As an athlete for the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team, Candice Lee showed tremendous perseverance just to stay on the court. She battled significant injuries throughout her playing career including two ACL tears, the second of which came during her redshirt senior season. For most players that would be time to call it a career. Instead, Lee applied for, and received, a rare sixth season of eligibility where she helped the Commodores have one of their best seasons while winning the SEC tournament and advancing to the Elite Eight.
Lee will need that same grit and determination in the next phase of her life. In a move widely expected Thursday, the university officially dropped the “interim” tag from and officially named Candice athletic director and vice chancellor for athletics. Lee becomes the first female athletic director in school history and the first African American female to lead an SEC athletic program.
The move was universally praised by current and former Vanderbilt athletes. A cursory temperature check of social media showed the majority of Vandy fans supported the move as well.
While fans have often had a distrustful, and even antagonistic view of athletic directors in the past, Lee is someone who most view as one of their own and hopefully someone who can unite the fan base moving forward.
Lee certainly has her work cut out for her, though. While Vanderbilt has arguably the best baseball program in the country, the higher profile sports have struggled.
Coming off a bowl appearance in 2018, the football program only managed three wins this past season leaving Derek Mason’s job status tenuous. Both basketball programs have endured historic low points in the past few seasons, although both appear to be trending upward. There are still numerous questions on how to address outdated facilities and dwindling fan attendance.
To her credit, Lee sounds like she is up to the challenge.
“My priority, and the university’s priority, continues to be examining everything we can do to support our student-athletes and ensure their safety and well-being. We also continue to prepare for the future – determining and establishing the conditions our student-athletes need to compete and succeed at Vanderbilt and beyond.” Lee said from the Vanderbilt Athletics press release.
Hopefully this can be remembered as a turning point that helped galvanize sports on West End to unprecedented heights.