Vanderbilt fans make presence known
March 9, 2007
Vanderbilt fans make presence known inside Georgia Dome
By Will Matthews
ATLANTA - When Vanderbilt junior guard Shan Foster hit a big three-pointer with 12:30 left that knotted Friday's SEC Tournament quarterfinal game against Arkansas at 48, a sight not always seen in tournament games of years past was put on full display: a wave of Vanderbilt fans, almost all of whom were decked out in white and sporting white headbands, rose in a collective roar.
Behind the Vanderbilt bucket and across the court from the Vanderbilt bench, the contingent of Commodore fans were noticeably present - both visually and audibly - Friday inside the Georgia Dome to create a presence that, while not rivaling that of the renowned Kentucky fan base, was nonetheless impressive in its own right.
"Our Vanderbilt fans were amazing," said Eric Nichols, the director of marketing for Vanderbilt athletics. "When we needed them they created the kind of atmosphere that I think really helped inspire the team today. It was nice to be able to look into crowd and be able to say `there are the Vanderbilt fans.'"
Taking a cue from the headbands worn throughout the season by point guard Dee Davis on the women's team and point guard Alex Gordon and wing players Derrick Byars and Shan Foster on the men's team, Nichols and his marketing team developed a campaign called "Band Together" (click for info) which encourages Vanderbilt fans to don headbands and wear white as a show of support for the Commodore basketball teams during the postseason.
School officials distributed headbands and special t-shirts to Commodore fans inside the Georgia Dome Friday, and if the pockets of white throughout the building were any indication the fans responded enthusiastically.
"This is great because it makes all of us Vanderbilt fans a lot more visible," said Vanderbilt alum Kyle Cavanaugh, who graduated in 1996.
Though the hundreds of Vanderbilt fans in attendance Friday ultimately went home disappointed after Arkansas guard Gary Ervin hit a running jumper with 11 seconds left to lift the Razorbacks to a 72-71 win and a place in Saturday's semifinal, it was not for lack of fan support.
Cavanaugh, who now lives and works in Atlanta, has made it a point to get to every SEC Tournament played in Atlanta since he graduated. He was on hand Friday with several buddies who had made the trek from Nashville and said his experience this year was a lot more enjoyable than in past years.
"There are a lot more of us this year," he said. "Also, the interesting thing is that we have never really had the experience of not being a bubble team. That makes it a lot more fun. It is not nearly as nerve-wracking as it has been in the past."
Dozens of current Vanderbilt students also made the trek to Atlanta part of their spring break this week and camped themselves out in the various student sections courtside and in the stands.
"They had some awesome games this year and they really stepped it up," said sophomore Amy Brown. "I really feel like they are going to continue to play well during the postseason and I want to be here for it."
Junior Matt Gist was at every Vanderbilt home game during the regular season and didn't want to miss what he hopes will be a postseason run deep into March.
"It has just been such a great season," Gist said. "I wasn't about to miss the opportunity to see the team carry their success through into the postseason."
Will Matthews spent three years as an investigative reporter with the Los Angeles Newspaper Group in Southern California. He is currently in is third year at Vanderbilt Divinity School.