Heart of the City: Vanderbilt


This week, we're taking a closer look at FBS programs located in major markets that typically also have NFL franchises. Only one SEC program fits this description and it’s Vanderbilt.

Let’s take a closer look at the Commodores:

School: Vanderbilt

Location: Nashville, Tenn.

Enrollment: 6,879

Bowl appearances: 4

NFL first-rounders: 4

Losing seasons: 52

10-win seasons: 0

Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: Numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The good: If we’re talking academics, the Commodores are the cream of the SEC. The number of SEC Academic Honor Roll members hailing from Vanderbilt is staggeringly high. In fact, one entire page in Vanderbilt’s media guide can’t even hold all of the honor roll members.

The football team has also consistently received high marks in the annual Academic Progress Rate. In 2011, Vanderbilt was the only SEC football program to receive a Public Recognition Award of outstanding classroom performance and graduation success. The Commodores were in the top 10 percent of football teams in the latest multiyear APR scores, which accounts for measurements from the 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years.

The truth is, a lot of Vanderbilt’s athletes won’t make it to the NFL, but with the education they receive in school, they should have no problem finding a decent job in the real world.

As for football, the Commodores have been more competitive on the field in recent years. Vanderbilt ended a 53-year bowl winless streak in 2008 with a victory in the Music City Bowl, a 22-game losing streak to Tennessee in 2005 and upset Georgia in Athens in 2008.

New coach James Franklin has instilled some much-needed confidence at Vanderbilt and has started things off by grabbing a handful of commitments from top southeastern prospects in the 2012 class.

The bad: Even before the Tennessee Titans moved from Houston to Nashville in 1998, Vanderbilt didn’t exactly get a ton of football attention. The Commodores have endured 52 losing seasons since 1936 and have won just two bowl games in four appearances. Before Franklin’s hire, Vanderbilt had 26 head coaches since 1890, with a combined record of 555-558-50.

The major thing keeping the Commodores’ football program from consistently competing with the rest of the SEC is recruiting. Stricter academic requirements and the lack of a winning tradition has routinely left Vanderbilt on the short end of many recruiting battles.

The big-city feel of Nashville -- and the presence of a pro football team -- hasn’t helped enough in attracting top talent to Vanderbilt, either.

Coaching goes a long way, but not having the talent won’t win you ball games and that has been Vanderbilt’s Achilles’ heel.