ATHENS — Vanderbilt interim head coach Todd Fitch indicated the Commodores are as confident as they can be under the circumstances that they will finish out the season playing their final two games.
Vanderbilt backed out of its game at Georgia last Friday, the day before the Bulldogs were supposed to play them on the program’s “Senior Day” where the outgoing class was to be honored with parents and family members in attendance.
“When the game got canceled last week, Kirby (Smart) and I did speak,” Fitch said. “The numbers are one thing, but when it attacks a position group or two where you are out of bodies, whether it’s injuries or obviously health-related issues, that’s really what unfolded last week.”
The winless Commodores (0-8) had players opt-out and quit their team. Some Nashville-based media speculated the added attrition was related not only to head coach Derek Mason being fired but also and the program using female kicker Sarah Fuller.
Fitch had said last week there were some players he couldn’t even get in touch with.
“There’s been a couple of guys we’ve talked to; I don’t have any specifics right now on where we’re at with all that,” Fitch had said. “It’s an emotional time, and when these things happen on staff, there’s a reaction right away. So we’re trying to teach patience [and] communicate with our guys.”
Georgia outgoing athletic director Greg McGarity made it clear he’s out of patience with other programs that don’t care enough about football to follow protocol and don’t field a team.
McGarity said he was concerned the Commodores won’t show up to play Georgia as scheduled on Dec. 19.
“It’s just extremely frustrating and extremely disappointing,” McGarity said. ” Especially if the game on the 19th can’t be played, and that’s what we fear.”
The Bulldogs’ seniors have a chance to be the winningest class in school history with wins at Missouri (noon, Saturday), against Vandy, and in a yet-to-be-determined bowl game.
Fitch said whether or not Vanderbilt shows up to play in Athens could be determined by how healthy the team emerges from its annual rivalry game with Tennessee.
“Coming out of this game we fully intend to finish in Athens,” Fitch said. “Obviously injuries and things coming out of this game with Tennessee will be the deciding factor, but right now we plan on finishing this thing out, and that’s what I talked to our players about — just making sure we make good decisions off the field, like all year long, and we’re preparing to play both games.”