On Brad Tinsley
We tried to recruit him last summer, offered him a scholarship and he ended up signing with Pepperdine in part because his AAU coach was hired there as an assistant. The staff got fired this year so Brad was released from his letter of intent and reopened his recruiting and I think our presence last summer really helped us this time around.

A number of Pac-10 and SEC and ACC schools recruited Brad. He's a point guard that's about 6'4" that can also play the 2. He's an outstanding shooter and passer and his shooting and passing skills will certainly give him a chance to impact our team immediately as well.

On Steve Tchiengang
A power forward from Cameroon originally. About 6'9", great body, real long arms, very good range from deep. The new 3-point line shouldn't be an issue for him. Plays hard, plays physically, has a chance to make an impact because of Ross Neltner's departure.

On Lance Goulbourne

A combo-forward, about 6'8". Went to The Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey, one of the finest academic high schools in the country. Nationally ranked tennis player as a 15-year-old. Great athlete. Both he and Jeff are as good of athletes as we've ever had here. Very mature kid who understands the big picture.

On Jordan Smart

We actually may end up giving Jordan a scholarship for this year. As it stands, we'll only have 11 guys on scholarship so we may actually put him on scholarship for one year. I'm not allowed to comment further on him because he hasn't signed a letter of intent.

On the incoming freshman class as a whole
We're excited about the class and think that all four of them at varying degrees will have opportunities to make an impression on our team next year.

Baseball Notebook

To put it lightly, it was an ugly weekend in Gainesville for the Vanderbilt baseball team. The Commodores (37-18, 15-14 Southeastern Conference) enter the SEC Tournament as losers of five straight, including all three against the Gators. It's their longest SEC losing streak since 2003.

Vanderbilt earned a six-seed and will play third-seeded Florida Wednesday in Hoover, Ala., at 1 p.m. CT in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament. If they win, the Dores will play the No. 2 LSU-No. 7 South Carolina winner on Thursday at 5 p.m. If they lose, the Dores will the play the loser of that LSU-South Carolina contest Thursday at 10 a.m. You can check out the full bracket here.

Unlike a year ago, when Vanderbilt seemed to have a knack for winning close games, this year's squad has struggled finishing out games. In fact, the Dores led in all three games this weekend and were ahead in the eighth inning in two of them.

On Saturday, May 10, Vanderbilt was one out away from defeating Georgia 2-1 and moving within one game of the SEC East-leading Bulldogs. But, the Dores went on to lose that game in extra innings. Over the past five games, they've lost three two-run games and two one-run games.

Still, Vanderbilt is in the tournament for the third straight year and the fifth in six seasons under coach Tim Corbin. The Dores have a good track record in Hoover, reaching the championship game in 2004 and 2006 and winning it in 2007.

We think we own that tournament," Corbin said in a story by Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

Junior third baseman Pedro Alvarez continues to rake, going 6-for-12 with four doubles, a homer, three RBI and five runs scored. In their latest mock draft, Baseball America has Alvarez going No. 2 to the Pirates.

The Commodores struggled on the mound as the pitching staff sported a 8.78 ERA and gave up 38 hits (including six doubles, a triple and eight homers) in 26.2 innings. Ouch.

Corbin addressed the media this morning in the SEC Press Conference and here are a couple of highlights:

On the depth of the SEC
"I don't think there's much difference between the No. 1 team and the No. 12 team in this conference. I feel like there are nine or 10 teams that can go into a Regional and come out smelling like a rose."

On describing this season
"It's been a tough year for us in a lot of different ways. Not as smooth as last year and we set a bar for ourselves last year by playing so well. Whether that was attainable or not, we just didn't play that same way so we've come to this point of the season in a lot different manner than last year. I choose to believe it's all for the good. It's all about perspective right now and it is a new season."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Video of the Day: The Truth

Here is part 2 of Shan Foster's interview with the Barca Blog, where The Truth discusses how he's preparing for next month's NBA Draft, the impact of Kevin Stallings on him as a player and what he hopes will be his legacy at Vanderbilt.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Commodore Banter (5/17)

Some links for your reading pleasure...

Brett Hait of the Nashville City Paper reports that cornerback Akeem Cunningham, who made a verbal agreement to play for Vanderbilt earlier in the month, signed with North Carolina State yesterday.

