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Vanderbilt athletics director expects championship-caliber football team

Thursday, July 17, 2014 | 7:40 p.m. CDT
Vanderbilt athletics director David Williams is interviewed in his office in Nashville, Tenn., on July 16. Vanderbilt has set the bar at a new height by winning the school's second national title last month at the College World Series. Now Williams says the challenge is what team comes next, and he includes the football team as having a chance too with its recent success.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Baseball coach Tim Corbin and his Vanderbilt squad have set a new bar for the Commodores by winning the school's second national title last month at the College World Series.

Now athletic director David Williams wants to know who's next.

Williams said winning the baseball championship sent a message to Vanderbilt's other coaches that titles are possible. He told The Associated Press the Commodores are pleased and proud but ready to go after the next one.

And Williams includes the football team, even with a first-year head coach, trying to build on its already unprecedented success.

"It can be done," Williams said. "We're kind of like really, really happy, really proud. But we're ready to go after the next one now."

With the baseball title, Vanderbilt finished 45th in the Directors' Cup with 11 of 16 teams reaching the postseason. Vandy also won the Southeastern Conference women's golf title.

Media at the SEC Media Days picked Vanderbilt to finish fifth in the East in voting released Thursday in Hoover, Ala. Williams shook his head talking about similar expectations for a program that has gone 9-4 each of the past two seasons winning bowl games and finishing the season ranked in the AP's Top 25 for the first time ever.

The Commodores lost coach James Franklin to Penn State in January and replaced him by hiring Derek Mason away from Stanford where he was defensive coordinator. Mason said Monday at SEC media days he thinks the Commodores' opportunity is now to compete for the SEC East title.

Such high expectations won Mason the job.

"Would you love to win the national championship in football?" Williams said. "Yeah. What do you have to do? You have to get to the game. How do you get to the game? You win the East because if you win the East, then you get to play for the SEC championship. If we don't win the SEC East, we can't even play for that. So shouldn't the goal be off the bat to win the SEC East?"

Williams said he knows critics think lightning can't strike twice for Vanderbilt, which went to four bowls before Franklin took the Commodores to three straight bowl berths. But the athletics director believes Vanderbilt hired the right coach at each time, with Mason taking over a team with a deeper talent base. Ten starters return from last season.

Vanderbilt opened a facility late last year featuring an indoor practice field for football, and new training rooms are the current construction project as part of the university's investment in athletics. The football stadium is a topic that will be addressed once the training rooms are completed.

Williams also is toughening the football schedule for the future. Starting in 2016, SEC teams will be required to play at least one game against a team from either the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Pac-12 or Big 12 — the other four members of the Big Five. Vanderbilt is scheduled to play Georgia Tech in 2016.

Vanderbilt's non-conference opponents this season are Temple, Old Dominion, Massachusetts and Charleston Southern. Williams said the department is talking with Stanford, Indiana, Wake Forest, Boston College, North Carolina State, Duke, Kansas State, California, Syracuse and Virginia.

"We are trying to make the schedule a little bit more competitive if you like, and that does require us to change some of the teams we've looked at and start to deal with more with home-and-home as opposed to buy-in games," Williams said.


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