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.”




Kentucky’s Worst Loss in SEC Play



University of Kentucky basketball personifies excellence. The school has the most wins of any college basketball program in the country, eight national championships, 17 Final Four appearances, and 46 Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles. Yet, even great programs experience low points. Kentucky’s low point in SEC play came on February 12, 2008 in Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee. On that fateful night, the Vanderbilt University Commodores annihilated the Wildcats 93-52, administering the worst loss in the history of SEC play for Kentucky and the five-worst loss ever by a Kentucky basketball team.

Shan Foster pumped in 20 points for the Commodores while A.J. Ogilvy tallied 19 along with 12 rebounds (Lionel Richie did not score that night, at least in the game). Vanderbilt led 41-11 at halftime and led by as many as 43 points several times during the contest. Kentucky finished with more fouls (26) than made field goals (17).

Kentucky forward and future NBA player Patrick Patterson put it succinctly, “They played like men, and we played like boys.”

Under first-year coach Billy Gillespie, Kentucky started slowly at 6-5 with lopsided losses to Gardner-Webb and Indiana but had won five straight coming into the game, including a win over Tennessee. The Wildcats had already beaten Vanderbilt earlier in the year in Lexington, 79-73 in overtime.

So no one would have predicted a game like this, including Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, “I didn’t see this coming in any way, shape or form. Not of this magnitude.”

Before this defeat to Vanderbilt, Kentucky’s worst loss to the Commodores came in 1989 by 30 points under Eddie Sutton’s watch. Kentucky’s worst loss ever came during the 1989-1990 season under Rick Pitino, this time to the Kansas Jayhawks by 55 points. Its previous worst SEC loss came against LSU by 35 points in 1987, also under Sutton.

Kentucky does not lose many basketball games, certainly not along the lines of the February 2008 Vanderbilt game. As a point of reference, Kentucky leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt 140-46, as of January 22, 2016.  To be fair to the Commodores, Kentucky has dominated most of its opponents over the years, but this game serves as an example of how even the great programs will belly flop from time to time.  As the old saying goes, “Nobody is perfect.”