Check out an interview with VandyMania where Cunningham, who played quarterback, running back, cornerback, wide receiver and safety in high school, discussed his excitement at coming to Nashville. I guess not.

Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports,whose own son suffers from Type I Diabetes, has a great, in-depth column about Jay Cutler's adjustment to life with the disease.

The Vanderbilt baseball team dropped its fourth straight, its longest losing streak of the season, in a 5-4 loss to Florida on Friday. Vanderbilt's had leads of at least two runs in three of the last four games but failed to hold on.

This is a few days old, but Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner discussed his rookie draft picks in an interview on

Former Commodore and first overall draft pick David Price will face another first overall pick, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, today in an extended spring training game. Price is coming back from a sprained left elbow.

Videos of the Day: Shan Foster highlights

Going hand-in-hand with Foster's interview with the Barca Blog below, courtesy of, here is a compilation of highlights from the last two seasons of the remarkable career of Vanderbilt's Shan Foster.

And, if you haven't checked it out (I don't know how you couldn't have), check out the video of Foster's 42 points against Mississippi State on Senior Night. Not being at that game will always be a regret, but when you schedule Senior Night during Spring Break, a lot of students aren't going to be there.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Video of the Day: The Truth

There may eventually be a better basketball player to put on a Vanderbilt jersey, but I doubt we'll ever see a better person than recent graduate Shan Foster. The school's all-time leading scorer recently sat down with the Barca Blog to talk about a number of topics, including his growth over the past four years and unforgettable performance on Senior Night. Enjoy.

Commodore Banter (5/16)

The Vanderbilt baseball team earned a spot in next week's SEC Tournament last night when Tennessee beat South Carolina, but that didn't mean coach Tim Corbin was happy. Who can blame him?

The Commodores blew a 6-4 lead in the eighth, surrendering a pair of two-out, two-run homers to fall 8-6 to Florida in the first of a three-game series. They are now 37-16 overall and 15-12 in the SEC, which is good for the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament.

Still, they'll need a strong finish if they want to host another Regional. In Baseball America's most recent NCAA Tournament projections, Aaron Fitt has the SEC receiving nine bids and Vanderbilt earning a No. 2 seed, while adding that they have the best chance to move up.

Vanderbilt fans know D.J. Moore is good, but did you know that he is the top-ranked junior cornerback and projected second-round pick in next year's draft, according to

In other words, take a good look at Moore this fall because it might be your last chance, writes Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper. Within this piece, Hait discusses a couple of future Commodores -- John Jenkins (basketball) and Jay Fullam (football).

Hait also a fantastic piece on the fact that the state of Tennessee has become a basketball hotbed.

He points out that 11 of the nation’s top 100 prospects have committed to play at Tennessee, Vanderbilt or Memphis, the most of any state. The main reason? Three great coaches in Kevin Stallings, Bruce Pearl and John Calipari.

There are some great quotes about Stallings:
“There’s not a better salesman in the country than Kevin Stallings as far as the quality of education at Vanderbilt and the city on Nashville,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes said. “Everything you have to overcome at Vanderbilt, he’s able to do that.”

“At Vandy, they’ve been extremely inventive,” said Mike DeCourcy, college basketball writer for The Sporting News.. “They’ve taken the right transfers. They’ve gone overseas. They’ve evaluated beautifully. I’ve always believed Kevin Stallings to be a terrific strategist. I think he carries that over into his recruiting.”

In this interview, Bruce Pearl says he hates Memorial Gym. Stop whining, Bruce.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Video of the Day: Road to Omaha

With the final regular season baseball series to get underway tonight in Gainesville (5:30 p.m. CT), I figured it'd be appropriate to show this inspirational video put together by one of our readers, Greg. It gives me chills every time. And what an awesome and appropriate song.

Hopefully the Commodores perform well enough down the stretch to be able to host another Regional at Hawkins Field in a couple of weeks. Last year's atmosphere was unlike anything I've ever experienced.

Special prize to anyone who can find me in the video. I'm in there for a second, I promise.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You know you're bored when...

If you're like me, then whenever you're watching an NBA game, you love being the first one to answer the completely useless, but undeniably amazing question, "Where did Player X go to college?"

