Boclair: Nice job, David Williams. Now think a little bigger

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 10:05pm

No one can say David Williams has not worked hard.

For much of his time at Vanderbilt he has had multiple jobs, with each one multifaceted in its own right. Vice chancellor for student affairs. Chief legal counsel. Athletics director.

Along the way there were those who were critical of him. The primary complaint was never that he didn’t do his job(s), only that there did not seem to be time enough in the day for him to do everything effectively. Or that on occasion his attire accurately reflected someone who had too many other things on his mind.

Anyone willing to take on that sort of workload does not just quit cold turkey.

In Williams’ case, the first step out the door was to give up much of his workload but not all of it. He recently was reassigned to the re-created role of athletics director. It allows him to retain a prominent role in campus leadership, relieves him of a lot of daily stress and allows him to aim his energy in a single direction.

Here’s the thing: Given the current state of Vanderbilt athletics, specifically the football program, there is an opportunity to do some really spectacular things at the moment. Williams ought to seize this moment and his newfound focus to try to redefine the university’s entire athletics profile.

It’s time to think big.

Start with a new football stadium, one that features seats that have backs and cupholders and that recline ever so slightly. It doesn’t have to accommodate 100,000 spectators, but it seems reasonable to think it would be much easier to attract 40,000 or 45,000 to a welcoming, comfortable venue than it is to get a little more than 30,000 into the current, outdated structure.

The new stadium ought to serve as the centerpiece to an athletics complex that features a first-rate, state-of-the-art student-athlete center, which houses training rooms, weight rooms, student life and academic centers. There should be a separate building for coaches and administrator’s offices.

For too long, Vanderbilt has crept along like a diminutive Smart Car on the Autobahn. It does just enough with its facilities to stay relevant but hardly keeps pace with the rest of the programs in the Southeastern Conference. Yes, it has broken ground on an indoor practice facility for the football team, but that’s a project that advances the school to only a decade or so behind the others.

Now is the time to change all of that.

Sure, there are logistics involved. It’s not as if there is a lot of available real estate along West End Avenue. There are a lot of really smart people on campus, though, more than enough to work through a challenge such as this.

Plus, it costs money — obviously. Then again, if there is one thing that is true of college athletics in this country, it’s that success in football means an increase in donations. Vanderbilt football is as successful now as it has been in nearly any living person’s memory. Back-to-back bowl seasons and a rout of Tennessee ought to have alumni around the world feeling much more giving than usual. Someone has to make the contacts and ask.

In short, it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

Maybe that is not what Williams envisioned when he transitioned into his new position. Perhaps he figured he would be out at games on weekends, hire a coach or two, keep the books balanced and — eventually — gracefully fade into his golden years.

If he stops and thinks about it, though, this is his chance to ensure that Vanderbilt athletics — football and all — remains relevant and competitive and interesting long after he has left campus.

4 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 11/28/12 at 2:13

Boclair, You are at least three years early with this article. In fact I am more interested in what and who may have motivated you to write this article than I am in the content. Only then could I have an appreciation for what you have written.

By: PKVol on 11/28/12 at 8:58

I for one think this article is spot on. There are few good things about Vanderbilt Stadium and many bad things. Good: The intimacy from the stands, even up to rows 50 and below are unmatched (except in the south endzone), access into the stadium is very easy. Bad: When games are sell-outs, the lines at concessions and restrooms are enormously long and slow, moving around the concourse is nearly impossible and sight lines in the seating areas are terrible.

Even if a new location for a new stadium can't be found on campus, the availability of LP Field could be used for a season while a new stadium is built on the same site as the current stadium.

By: fightcrib on 11/28/12 at 2:28

Rasputin, you are an old fart!

Fightcrib, BNA

By: 4gold on 11/28/12 at 4:50

LOL, Vandy has a little success and the local media has to start in on the stadium again. I have been to other stadiums and VU's stacks up fine. You are in the game no matter where you sit. It is clean and attractive. I can't argue with chair back seats but I dont see those any where but the major donor sections any where. I have been to UT's stadium. It is a patchwork stuck together dump. The old underside was plain gross and dirty. My seat was in the lower quarter of the upper deck and you were so far removed from play that you just watched where the crowd of players went never seeing the ball. LOUSY place to see a ballgame. I will take VU's intiment stadium any day. We just need 10,000. more Nashvillians to fill it up with black and gold.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!