Vanderbilt is planning a special Hall of Fame weekend for September 12-13. A series of events will unfold over those two days, capped by the Induction Banquet Friday evening, September 12 and the Class of 2008 being presented at halftime of Saturday's Rice football game. VUcommodores.com will spotlight one inductee per day leading up to the Hall of Fame weekend.
When sports fans consider the most dynamic leaders in collegiate athletics over the last quarter decade of the 20th Century, one name is almost certain to be on everyone's list: Roy Kramer.
Primarily for that reason, the Vanderbilt Director of Athletics from 1978-1990 was chosen for the inaugural induction class in the newly formed Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame.
"This is very special to me," says Kramer, now retired and living in his native East Tennessee. "It's special because of the long and historic tradition of the University, not only in academics but also athletics. It is the school of the great Dan McGugin, the school with a tradition of basketball excellence, the home of the consummate student-athlete."
Kramer had been a national championship football coach at Central Michigan before arriving in Nashville three decades ago this month. It wasn't long until Commodore fans realized they had found a unique leader.
"When Sara Jo (his wife) and I think of Vanderbilt, we think about the people," Kramer says. "We were fortunate to have a tremendous group of people to work with and not just in the athletic department but across the campus as well. There was a feeling of warmth, a positive spirit and a sense of pride that simply made being a part of the University a special experience."
Kramer spear-headed the campaign to rebuild Vanderbilt Stadium on the same turf that Dudley Field had occupied since 1922. The feat was remarkable in that it was done in-between the 1981 and 1982 football seasons and the gleaming new facility and Kramer-hired coaching staff had Nashville buzzing.
"When I think back on all the good things that happened when we were in Nashville, the dedication of the stadium in 1982 stands out," Kramer recalls. "It was truly an entire community's project. It was a perfect night for football, a full moon above, a full house in the stands and it didn't hurt that we beat a good Maryland football team. So many people helped make that happen, that's why it was so special."
Kramer moved on to become Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, where he quickly became a national leader as he steered the SEC into innovative and leadership positions.
He expanded the league into 12 member schools, devised division play that produced a unique and profitable championship football game, was one of the founders of the Bowl Championship Series and brokered the most lucrative network television packages to that point.
That body of work earned him the frequently used moniker of "the most powerful man in college athletics", a title that Kramer says he never quite understood.
"I don't know where that expression originated," he admits, "and I certainly never felt that way. Intercollegiate athletics is a composite of hundreds of people and I was just one. It was a time of great change in college athletics for sure but I was no czar sitting in a room making changes."
Roy and Sara Jo now enjoy life beside a picturesque lake where he has a boat and likes to fish, golf and simply absorb the beauty of the Smokey Mountains.
"I've found out that just because you have more time to play golf doesn't mean you get any better at it!" he quips.
The Kramer's have three children and a considerable portion of their time is dedicated to enjoying them and their grandchildren.
Son Steve is a partner in the old Kramer family law firm of Kramer and Reisen in Knoxville. Steve has three children including a daughter that graduated from Vanderbilt after working part-time in the athletic media relations office.
Daughter Sara Gray lives in Knoxville where she works at the University of Tennessee. Another daughter, Jane, is married and lives with her husband on a Michigan dairy farm.