I'm not sure what it is about knowing where Rodney Stuckey (Eastern Washington) and Lamar Odom (URI) and Rasual Butler (La Salle, but I'll admit I had to look that one up) went to school. Maybe because it's certain to impress your friends or maybe you just want to feel cool (if it's even possible to feel cool for knowing that). Regardless, I spent the second half of the Lakers-Jazz game to break down the rosters of the eight NBA teams that advanced to the second round of the playoffs and here's what I found:

Boston Celtics
Ray Allen, Connecticut (Big East)
Tony Allen, Oklahoma State (Big 12)
P.J. Brown, Louisiana Tech (WAC)
Sam Cassell, Florida State (ACC)
Glen Davis, Louisiana State (SEC)
Kevin Garnett, Farragut Academy (HS)
Eddie House, Arizona State (Pac-10)
Kendrick Perkins,Clifton J. Ozen (HS)
Paul Pierce, Kansas (Big 12)
Scot Pollard, Kansas (Big 12)
James Posey, Xavier (A-10)
Leon Powe, California (Pac-10)
Gabe Pruitt, USC (Pac-10)
Rajon Rondo, Kentucky (SEC)
Brian Scalabrine, USC (Pac-10)

Cleveland Cavaliers
Lance Allred, Weber State (Big Sky)
Devin Brown, Texas-San Antonio (Southland)
Daniel Gibson, Texas (Big 12)
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Lithuania
LeBron James, St. Vincent-St. Mary (HS)
Damon Jones, Houston (C-USA)
Dwayne Jones, Saint Joseph's (A-10)
Aleksandar Pavlovic, Serbia
Joe Smith, Maryland (ACC)
Eric Snow, Michigan State (Big 10)
Wally Szczerbiak, Miami (OH)(MAC)
Billy Thomas, Kansas (Big 12)
Anderson Varejao, Brazil
Ben Wallace, Virginia Union (CIAA)
Delonte West, Saint Joseph's (A-10)

Detroit Pistons
Arron Afflalo, UCLA (Pac-10)
Chauncey Billups, Colorado (Big 12)
Juan Dixon, Maryland (ACC)
Richard Hamilton, Connecticut (Big East)
Jarvis Hayes, Georgia (SEC)
Walter Herrmann, Argentina
Lindsey Hunter, Jackson State (SWAC)
Amir Johnson, Westchester, LA (HS)
Jason Maxiell, Cincinnati (Big East)
Antonio McDyess, Alabama (SEC)
Tayshaun Prince, Kentucky (SEC)
Theo Ratliff, Wyoming (MWC)
Cheikh Samb, Senegal
Rodney Stuckey, Eastern Washington (Big Sky)
Rasheed Wallace, North Carolina (ACC)

Orlando Magic
Carlos Arroyo, Florida International (Sun Belt)
James Augustine, Illinois (Big 10)
Tony Battie, Texas Tech (Big 12)
Keith Bogans, Kentucky (SEC)
Brian Cook, Illinois (Big 10)
Keyon Dooling, Missouri (Big 12)
Maurice Evans, Texas (Big 12)
Adonal Foyle, Colgate (Patriot)
Pat Garrity, Notre Dame (Big East)
Marcin Gortat, Poland
Dwight Howard, SW Atlanta Christian Academy (HS)
Rashard Lewis, Alief Elsik (HS)
Jameer Nelson, Saint Joseph's (A-10)
J.J. Redick, Duke (ACC)
Hedo Turkoglu, Turkey

New Orleans Hornets
Chris Andersen, Blinn Coll. TX (JC)
Hilton Armstrong, Connecticut (Big East)
Ryan Bowen, Iowa (Big 10)
Rasual Butler, La Salle (MAAC)
Tyson Chandler, Dominguez (HS)
Melvin Ely, Fresno State (WAC)
Mike James, Duquesne (MAAC)
Jannero Pargo, Arkansas (SEC)
Chris Paul, Wake Forest (ACC)
Morris Peterson, Michigan State (Big 10)
Peja Stojakovic, Serbia
Bonzi Wells, Ball State (MAC)
David West, Xavier (A-10)
Julian Wright, Kansas (Big 12)

