Just Askin': With so many transplants, are Tennessee and Nashville still SEC country?

Editor's note: You got questions? We got answers. Just Askin' is a Tennessean initiative that answers your burning questions about Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Created by our nosy newsroom of Nashville reporters.

In a city dominated by the two-toned blue of the Tennessee Titans and gold sweaters of Predators fans, Nashville is definitely a growing sports town.

But the city, and the state, has experienced a surge in transplants from the across America, looking to take advantage of the Southern cuisine, real estate and honky-tonks.

You might be from California, or Ohio like me. Either way, Tennessee has a lot of to offer, but transplants from certain areas of the country will always have their sports preferences.

I can tell you my home state is all about Ohio State football.

But you're in Southeastern Conference territory now, partner. So it begs the question.

You got questions. We got answers.
Click to email us at, and your question could appear in an upcoming column.

Question: With all the transplants coming to the state, is Tennessee still SEC country?

Answer: A resounding yes, if you talk to Vanderbilt Athletics Director Candice Lee.

It's not just that Lee oversees Nashville's SEC school in sports.

She can back it up.

Nashville a hotbed for SEC events

Nashville is fresh off hosting the SEC basketball tournament from March 8-12, when tens of thousands of fans descended on Bridgestone Arena. It was hard to miss a week with an arena and Lower Broadway flooded with Tennessee orange, Alabama crimson and the purple of LSU.

The tournament has had so much success here, in fact, that the SEC has tabbed Nashville for the tournament every March through 2030.

Just Askin': What major road construction could impact summer travel?

If that wasn't enough, Lee had more fuel to stoke the fire that is SEC fandom in the Volunteer State.

Nashville is a destination, Lee said, and the conference is taking notice of opportunities to host events in the growing city.

For the first time, Nashville will host SEC media days for football July 17-20 at downtown's Grand Hyatt Nashville.

"I've always thought of the SEC as a national brand, and an international brand," Lee said. "I think the brand is strong enough to cover this country."

And for Lee, Vanderbilt's brand is only growing, with one of the country's top baseball programs, a developing football program led by alum Clark Lea and a basketball team coached by former NBA all-star Jerry Stackhouse that was among the hottest in the nation at the end of the 2022-23 season, just missing an NCAA tournament bid.

The SEC's footprint will expand again in the summer of 2024 when two prestigious sports programs, Oklahoma and Texas, join the conference.

Are parts of Nashville not SEC country?

Though Tennessee still bleeds SEC blood, Chris Lucas, a University of Tennessee Knoxville chemical engineering grad who is eight years into a second stint living in Nashville, said some bars and restaurants in East Nashville have lost a bit of SEC magic.

Ultimately, Lucas said, he believes the city he calls home is still SEC country, even if there are more and more transplants coming each day.

"Tennessee is absolutely still SEC country," Lucas said. "Perhaps East Nashville isn't anymore, but Nashville and the state certainly are."

Knoxville, where he went to school, is still die-hard SEC, Lucas added, especially as Josh Heupel has found success with the Volunteers football team.

But when Lucas heads out to East Nashville eateries at night, he said he has seen fewer SEC baseball, basketball and football games dominating screens.

"I think a good chunk of East Nashville's new population doesn't care for any sports much less SEC football," Lucas said.

Building a brand

With Vanderbilt representing the SEC in Nashville, Lee said the school's goal is to continue to make sure the city bleeds black and gold, and not Volunteer orange.

"We're starting to be more intentional about how we communicate with new residents as they move into this region," Lee said. "We're specifically trying to start in our backyard, but that includes both people who have been sidewalk fans and Vanderbilt alums."

Just Askin': Does Nashville have public pools?

Part of that communication is branding Vanderbilt as Nashville's SEC team.

Post pandemic, Lee said Vanderbilt is in a better position to spend more energy and resources to energize the population about the school and its programs.

Vanderbilt is in the middle of refurbishing FirstBank Stadium as part of Vandy United, building new locker rooms, a dining facility and premium seating.

The construction in both end zones will close seating for the 2023 football season. In the north end zone, a new basketball operations facility will open in the summer of 2024.

"If we want to be Nashville's team, we have to make sure that we're providing what people aren't use to," Lee said.

Reach reporter Craig Shoup by email at and on Twitter @Craig_Shoup. To support his work, sign up for a digital subscription to

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Are Nashville, Tennessee still SEC country with so many transplants?