Jan. 18, 2013
Quick Slant is an array of brief insights and occasionally opinionated overviews of collegiate athletics in general and the Vanderbilt Commodores in particular.
Ponder this scenario, which really happened Thursday evening: A sold-out banquet at Houston's downtown Hyatt Regency; tables going for $2,500. The finalists for collegiate football's Bear Bryant Award at the head table, waiting the announcement of the 2012 Coach of the Year. There is David Shaw of Stanford, Urban Meyer of Ohio State, Penn State's Bill O'Brien, Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M, Kansas State's Bill Snyder and one other guy, a relative newcomer named James Franklin. Yes, our James Franklin. PSU's O'Brien won it but 24 months ago, a few weeks after he was named our head coach, could even the optimists among us have imagined this?
We will be saluting some special basketball alumni soon. At the Feb. 3 Ole Miss game, the great women's basketball team of 1993 will be remembered on the 20th anniversary of our only Final Four trip. It compiled a 30-3 record and was rated No. 1 in the nation for six weeks.
Three days later, at the Arkansas men's game, the Rebounders are remembering their coach and hero, Roy Skinner, who passed away in 2010. Roy's wife Nathleene (Tootsie) will be on hand. Also, members of the 1950 team will be presenting the game ball from their historic victory over NYU to the athletic department.
The bizarre case of Notre Dame's Manti Te'o brought back memories. In the 1970s my alma mater had a starting running back that declared before his senior year that he was going to become a monk after graduation. It was a terrific story, reported in the league's press, and something all of us believed to be true. The guy would periodically ratchet up the story - he would be a Trappist monk and writers duly noted that was the strictest order. Long story short, we heard at the water cooler late in the season that the story was a prank, he apparently never intended to be a monk. The revelation drew nothing more than a wry smile and shrug, which either shows how we have evolved in evaluating what's important or that our guy was not a Heisman finalist in an age of the Internet and social media.
Those of you that grew up watching the Ed Sullivan Show remember his odd assortment of novelty acts - jugglers, magicians, trapeze artists and the like. If you are coming to our basketball games, you no doubt enjoyed the halftime act "Quick Change" that performed at two recent halftimes and can look forward to a return of the Red Panda at the Jan. 24 Tennessee women's game. Quick Change featured a woman that would step into what appeared to be open hoops and emerge in seconds wearing dress after dress (where did the prior ones go?) while Red Panda rides a unicycle while flipping and stacking plates on her head as the crowd holds it breath hoping she doesn't drop one. Sullivan would have loved them!