San Antonio Spurs
Brent Barry, Oregon State (Pac-10)
Matt Bonner, Florida (SEC)
Bruce Bowen, Cal State Fullerton (Big West)
Tim Duncan, Wake Forest (ACC)
Michael Finley, Wisconsin (Big 10)
Manu Ginobili, Argentina
Robert Horry, Alabama (SEC)
DerMarr Johnson, Cincinnati (Big East)
Ian Mahinmi, France
Fabricio Oberto, Argentina
Tony Parker, France
Damon Stoudamire, Arizona (Pac-10)
Kurt Thomas, Texas Christian (MWC)
Ime Udoka, Portland State (Big Sky)
Jacque Vaughn, Kansas (Big 12)

Los Angeles Lakers
Trevor Ariza, UCLA (Pac-10)
Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion (HS)
Andrew Bynum, St. Joseph (HS)
Jordan Farmar,UCLA (Pac-10)
Derek Fisher, Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt)
Pau Gasol, Spain
Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, Congo
Coby Karl, Boise State (WAC)
Chris Mihm, Texas (Big 12)
Ira Newble, Miami (OH)(MAC)
Lamar Odom, Rhode Island (A-10)
Vladimir Radmanovic, Serbia & Montenegro
Ronny Turiaf, Gonzaga (WCC)
Sasha Vujacic, Slovenia
Luke Walton, Arizona (Pac-10)

Utah Jazz
Morris Almond, Rice (C-USA)
Carlos Boozer, Duke (ACC)
Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas (SEC)
Jarron Collins, Stanford (Pac-10)
Kyrylo Fesenko, Ukraine
Matt Harpring, Georgia Tech (ACC)
Jason Hart, Syracuse (Big East)
Andrei Kirilenko, Russia
Kyle Korver, Creighton (MVC)
C.J. Miles, Skyline (HS)
Paul Millsap, Louisiana Tech (WAC)
Mehmet Okur, Turkey
Ronnie Price, Utah Valley State
Deron Williams, Illinois (Big 10)

Here are the number of players from each conference:

Big 12: 12
Pac-10: 11
SEC: 10
ACC: 7
Big East: 7
Big 10: 7
A-10: 6
High School: 10
Foreign: 19

Well, that was fun. I should have something more substantial to post tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Commodore Banter (5/13)

A few links to pass along on this lovely Tuesday afternoon...

While we've spent a lot of time discussing the hypocrisy of the term "student-athlete," there's at least one school that's doing things right, as VUCommodores' Rod Williamson writes.

Within the piece, Williamson notes that Vanderbilt student-athletes just finished up the most successful academic semester and the finest academic year in school history. This spring, 325 Commodores combined to register a 3.12 cumulative grade point average. Great stuff.

In football news, junior cornerback D.J. Moore was named to the preseason watch list for the Bronco Nagurski Trophy, presented annually by the Football Writers Association of America to the top defensive player in the country.

"While I'm extremely pleased for D.J., I also hope senior safety Reshard Langford, one of team captains, gets some consideration as we get closer to the season," said coach Bobby Johnson.

On the diamond, the Vanderbilt baseball team needs one win (or a number of teams to lose once) at Florida this weekend to secure a spot in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. The experienced Commodores are used to the pressure, writes Brett Hait.

For a great piece of sportswriting, check out Joe Posnanski's most recent blog entry. You'll love it.

More than 10,000 Vandy football season tickets sold

Yesterday, Vanderbilt announced that they had already sold 10,238 season tickets for the 2008 football season. This amount is a 17.6% increase on sales from the 8,703 sold at the same time last year. VUCommodores has the full story here.

The Vandy Marketing Department is attributing the increase in sales to the recent improvements of the football program under coach Bobby Johnson. The article mentions last season's Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia games being sold out. While that's true, it's worth pointing out that Alabama fans BOUGHT OUR SEASON TICKETS because they are so cheap, and I am sure that some Georgia/Kentucky fans may have done the same.

Basically, I want to know whether everyone thinks that the increase in ticket sales is due to the recent "success" of the program, or it is just the fact that the home schedule is better this season coupled with other teams' fans, like Auburn and Tennessee, buying our season tickets again.

I think the numbers are inflated if not only by other teams' fans buying tickets but also by the better home schedule featuring Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Auburn. Further reasoning behind my theory is the fact that last year's team had a lot more promise with a senior-dominated offensive line and prolific wide receiver Earl Bennett than the 2008 team, so one would think season ticket sales would have been better last season.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Should NBA remove minimum-age rule?

Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn does a great job articulating what we have been discussing here regarding the recent O.J. Mayo investigation. It's a must-read.

