Anyone who has driven along West End Avenue recently has likely noticed the mural of Vanderbilt’s coaches on the side of the Verizon Building at the corner of 28th Avenue is outdated.
And it’s not just one coach who needs to be changed.
Men’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings resigned in March and women’s coach Melanie Balcomb left in April, but their mugs are still on the side of the building located near Vanderbilt Stadium.
Local artist Michael Cooper, who first painted the mural in 1992 and has made numerous changes over the years, is ready to replace Stallings’ likeness with that of new men’s basketball coach Bryce Drew and Balcomb’s with new women’s coach Stephanie White and is simply awaiting the go-ahead.
Therein lies the problem.
Each time a change is required to keep the iconic mural up to date, Cooper must be paid for his service. And that means someone in the private sector stepping forward to cover the cost.
That hasn’t happened so far, and with basketball season not too far away it would be an embarrassment for all involved to have the old coaches still on the wall.
“It needs to be updated, I would love to see it updated and of course putting the two new coaches up there would look a lot better,” Cooper said. “I would also love to do some redesign and touch-ups just to give it a fresh look. There has been some interest from somebody in the past who has sponsored some of the coaches by paying for them, but that hasn’t gone anywhere since the one conversation I had with him.”
Cooper said he put the person, who he declined to identify, in touch with Vanderbilt earlier this summer.
Vanderbilt has always been in an uncomfortable position when it comes to the mural since it is not owned by the university.
Vanderbilt officials have never objected to Cooper’s work on the wall, but also have never felt it was their responsibility to pay him.
The mural originally featured football coach Gerry DiNardo, men’s basketball coach Eddie Fogler and women’s basketball coach Jim Foster when the building was occupied by You Greek, Me Greek, an apparel store that primarily sold Vanderbilt gear.
“This wall is a public fascination,” said Vanderbilt associate athletics director Rod Williamson. “It began as a commercial gimmick about 25 years ago to attract university students to the business. It is not owned by Vanderbilt University and in that sense we have no more to do with this building than we would if it was located in Franklin or Cookeville.”
If the mural was owned by Vanderbilt, Williamson said it would have been updated long ago.
“It does pose an awkward situation because there are those in the public who would logically think we own the building and we control the images,” Williamson said. “But we don’t, or otherwise we would have traded out the former coaches for our new ones. We have discussed options from time to time, but none seem ideal.”
Cooper won’t say how much he charges to work on the mural, but said his price hasn’t changed since he first painted it.
A radio station once paid to have one of the images painted. In 2011 a group of Vanderbilt baseball fans paid to have coach Tim Corbin added to the wall.
Country music star John Rich paid for interim football coach Robbie Caldwell’s likeness to replace Bobby Johnson’s in 2010.
Cooper also pointed out the banners of SEC teams in the background need updating. Only 12 teams are represented since no one has paid to have Missouri and Texas A&M added since those schools joined the conference.
Former Vanderbilt cheerleader producing first film
Bethany Levy, a former Vanderbilt cheerleader, has enjoyed a successful career in Hollywood as a stunt double and is now branching out into producing.
Levy is producing a short film entitled “Do No Harm” about a corpsman in Baghdad attempting to hold on to humanity in the midst of war in 2003.
“It’s a story about decisiveness versus compassion,” Levy said. “A corpsman’s job is to fix people up, but how does that obligation reconcile with someone who is trained to fight and may be asked to kill?”
Levy and writer/director Marielle Woods have created a indiegogo.com fundraising campaign to pay for the production. The link is https://igg.me/at/donoharmfilm/x.
Levy also just wrapped work as the stunt double for lead actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the sci-fi film “God Particle” produced by J.J. Abrams.
Hickman County stadium named in honor of “Mo” Wright
The football stadium at Hickman County High School will be named in honor of legendary Bulldogs coach Kenneth “Mo” Wright.
Wright, 80, is a former DuPont High and Tennessee Tech standout who posted a record of 136-67-2 during his two stints at HIckman County (1966-81 and 1986-88.)
Dedication of the stadium, which was built in 1977, will be Sept. 30 at halftime of Hickman County’s game against Loretto.
Wright, who now lives in Memphis, was an All-America Second Team running back at Tennessee Tech (1957). He was inducted into the Golden Eagles Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
All of Wright’s former players are invited to join him at a tailgate party at 5:30 p.m. before the game.
Former Hillsboro quarterback credits football for life lessons
Former Hillsboro quarterback Chris Rodgers was back at the school recently for the annual Buddy’s Burros Reunion Dinner in honor of former coach Buddy Brown.
