Quick Slant: Student attendance

March 1, 2013

Quick Slant is an array of brief insights and occasionally opinionated overviews of collegiate athletics in general and the Vanderbilt Commodores in particular.

Declining student attendance has been a topic around collegiate athletic circles this year. A long-time colleague at another Southeastern Conference institution recently told us that Georgia’s athletic board voted to shrink the size of its student football section by 3,000 seats and that even Alabama’s students didn’t always fill their section to watch back-to-back national champion football teams! Duke’s fabled basketball section was news a year ago. Where have all the students gone? What are they doing? Our pal thinks Georgia’s student body no longer resembles that of years gone by with its higher academic standards and push for more international representation, many of whom have little interest in SEC athletics. It is a generation content to watch The Sound of Music or get their news on a cell phone and think it’s natural. For many, nothing is more important than what gets posted on Facebook. Everybody has access to a big flat screen so it gets tempting to just watch the tube. Boomers should not be judgmental; this is a generation that sees things different than we once did and that might not be all bad.

Those who think newspapers carry little influence don’t know the workings of Nashville’s media market. The Tennessean ran that piece about sagging student attendance at college athletic events (honing in on Vanderbilt’s situation) and that night a television news crew was at our game taking pictures of empty seats. That reaction has been a common practice for years.

Nice to hear Warren Norman reiterate that “he has something to fall back upon” (meaning his Vanderbilt degree) upon his announcement that he is medically unfit to play football and will forgo his senior year. Giving up a game where he once enjoyed stardom and still loves was difficult for him.

We have the two most interesting tennis coaches on the planet. Women’s coach Geoff Macdonald typically has our team in the Top 20 and once played for the national title. He is a voracious reader, writes about professional tennis for the New York Times and when time allows and runs with the English faculty where his wife Kate is a professor. Geoff is also co-teaching a class with Pulitzer Prize author David Maraniss this spring. Men’s coach Ian Duvehage is a former SEC Coach of the Year and has his Dores in the Top 30 and heading upward. Ian reads several books a week so he can converse on almost any topic, is also co-teaching a Vanderbilt class this spring on his native South Africa, enjoys hiking and paints for fun. Needless to say, the members of their teams learn much more than tennis!



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