Essentially, Winn has two main points:

First, that USC coach Tim Floyd isn't dumb or naive enough to not have connected the dots and known that Guillory-arranged goods would be dirty. He had hoped the situation wouldn't implode and now that it has, Floyd and the rest of the USC athletic department are going to plead ignorance. While Winn says the Trojans deserve major penalties, he wouldn't be surprised if the NCAA and its mostly powerless investigative unit fails to prove any culpability for Floyd or USC.

Second, Winn questions the purpose of the NBA's minimum-age rule, which was adopted two years ago.

Winn lists some of the parties, beyond Guillory and BDA, who benefited by forcing super talents like Mayo and Michael Beasley to come to school for a year.

-USC, from ticket sales, Mayo jerseys ($75 each), increased exposure
-Magazines, from featuring Mayo on their cover
-TV Networks, from televising Mayo's games
-The NCAA, from "getting higher TV ratings due ratings due to the presence of young stars such as Mayo, Beasley, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose."

Which brings us to Winn's conclusion:

"When one takes off the basketball blinders and looks back at the recent Freshman Era, it's hard not to feel guilty about promoting the age limit as a positive thing, about trumpeting these stars as real collegians. Let players on the take jump straight to the NBA, if only so colleges don't have to deal with the Guillorys of the underworld and the rest of us don't have to endure the charade of labeling characters like Mayo 'student-athletes.'"

So that's my question to you guys: Should the NCAA remove its minimum-age ("one-and-done") rule?

I think Sonny Vaccaro makes it pretty clear how he feels about the rule in his interview on the Dan Patrick radio show. You can listen to it here.

A few of the highlights:

SV: "You have to blind-deaf not to understand that these kids are coming for one year and not to understand that there's really no dedication to the school they're going to. There's nothing that ties them to the school forever....When everyone's making money...and the kids are getting dreck, Dan, it's a very easy formula to understand. I'll say this till I die: It's not a fair system. They shouldn't be in school to begin with and there should not be a one-year purgatory. There's no way that should be human. It's not right."

SV: "My point is this: let them go out of high school. If they don't get drafted, let this institution called the NCAA take them back with open arms and then make them sign an agreement: you have to stay for three years. You eliminate the hypocrisy."

DP: It's not a "student-athlete" any more. It's an "athlete-student" and the NCAA should drop this nonsense.
SV: That's the fight I'm fighting and what I'm trying to get the public to understand. Just don't come down and beat on the kids. The most egregious parties are the universities and the NCAA."
DP: I know. The phrase "student-athlete" an oxymoron.

SV: "The kids are not innocent. There's no innocence to this at all. But they're put into a situation by the NCAA and by the NBA that they wouldn't have to be put in. Allow them to go pro. The one-year-and-out thing is the biggest fraud that the NCAA has ever come up with."

I don't know about you, but I'm in full agreement with Sonny. And he's not the only one who thinks that way.

Bobby Knight called it "the worst thing that's happened to college basketball since I've been coaching" and the New York Times' Harvey Araton agreed.

Araton also touched on the underlying racial element to this issue when he said this:

"After all these years, I am happy to agree with Knight on something, especially an issue that has long troubled me: the paternalistic attitudes regarding athletes and college, self-servingly tailored to keep a large base of African-American basketball players from having the same choices as high school graduates in baseball and hockey."

I know people don't usual like to talk about race, but I think Araton makes an interesting point.

Additionally, as CBSSportsline's Gary Parrish points out, "the make-it-to-the-NBA rate for top 10 high school prospects is remarkably high," which means there is no good reason that these highly-skilled players should be forced to spend a year in college pretending to be student-athletes when they're already good enough to play at the highest level.

Video of the Day: O.J. Mayo Investigation

The fact that prized high school and college athletes are receiving improper benefits from runners and agents shouldn't come as a shock to anyone.

Still, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" investigation of USC basketball player O.J. Mayo was too thorough to ignore. Here's a clip of the show in which reporter Kelly Naqi interviews Louis Johnson, a former member of Mayo's inner circle. I think it says a lot about the state of big-time college athletics as a whole.

I'm off to the dentist, but feel free to keep the discussion going on the post below and I'll be back later this afternoon. Hopefully.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mayo allegations speak to state of NCAA

The story isn't surprising, but revealing nonetheless.