Rodgers is believed to be the only deaf starting quarterback to ever play in Metro.
He went on to play football and baseball at Gallaudet University and remained in Washington D.C., where he went to work for the U.S. Department of Labor.
In 2002 Rodgers moved back to Nashville, became a construction contractor and then started his own company, C. Rodgers Construction, in Hendersonville.
“So much of what coach Brown taught me on the football field helped to make me successful in my private life,” Rodgers said. “He taught me some hard life lessons.”
Schooldays standout qualifies for Augusta National competition
Madilyn Newman, who finished runner-up in the 12-13 age division of the Tennessean/Metro Parks Schoodays Golf Tournament, qualified for the 2017 Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National.
Newman won the regional qualifier at Pinehurst (N.C.) Country Club by hitting two drives over 200 yards, holding a slight lead after the chipping segment and then by making a 6-foot putt and leaving her 30-foot putt just three inches from the hole.
The fourth annual Drive, Chip and Putt is April 2, on the eve of the 2017 Masters.
UT Martin cashes in by playing at Hawaii
The UT Martin football team gave Hawaii a scare last week before losing 41-36 in Honolulu.
The Skyhawks still came away winners thanks to a sweet guarantee for scheduling the game.
UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said the deal included $260,000 in cash, 56 hotel rooms for three nights and 110 commercial flight tickets.
The Skyhawks, an FCS team, will bring in a total of $950,000 in guarantees by playing three FBS opponents this season — Hawaii, Cincinnati and Georgia State.
That will help pay for renovations being made to the school’s football stadium.
Fulmer speaking at local FCA banquet
Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer will be the guest speaker at the Robertson County Fellowship of Christian Athletes fundraising banquet on Sept. 27.
The banquet will be at The Center in Spingfield beginning at 6:15 p.m.
Tickets are $5 and table sponsorships are also available by contacting former Pearl-Cohn and Tennessee State football player Charles Sparkman at 615-335-2942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brentwood golfer wins senior championship
Lynda Wimberly of Brentwood led wire-to-wire and claimed the 38th annual Tennessee Women’s Senior Amateur Championship Thursday on the East Course at Windyke Country Club in Memphis.
Wimberly shot a three-day total of 228 and beat Charleston’s Maggie Scott (233), Rossville’s Darlene Werhnyak (235), Nashville’s Angel Cropper (237) and Franklin’s Gena Ridings (245).
Ex-Centennial star makes big play at Missouri
Former Centennial star receiver Emanuel Hall scored Missouri’s first touchdown against Eastern Michigan last week on a 36-yard catch.
Hall, a sophomore who was also a track star in high school, finished with three receptions for 90 yards in the Tigers’ 61-21 victory.
Longtime sports editor Marion Wilhoite retires
Marion Wilhoite, who spent 54 years as a sports reporter and editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Columbia, retired Friday.
Wilhoite, 75, earned national attention in 1990 when Sports Illustrated’s David Sharp wrote a story about the fact that since 1962 Wilhoite was able to do his job without driving.
Wilhoite also spent time as the softball coach at Columbia State Community College.
He will become the newspaper’s sports editor emeritus.
Bob Cummings memorial is Sunday at Litton High
A celebration of life ceremony for football coach Bob Cummings will take place Sunday from 1-4 p.m. at the old Issac Litton High gymnasium on Gallatin Road.
Cummings, who played football at Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech, died on Sept. 4 at the age of 94.
Along with Litton, Cummings also coached at Hendersonville, Beech, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Miami, Tennessee Tech and for the New Orleans Saints.
Magazine tabs Lipscomb player no longer on roster all-conference
Lipscomb was picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic Sun Conference and senior J.C. Hampton made the preseason all-conference second team by “Lindy’s Sports College Basketball” magazine.
The problem: Hampton is no longer at Lipscomb. He notified coach Casey Alexander in April he would not return to Lipscomb and in May he transferred to Texas A&M.
If you have an item for Midstate Chatter contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 and on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
SPORTS ON NASHVILLE TV
The top 5 local sporting events television ratings for Sept. 5-11.
1. College football: Tennessee-Virginia Tech, 22.3 rating
2. NFL: Titans-Vikings, 22.2 rating
3. NFL: Panthers-Broncos, 18.7 rating
4. NFL: Giants-Cowboys, 18.2 rating
5. NFL: Patriots-Cardinals, 14.6 rating
Each rating point is equal to 9,902 Nashville households.
Source: Mark Binda, WTVF-5 program & research director