COLUMBIA — After playing University of Central Florida last week, it's time for the Missouri football team to come back to the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers are still looking for their first win in their new conference.
They have a chance this week. Vanderbilt is not as formidable of an opponent as Georgia or South Carolina. Heck, the Commodores have already taken beatings from those schools this year, too. They actually gave South Carolina a scare but fell 48-3 at Georgia.
Missouri will have home field advantage, and Commodores fans are not known to travel. Their fan base is much smaller than the typical SEC school. But while they might have been the doormat of SEC football for a while, the Vanderbilt football program is on the rise.
Missouri can't afford to take its new division rival lightly. There is too much unknown.
In a few years, the Commodores will be familiar foes for the Tigers. But for now, here are 10 things you didn't know about Vanderbilt:
- 10. Vanderbilt University was founded in 1873 when Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt donated $1 million to establish the school. His statue stands on campus, and the school named its mascot, the "Commodores," after him. The official school colors are black and gold, the same as those of Missouri's opponent last week, UCF. And, of course, the same as Missouri's. It's a popular color scheme.
9. A building in Vanderbilt's engineering school has a room called "Jacobs believed in me Auditorium." Gerry Hull, a 1964 graduate and longtime supporter of Vanderbilt's engineering school, made it possible to build the oddly named lecture hall. It was named to honor the late Dillard Jacobs, a legendary mechanical engineering professor.
- 8. President John F. Kennedy visited the school just six months before his death. Kennedy spent just three hours Nashville, Tenn., on May 18, 1963, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Vanderbilt and dedicate the Percy Priest Dam construction. He spoke at Vanderbilt's Dudley Field. That day, he rode around Nashville in the same limo that he would use in Dallas on Nov. 22 of that year, the day of his assassination.
7. Vanderbilt is one of the 10 schools left from the original SEC formed in 1932. It is also the smallest school in the conference with just 12,859 students enrolled last year. Vanderbilt is the SEC's only private school, and it is a difficult school to get into. In 2011, it had just a 16.4 percent acceptance rate. By comparison, MU had an 81 percent acceptance rate the same year.
- 6. Taylor Swift and Aaron Rodgers both go to Vanderbilt. No? Well, at least their little brothers, Austin Swift and Jordan Rodgers, do. Austin Swift is a student, and Jordan Rodgers is the quarterback for the Commodores. As for Taylor Swift, she lives in Nashville and is often seen on or around the Vanderbilt campus. She's currently dating Connor Kennedy, grandson of Robert F. "Bobby" Kennedy.
- 5. The Grand Ole Opry, "The show that made country music famous," has been broadcast from Nashville since 1925. Some of country music's biggest stars perform each week on the show. The list of Opry stars includes Willie Nelson, Jimmy Dickens, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisely and many more.
- 4. Playboy magazine recently ranked Vanderbilt as the seventh best party school in the nation. The No. 1 school on the list, the University of Virginia, was the alma mater of Bobby Kennedy and Edward "Ted" Kennedy. And you thought you were done with Kennedy mentions in this list.
- 3. The student athletes don't get special treatment. Even players on the football team live in the same dorms as other students and are held to the same academic standards. This is because in 2003, Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon Gee merged the school's athletics department with the university. Many thought the removal of a separate athletics department was a sign that the Commodores were giving up trying to compete in SEC sports, but it was quite the opposite. The Commodores have had growing success in sports ever since. The football team won six games last season, earning just its second bowl berth since 1982. Gee is now president of The Ohio State University.
2. Nashville is Music City. Dorms at Vanderbilt are just blocks away from music row, the home of hundreds of music-related businesses. While Nashville is most known for country, there are also other genres such as bluegrass, folk and gospel. There are also many young indie music artists in town. The famous music venues in Nashville include RCA Studio B, The Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium, where the Grand Ole Opry was held from 1955 to 1974.
- 1. Vanderbilt students don't fill the stadium for football games; they are more interested in tailgates or fraternity parties on game day. Commodores coach James Franklin, who shares the same name as Missouri's quarterback, has been trying to change this culture since he became head coach following the 2010 season. Still, Vanderbilt is notorious for letting opposing team fans outnumber home fans at home games against nearby SEC schools.