Former USC basketball player O.J. Mayo received thousands of dollars in cash, clothes and other benefits while he was still in high school and during his one year in college, a former Mayo associate told ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

ESPN's investigation was thorough as illustrated by Kelly Naqi's well-reported story.

This story is about much more than O.J. Mayo. It speaks to the nature of the NCAA, which has become nothing like the "amateur institution" that it wants us to believe.

"This is way bigger than some 'brand' and money and all of this stuff," said Louis Johnson, a former member of Mayo's inner circle. "He played within the rules of the game, and this is the game. Runners, agents, shoe companies, other elements -- this is the game. … Once you're in the game, you're in the game. There's no turning back."

ESPN's Pat Forde couldn't agree more.

In his latest column, Forde says that USC and coach Tim Floyd have no excuses.

An excerpt from his column:
You have to assume USC simply didn't want to know. Didn't want to know the extent to which runners already had set their hooks into their highest-profile basketball recruit ever. The Trojans knew they were in this deal for one year before Mayo turned pro, and they probably just averted their gaze, hoping nothing blew up and the victories would pile up.

It's a scenario playing out right now on many other campuses nationwide, guaranteed. Agents and their runners are identifying who can play as early as college scouts are, and they're commencing the jockeying for position. And we all know what wins most of those turf wars: money and favors. Most topflight young basketball players have at least been offered plenty before college, even if they haven't accepted it.

It's a problem the NCAA desperately needs to get a grip on if college basketball is going to maintain even a hint of a legitimate relationship to higher education. The sport's repeatedly pilloried reputation took another big hit with this revelation, but perhaps it will spur other Louis Johnsons to tell the truth about what's going on in college hoops and youth basketball.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Happy Mother's Day

With Mother's Day coming to a close, I just wanted to say thanks to all the mothers out there, including my own, for keeping their sports-obsessed sons in line. While we don't always like to tell you, we really do appreciate it.

And on that note, I figured I'd pass along an awesome story about New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff, who graduated from Vanderbilt on Friday, and his relationship with his amazing mother Gwendolyn Tyre. It's a great read so make sure to check it out.

Video of the Day: Lance Goulbourne can ball

Enjoy Vanderbilt incoming freshman Lance Goulbourne's most recent highlight tape. The dude can flat-out ball.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vandy adds late edition to 2008 football class

Vanderbilt received another commitment last week from Akeem Cunningham, a 5'10 185 lbs defensive back prospect out of New Jersey who runs a 4.49 forty yard dash. Cunningham joins Akeem Dunham as the second Akeem in Vandy's 2008 recruiting class. What are the odds? To learn more about the commitment check out the Nashville City Paper as well as VandyMania.

Q & A with A.J. Ogilvy

After finishing his freshman campaign at Vanderbilt, center A.J. Ogilvy returned home to Australia, where he kindly answered some questions from the Sports VU about a number of topics, including his summer plans, Festus Ezeli and the weirdest thing about Americans.

SV: Some Websites say that you could have been a first-round pick in the NBA Draft. What factors led to you to come back for your sophomore season?
To tell you the truth it wasn't even really a decision I made, I didn't even think about leaving Vanderbilt. So I will definitely be back next year!

SV: What are your plans for the summer in terms of basketball? Excited to go back home? I'm sure it's been tough at times being so far away.
Coming back home was amazing, it was awesome to see my family and friends again. Basketball-wise im working out with the Australian National team and trialing for a spot on the Olympic team, so thats really exciting. (Read more about this in his Q & A with The Nashville City Paper.)

SV: How would you evaluate your first SEC season? What do you think were your strengths and weaknesses?
Obviously I wasn't as consistent as I would have liked to have been through the SEC season but I thought I had some good games. My strength is definitely my ability to play off the dribble and take bigger post guys outside and work them, weakness at the moment my post defence it's something that I really need to work on.

SV: Who was the toughest player to guard? What was the toughest place to play? What was the season highlight?
Toughest player to guard was probably Patrick Patterson, he is a great player. Rupp Arena was the hardest place to play in and the one thing from the season that stands out to me in Shan dropping 42 on Senior Night. Pick any of his shots from that game and you have a season highlight

SV: What areas of your game are you working on most this off-season?
Im really working on my jump shot and trying to extend my range, also working a lot on my fitness.

