Vandy wins 1927 championship

March 17, 2010

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Congratulations to SEC Coach-of-the-Year Kevin Stallings and his Commodores squad for their No. 4 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament in San Jose. Good Luck Commodores!

Before the 1926-27 Vanderbilt basketball season, head coach Josh Cody announced he was leaving Vanderbilt at the end of the season. Cody was a Vanderbilt football (1914-16, 19) All-American tackle in 1919. He was also in a duo role of head basketball and assistant football coach. Cody accepted a job as Clemson’s head football coach.

Vanderbilt was a member of the Southern Conference in this era. The Southeastern Conference was organized in 1932. The Commodores went into the 1926-27 season with a determination. They were led by center Jim Stuart (6-foot-4), guard John McCall (6-foot-3), guard Malcomb Moss (6-foot-0), with forwards Frank Bridges (5-foot-10) and Dave Baker (6-foot-1).

The previous year Vanderbilt was 8-18. They opened this historic year with a loss to Evansville, a victory over Marquette and a humiliating loss to Loyola (31-7). Roy Neel quotes Moss in his book Dynamite! 75 Years of Vanderbilt Basketball:

“We were panicked and demoralized after the whipping Loyola had given us. Loyola had stalled the ball in the backcourt (there was no 10-second rule then) until we had grown so frustrated we committed mistakes, and they scored easily. We sat in the locker room for nearly an hour without talking. Cody said nothing. We simply had not been able to adjust. But we learned a lot that night.”

Vanderbilt went to the conference postseason tournament in Atlanta with a 16-4 record and a No. 4 seed. Raymond Johnson of The Tennessean gave this report:

Cody has turned out a basketball team this season that ranks with the best in Dixie. It has been a fighting team, one that did not know when it was beaten and on numerous occasions has come from behind in the last half to eke out a victory. Great things are expected of the Commodores in the Atlanta meet. Even down in the Cracker town, they are conceding Vandy more than an outside chance.

The Commodores have played a fine brand of basketball this season. Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi, Mississippi Aggies, Sewanee and Kentucky victims. On the other hand, the Gold and Black tossers have met only one defeat in the Conference. That was to Georgia tech on the latter’s floor.

North Carolina was the conference leader, but the winner of the postseason tournament was recognized as the Southern Conference champions. The conference contained a remarkable 23 members. Vanderbilt won its first two games over Washington & Lee (44-32) and Mississippi (32-20). The Commodores were set to play South Carolina in the semifinals.

The Nashville Banner reported on the game with the Gamecocks:

Just one more hurdle to leap and the basketball championship of the Southern conference will be on the way back to Nashville. That hurdle, strange as it may seem, is none other the University of Georgia, which last night sponged out the Tar Heels, champions for the past three years.

Tonight at 8 o’clock the Commodores will start in quest of bacon. They beat South Carolina 31 to 25, to get there. That they should have to meet Georgia to get this bacon is one of those things that happen with no explanation available. Georgia has been whipped three times this season by Tech, once by North Carolina, once by Maryland, and once by about every else they have met. They were placed in the bracket so that they could win one game. After that they were not figured as a possibility. They are one of the poorest teams in the tournament suddenly gone wild.

It was reported that the Vanderbilt/Georgia finals attracted the largest crowd ever to see a basketball game in the South at that time. Of course, the partisan Bulldog fans dominated the crowd.

Their “hostile” fans, with a deafening, band motivated Georgia as they held 26-18 halftime lead. With two minutes remaining in the game, Vanderbilt fought back and led 43-42. After Moss made a field goal, Georgia called a timeout. Since the Bulldogs were out of timeouts, they were given a technical foul. Moss converted the technical and Vanderbilt led 46-42. Georgia managed one final basket as Vanderbilt ran out the clock for a 46-44 victory.

The Banner gave this report:

The ability to take it to the jaw and keep boring in has decided many a fight. It decided one here in the City auditorium last night. It meant more than that. The championship of the Southern conference basketball world came to Vanderbilt when the Commodores took all the Georgia Bulldogs had to offer, shook it off and plunged from the blackness of impending defeat to the championship. The score was 46-44.

There was a stinging about the eyes for the Vanderbilt men here last night when the crack of the timer’s pistol ended that titanic struggle and Josh Cody rushed out to his players. It was Josh Cody’s last appearance as a Commodore coach and his boys had brought him a Southern championship. He rushed out and caught the tall form of sweaty Jim Stuart in his arms. He grabbed the others as they came off, their faces strained, their eyes deep-set.

The strain of tournament play all the way to the finals is no small thing. These boys had been through a week of terrific effort that reached its climax in the nerve-wrecking, pulse-shattering thing of last night when the Georgia Bulldogs were battered down in that test to determine who could take it the longest and still not break.

Stuart led all scorers with an impressive 19 points to cap a 20-4 record. McCall joined Stuart on the All-Southern team. Cody returned to Vanderbilt as the top football assistant in 1932. He was also given the basketball head coaching position, though he never achieved the success as his 1927 squad.

This would be Vanderbilt’s second championship. They won the Southern Conference championship during the 1919-20 season with a 14-4 record. After 1927, Vanderbilt would not win another championship until1965. Cody’s all-time coaching record (1924-27, 1932-36) at Vanderbilt was 98-100.

Moss also said about Cody in Dynamite:

“He was an excellent coach. No razzle-dazzle, but great fundamentals and strong on conditioning. He was truly a great motivator out there.”

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