Vanderbilt mural - July 2019

The Vanderbilt coaches mural in mid-July.

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The longtime mural on the corner of 28th Avenue South and West End Avenue depicting the Vanderbilt University coaches is gone.

The mural has been a fixture on the building for 27 years since You Greek Me Greek commissioned it. The building is now a Verizon store.

Michael Cooper, the mural’s original artist, posted about it on Facebook on Sunday.

James Franklin career at Vanderbilt

Artist Michael Cooper adds a portrait of Vanderbilt baseball head coach Tim Corbin to an outdoor mural that already includes some other Vanderbilt coaches, including football coach James Franklin, at left, on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn.

“That mural was on that wall, and has been constantly updated, for 27 years. It literally became an icon,” Cooper said on the post on his Facebook page Murals & More LLC.

The mural began with the school’s football and men’s basketball coaches. Later the women’s basketball coach was added and later baseball coach Tim Corbin.

The mural had not been updated since Bryce Drew was fired by the school in March.

"My heart was broken," Cooper told News4 Monday. "That was my artwork. Somebody destroyed it. To do something like that without even saying anything to me, that hurts. That hurts a lot. What they did simply wasn't right. It was wrong. It was a cowardly thing to do."

Cooper said his work on the mural and the updates were always paid for by radio stations, country music stars, crowdfunding and other means. He said Vanderbilt never sponsored the work, but they sent him pictures of the coaches and approved of the art. 

A statement from Vanderbilt University said, “The mural required an update, and the Vanderbilt University’s Athletics Department decided to use this as an opportunity to take a new approach to this important landmark. We have been working for the past several months with the building’s property manager and a local artist on this update, and we expect it will be completed this week. We hope to use this space in the long-term as a showcase for local artists and regularly update the mural’s imagery. We have reached out to the artist of the original mural to thank him for his work over the years.”

"If I were to guess, I would think it's simply financial," said Cooper. "They paid someone a couple bucks to paint it instead of paying me what it's worth to completely redesign it. I just think they wanted a cheap way out of it which, I think, is unfortunate."

Cooper said he'd been talking to Vanderbilt for months about doing a redesign himself. He said he'd spoken to school representatives as early as three weeks ago. 

He said he'd still like to return and create one of his murals at the location. 

"It was designed 27 years ago," he said. "It needed updating, I'll grant you that. The only thing that was fresh up there was coaches' faces."  

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