SV: I know that you and Keegan are really close. What was your reaction when he told you he was transferring?
Yeah me and Keegan were really close. I was disappointed when I found out but not surprised. Obviously it has been announced now that he is going to UTC and I wish him all the best.

SV: How would you rate your first-year at Vanderbilt -- the classes, the city, the fans, parties, etc.? What's the biggest difference between here and Australia? What's the weirdest thing about the U.S.?
I had a great first fear, it was amazing fun... the people, the games, teammates, fans, parties, all of it i just loved it. I can't wait for next year. The biggest difference is that the legal drinking age in Australia is 18, so that took some adjustment and the weirdest thing about the US is that you guys drive on the wrong side of the road.

SV: Vanderbilt just signed two more recruits in Jeff Taylor and Brad Tinsley. Did you say anything to convince them to come to Vandy?
AO: They are going to be valuable contributors to our team next year. I told them what everybody already know, we have a great program with great coaches and even better players. We truly are a family and it makes the transition process a lot easier.

SV:Have you gotten to play with them at all on their visits, and if so, what are their games like?
I played with Brad for a little while, he is a sort of do it all point guard. He is a great passer, he is athletic and has good vision. He is also a prolific scorer with a great stroke. I didn't get the chance to play with Jeff though.

SV:You guys already have a couple of great guys coming in in Lance and Steve. How excited are you for them to get here?
I cant wait for the guys to get in and for us to start building towards another great year! Lance and Steve are both excellent players and are gonna improve our team.

SV: Most Vanderbilt fans don't know much about the guy who guarded you in practice every day, Festus. What's he like as a player and how much are you looking forward to seeing him out on the court next year?
Festus was very raw at the beginning of the year but he got better every single day! Vanderbilt fans should be really excited because Festus is long and athletic and is bound to make some highlights on both ends of the floor! I can't wait for Fes to get out there with us, I've seen all the work he put in this year and I can't wait to be there when it begins to pay off.

SV: How much has the way the season ended motivated you to be an even better team next fall?
As a team we havent talked about it much, but i know as individuals we have all thought about it. For me it's what I've been using as motivation when working out since the end of the season, I don't want another great year to end the way last year did so once we get together as a team that will be one of the first things we discuss, how we can make up for last year.

Thanks so much for your time, A.J. Best of luck in your Olympic Trials and we'll see you back here in the fall.

Video of the Day: How's that for overrated?

All-American third baseman Pedro Alvarez showed Memphis fans what happens when you start chanting "over-rated!" Watch as the junior hits an absolute bomb over the scoreboard in right field that traveled an estimated 430 feet.


That's got to be one of the sweetest swings I've ever seen. Thanks to the Barca Blog for the find.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Commodore Banter (5/9)

I'm finally unpacked here at home in Boston, which means the posts should once again become daily. There are a bunch of good Vanderbilt-related stories to pass along so make sure to check them out.

Vanderbilt and league-leading Georgia begin their crucial three-game series tonight at Hawkins Field (6 p.m. CT). With a sweep, the Commodores would take over first place in the SEC East. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt has an in-depth preview of the matchup.

While the Commodores are looking to win the SEC title for the second straight year, coach Tim Corbin knows his squad is also playing for a chance to host another NCAA Regional.

"You want to be on top at the end,'' said All-American third baseman Pedro Alvarez in this feature story. Is he talking about being the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft or winning the national title? Probably both.

Alvarez has a shot to be the top choice in the draft, but there's no clear-cut No. 1 like there was last year with David Price, according to

While Alvarez and junior Ryan Flaherty are the stars, imagine Vanderbilt without its four everyday seniors -- Dominic de la Osa, Shea Robin, David Macias and Alex Feinberg. You can't say enough about what they've meant to this program.

The New York Giants are already raving about their new linebacker Jonathan Goff, who is graduating from Vanderbilt today.

A.J. Ogilvy could have a new nickname soon: "The Olympian." The sophomore center is one of 35 players competing for 12 spots on the Australian Olympian basketball team this summer. Read all about in his Q & A with Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

Former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler is trying to raise his profile, as well as money, writes James Paton of the Rocky Mountain News.

Wide receiver Earl Bennett had a case of the jitters at his first practice with the Chicago Bears.

Vanderbilt senior Shan Foster is going to leave behind a whole lot more than shattered records.
Make sure to read this terrifc feature on one of the greatest student-athletes this school will ever see.

