The man responsible for Vanderbilt Athletics answers reader questions
Jan. 14, 2011
Submit Your Question for David Williams David Williams is in his eighth year overseeing Vanderbilt athletics in his role as Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics, General Counsel and Secretary of the University.
Roger writes: I am quite concerned that the building of seats in the stadium’s north end zone will not take place. Why not show Vandy is trying and add the additional 8-9,000 seats? There is the old saying “build it and they will come”.
David Williams: Roger, I appreciate your enthusiasm. We need to believe that we have the demand to fill a new addition and we have to have the financial resources to pay for it. We have a dynamic new head coach and are closely working with him on his priorities, which are student-athlete oriented projects that will help his recruiting and player development. We have studied this and have plans for an end zone addition when the timing is right.
Richard writes: I am concerned about the women basketball team’s pathetic pre-SEC schedule.
DW: Richard, our schedule might appear pathetic but it actually carries a high RPI, which is important to post-season seeding. Several of our opponents have strong RPI’s but the explanation of how these RPI’s are calculated is complicated. I assume what you mean is that you would like to see more BCS conference schools on our schedule. We’re working toward that; we added Florida State and Southern Cal this year and next year we begin a home and home with Oklahoma. We prefer to play the majority of our games in Memorial Gym and therefore it is difficult to get other powers to come since they also want to play at home. Sometimes a potential opponent’s request is not in line with our goals; for instance, we wanted to play a three-game series with someone and they insisted it be six. We didn’t want to get that far out in our scheduling. Coaches also like to match the strength of a pre-season schedule with the relative experience of their team.
Phillip writes: Why don’t we schedule more football games against small conference and 1-AA opposition instead of playing BCS conference opponents such as Georgia Tech and Northwestern?
DW: Ideally we are looking to play one 1-AA program per year, several non-BCS conference opponents and then some BCS-member programs that are similar to us, such as Rice and Tulane. To become bowl-eligible, a program can only count one win per season against what used to be referred to as a 1-AA opponent.
Football schedules are set years in advance and it becomes difficult to know just how strong or weak someone will be when we actually play. We booked Connecticut when it was just coming off being a 1-AA program and now people wonder why we’d play someone so strong in addition to our SEC schedule. Some schools want to play us home and home and that isn’t in our best interest. Others negotiate for giant guarantees to play here. And while you advocate playing a softer schedule, these teams are often a tough ticket to market. Right now we’re actually scheduling for the 2020 season and you can see that much will change in that time.
Chris writes: When the stadium renovations are complete, will we see changes to the interior of the stadium bowl that will be noticed by people watching on television so they can see our investment in the program?
DW: It might be hard to predict what a viewer would notice watching television. Our first priority concerning renovations will be projects that have a clear impact on performance improvement. We are looking at things that will impact recruiting and assist our team’s progress. We are working closely with Coach Franklin right now on those needs.
Bruce writes: Is Vanderbilt planning to do something about the parking situation for football? The current parking program reduces the ability for families to meet casually before and after the games.
DW: Bruce, we always want our fans to have a good experience and we realize we need to make adjustments. Changing and improving our football culture is a priority and I’ve got Rod Williamson and Steve Walsh heading up that initiative. We’ve recently added a Suggestion Box to our web site to get fan feedback and ideas. We will have a retreat in a couple weeks with most of the participants being fans and season ticket holders. We are not blessed with acres of open space but we need to be more creative with how we use our resources. This is important to us.
Robert writes: I don’t want Vanderbilt to lower its academic standards but Stanford has been able to build a strong program. What can you do to ensure academic football players and winning football players?
DW: Stanford has shown it is possible and we believe we can do it, too. The SEC is tough – four teams have won the last five national championships. But “tough” doesn’t stop us. Academics do not stand in our way. We can and will be successful. We must give our coaches the resources to go to all corners of the earth to identify and recruit the types of student-athletes you are talking about.