Vanderbilt Traditions


Vanderbilt University, founded in 1873, has a rich academic history but little to show in the way of athletic success.   Recently, however, the baseball team and women’s tennis team have won national championships.

One of Vanderbilt’s traditions is the use of the star V logo. The logo surfaced on the football helmets in the 1960s. Although many versions exist, the general logo is a black star with a white “V” in the middle. Two other Vanderbilt traditions are the Commodore nickname and the anchor.

The Commodore nickname comes from the school’s founder Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. Mr. Vanderbilt amassed his fortune largely through the shipping industry—both on water via steamships and on land via railroads. He acquired the nickname of Commodore after his success with steamship transportation of goods and materials. The school adopted the nickname with the advent of its earliest athletic teams. In the 19th century, the United States navy called a leader of a task force of ships a commodore, and Vanderbilt adopted this connotation of the word for its mascot, Mr. C, who wears a 19th century naval uniform complete with hat and cutlass.

In 2004, head football coach Bobby Johnson began using an anchor as a symbol of strength and unity. Ships use an anchor to prevent further movement while on the water, and an anchor can also be a person who can be depended upon for support, stability or security. Football coach James Franklin had a special display case built for the anchor in 2011 and placed it in the football locker room. At each home game, the anchor is taken from its case and transported onto the field by two selected players. It also accompanies the team on all road games.

Vanderbilt, like all colleges, has its own athletic traditions. The star V logo, the Commodore nickname and the anchor are unique in college athletics and immediately identifiable with Vanderbilt sports teams. So cheer those who yell “Anchor Down” and “Go “Dores.”