It started with a gift. Why The Vanderbilt University teams are called the Commodores

Simple & classy

Simple & classy

Whether it is the Pirates, the Spartans or the Trojans, many team mascots aim to inspire fear in opponents. If not, they typically are named after a source of pride for the school or the area, such as the Aztecs, Boilermakers or Volunteers.  But in the State of Tennessee, hundreds of miles from any ocean, there is a school whose mascot represents a naval rank and it is not even in use anymore. And the person who was the inspiration for the name never served in the U.S. Navy.

Cornelius Vanderbilt was born on Staten Island, and spent most of his life in New York, or on the eastern seaboard.  He quit school at 11, and before he became one of the wealthiest persons in America, he started ferrying passengers from Staten Island to Manhattan.  His energy and his enthusiasm earned him the nickname “Commodore” from other captains, though they meant it in just.  He was married at 19, would have 13 children, and would become a steamboat magnate, and then control several oceangoing steamship lines.  He would take over the Staten Island Ferry, and controlled 13 railroads.  When he died, his net worth was $105 million, which was 1/87th of the United States GDP, equivelent to about $195 billion today.

2713parkermrcvuBefore he died, his wife’s cousin’s husband convinced him to donate the largest charitable gift in American history at that time. He donated $1 Million to endow what would become Vanderbilt University, with a goal of of building a university in the South that would “contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country.”

So the teams are called the Commodores, in honor of the nickname given to Cornelius Vanderbilt, which may have been a term of derision.  The look of the mascot is set in the 1800’s, the time when Vanderbilt was alive. Today,Vanderbilt University is one of the most highly regarded universities in the nation.  Commodore is a pretty long word, so fans often refer to Vanderbilt teams as “Dores” or use the  “Go Dores!” cheer.   Last year, the Dores won the College World Series, bringing Vanderbilt its first ever national championship in any men’s sport.

For some great stories on Vanderbilt history, click here.

98 Days Until College Football Kicks Off!

Our countdown started Tuesday with mascot history:

Tuesday- Aztecs

Wednesday- Boilermakers

Today – Commodores

Tomorrow – Subscribe, like us on Facebook, or Twitter and find out!

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