Vanderbilt ties are strong, but Ole Miss loyalty is stronger

Published 10:00 am Saturday, October 8, 2022

By Steve Stricker

Today, Saturday, October 8, birthday of my son Stephen, Vanderbilt Grad (Happy Birthday) – and at 3 p.m., SEC Network, #9, 5-0 Ole Miss, or “Runnin’ Rebels” (uh, UNLV) as the Commodores call us, play 3-2 Vanderbilt celebrating 100 years in the Vanderbilt Stadium 1922-2022, coming off a whupping from then #2, now #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa 55-3, thankfully had an open weekend to lick their wounds physically and mentally! Head Coach, Clark Lea since 2020, is from Nashville, holds two degrees from Vanderbilt, was a successful Defensive Coordinator with my third favorite college team, Notre Dame 2018-2020, and like ND and Vandy, is a class act.

Our Ole Miss “Rock Star” Head Football Coach, Lane Kiffin signed on thankfully with Ole Miss 2019, a perfect fit for us and him, brought his high-profile, winning ways to our program, infused our lackluster team with his unique personality, excited the team, Rebel Nation with an energy I haven’t seen since arriving in Oxford and Ole Miss in 1988!   

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On any other football weekend, I would cheer for Vanderbilt – my second favorite college team.  I love Vandy!  How’s that you say?  Well, along with a huge respect for this class university, my oldest son Stephen graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in Molecular Biology.  Because I’m too tight (poor) to get a hotel room, have spent many nights on the floor in Stephen’s room, Tolman Hall, in my sleeping bag when I visited for sporting events or whatever.   

Stephen was in the Vanderbilt “Spirit of Gold” Band – and at the game dressed in Red and Blue, I also wore a Vandy Band pin which caused a few Ole Miss Fans in our section to raise an eyebrow.  

Once, when Georgia was in Nashville playing Vanderbilt in basketball, the seating in historic Memorial Gymnasium was sold out, so Stephen got permission from Dr. Dwayne Sagen Director of University Bands, (Assistant Director of Bands Ole Miss 1972-1986) for me to sit with him in the Basketball Band.  Dressed in Black and Gold, I held a sign that said “WHOOSH” on one side and “DOH” on the other.  When Vandy scored a free throw, we yelled, “Whoosh!”  When Georgia missed a free throw, we shouted, “Doh!”  It was the most swell fun being a Commodore for an evening with Stephen and one of my all-time ever treasured memories.

Even though Vanderbilt, renowned for its academic standard of excellence and cerebral students, they are still students.  On one baseball weekend in Nashville, I witnessed a Vandy student escorted from the game for continuously squirting our Ole Miss 3rd basemen with a long-range water gun.  On another occasion, early one Sunday morning as I was shaving in Tolman “male” Residence Hall bathroom, wrapped in a towel in preparation for going to Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, walking distance from Vanderbilt on West End Boulevard, entered an attractive petite co-ed in a white robe!  She greeted me nicely, I said, “Good morning,” and she walked into a stall…Doh!

When Stephen graduated from Vanderbilt, he came to Ole Miss and completed his MS degree in Biochemistry.  Working on campus it was awesome having him here as we spent a lot of time together.  Like with me and Vandy, he cheered for Ole Miss except when they played us.  One football weekend in Oxford when we played Vanderbilt, we sat together as always, I wore Red and Blue, Stephen Black and Gold.  Of course we were chatting constantly and when Stephen went to get something to eat, an Ole Miss fan in front of us turned around and said, “Uh, y’all seem mighty friendly, what’s up with that?”  I explained the situation and he loved it.  And I attended the game when Chucky Mullins awkwardly tackled Vanderbilt Brad Gaines was paralyzed, saw Chucky often on campus, said “Hey,” and attended his emotional funeral….

Stephen then completed his Pharm.D. at The University of Missouri in Kansas City and is now Senior Medical Science Liaison and Associate Director of US Medical Affairs for Takeda Oncology…and as always, am very proud of him.

So, best wishes Stephen, Vanderbilt, you both have a lot of class.  Having said that, because we need a win to be Bowl eligible, and because Vandy has always been our nemesis, this is not a weekend I cheer for Vanderbilt, uh excuse me my dear son but with all respect – SLAM THE DORES!

Steve is an Oxford resident, worked on Campus, received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, is an LPC, NCC, and can be reached at