Nov. 20, 2009, was the day that Vanderbilt administrators submitted their initial budget proposal to the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Committee. Four months later, it was announced that the Vanderbilt Legends Club would host the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship. When the tournament finally arrived last month, it was the culmination of years of preparation.
Last summer, Lori Alexander was appointed Vanderbilt's Director of Championships. Having already coordinated numerous SEC and NCAA events as a sport administrator for women's basketball, soccer and lacrosse, Alexander was well-versed in running high-profile events. But putting together Vanderbilt's first opportunity to host a national championship was no small task.
"Manpower is probably our biggest need," Alexander said in April. "We've figured out hospitality, and to feed everybody--all of the employees, officials, volunteers--we're looking at 250 people working the event.
"It's also a little more challenging coordinating all of the different pieces and making the NCAA's requests work at our site. While it is our home course, it's not an on-campus facility."
Alexander convened a tournament committee once a week from December through May. For the previous year, the meetings were monthly. She spoke with representatives from the NCAA nearly every day and reported in on frequent conference calls.
While the tournament may have been Vanderbilt's most high-profile rodeo, it was not the school's first. Not even this semester. In March, the first and second rounds of the NCAA women's basketball championship came to Memorial Gymnasium.
Like the golf tournament, hosting basketball required a long bidding process. It also guaranteed that an event would be played at Vanderbilt whether or not the corresponding Commodore team was part of the tournament field.
In basketball, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb has made the field of 64 in each of her 10 seasons with the Commodores. But only 24 teams advance to golf's national championship event. Vanderbilt had to place in the top eight at its NCAA Regional Championship for the chance to play on its home course two weeks later (note: the 'Dores came in second).
Head Coach Greg Allen's golfers have been up to that challenge. After sending only freshman Marina Alex to the national tournament in 2009, Vanderbilt has gone as a team in each of the past two seasons. The Commodores finished 10th last year in College Station, Texas, after a seventh-place showing in Wilmington, N.C., the year before.
Tournaments that are bid out are only one piece of the championship puzzle. Some sports--including baseball, lacrosse, tennis and soccer--play the early rounds of their respective NCAA tournaments at the home of the higher seed. In those cases, venues are not known until after NCAA selections have been announced. But with a limited number of teams, the events are often not unlike regular matches.
Then there are conference tournaments, which often have a set schedule that rotates among member schools. This fall is Vanderbilt's turn to host the 2012 SEC Cross Country Championships, and administrators already are making preparations at the Commodores' home venue, Nashville's Percy Warner Park.
While none of these events reaches the scope of golf's national championship week, VU is embracing every opportunity to play host.
"We have gone out and invested money for events like these in order to provide a better home-court advantage to our teams," Alexander said. "But it's also a great window to the university. With the number of people that will be here and those that will be watching, it's great to get Vanderbilt's name out there."