Would Foster be a good fit with the Denver Nuggets? At least one person thinks so.

Hope you all have a great weekend, and congratulations to all the Vanderbilt seniors. We wish you the best of luck in the future.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Vandy in elite company

When the NCAA released its most recent Academic Progress Rates yesterday, many schools were nervous, hoping that their teams finished above the 925 threshold to avoid possible penalties. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, had nothing to worry about.

The Commodores' men's basketball team finished an impressive fourth among BCS Conference schools with an APR Score of 985, behind only UNC, Villanova and Illinois (see chart below). Every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility, retention and graduation of each scholarship student-athlete.

Note that Tennessee and South Carolina, among others, lost one scholarship each for poor academic performance.

The reason Vanderbilt scores so well is twofold. Of course, Vanderbilt's admissions standards for athletes are different than, say, Tennessee's, but I don't think that's the main reason. I think that the high grade is more of a reflection on the commitment that the university as a whole, and the respective teams in particular, make to their student-athletes both on the court and in the classroom.

From the coaching staffs to the academic advisers, there are resources available to ensure that Vanderbilt's student-athletes are successful. They want their players to graduate and do everything they can to help them do so.

Here's another chart that proves what we already suspected: the Southeastern Conference isn't very committed to athletes. It is fifth among the BCS Conferences in Average APR Score, ahead of only the Big 12. The SEC also has seven teams under the 925 mark.

Thanks to Rush the Court for the data.

'Academic reform is here to stay'

The NCAA hit more than 200 college sports teams with scholarship reductions and other sanctions because of academic shortcomings, the USA Today reported Tuesday.

Some of the programs included Tennessee and five others that were in the NCAA men's basketball tournament and two Bowl Championship Series entrants, Kansas and Hawaii, in football.

"Academic reform is here to stay. ... It's been in place now for four years," NCAA President Myles Brand said. "Everyone — coaches, ADs, presidents and student-athletes — should understand that's the order of the day."

According to the article, the programs "posted subpar academic progress rates (APRs), which have been computed by the NCAA for the last four years and hinge on retaining players, keeping them academically eligible and ultimately graduating them. Twenty-six teams — including 20 in the longtime problem sports of men's basketball, football and baseball — were flagged as chronic underperformers and handed stiffer penalties, including reductions in practice time."

Still, more than a third of the 329 Division I schools had at least one team penalized.

Two major-college football programs, Alabama at Birmingham and San Jose State, were docked nine scholarships each. Washington State and Idaho each lost eight.

Men's basketball, in particular, "remains a serious problem," Brand said.

53 programs were sanctioned, including 39 that drew scholarship cuts or practice restrictions. Tennessee lost one scholarship, as did Purdue, Kansas State and South Alabama, while Southern California lost two.

They were hit with the NCAA's first phase of penalties, given annually to programs with APRs below 925 (on a scale to 1000) and preventing them from replacing scholarship athletes who've left while academically ineligible.

The NCAA compiles APRs for every one of the 6,272 men's and women's sports teams in Division I. Points are awarded, player by player, and the association has determined that teams should hit 92.5% of their possible total — an APR of 925. That roughly projects a 60% graduation rate.

At the same time, there were 507 teams that posted APRs below 925 but didn't draw sanctions because they had no athletes who left school while academically ineligible or their schools sought and received waivers — granted by the NCAA when there are mitigating circumstances and the institution has an acceptable academic improvement plan.

Among those who received exceptions were LSU and Florida (men's basketball) and South Carolina (football).

"That raises the question: How can so many schools avoid sanctions?" said Nathan Tublitz, a neuroscience professor at Oregon who co-chairs the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of faculty senates at Division I universities. "One can understand a few exceptions. One can understand that some schools have good reasons. But for so many schools to have so many good reasons raises the question of whether there's really any bite to this academic performance package and the sanctions that are supposed to be issued."

Tublitz is a "very strong supporter" of the overall package, he said. "It's just that if you're going to set up a program that has a cutoff score, you have to stick to that cutoff score and not continue to give schools a free ride. If they don't make it after four years, what's going to happen after five? What's going to happen after six? How many times does a school get an exception?"

I couldn't agree more with Tublitz's assessment. I like the fact that the NCAA is making a commitment to academics, but if it's not going to follow through on its penalties, then it looks like its efforts are just for show.