Candice Lee Hired as Vanderbilt AD; Is SEC's 1st Female, African American AD

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2020, file photo, Vanderbilt interim athletic director Candice Lee answers questions during a news conference in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt has removed the interim title, making Candice Storey Lee the first black woman to become an athletic director in the Southeastern Conference. With Vanderbilt's announcement Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Lee now is among only five women in charge of a Power Five program. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Vanderbilt University made history Thursday with the hiring of Candice Storey Lee as its new athletic director.

According to the school, Lee is the first woman to ever serve as athletic director at Vanderbilt and the first African American woman to serve in that role in the history of the SEC. 

Lee said the following regarding her installation as Vandy's AD:

"I am incredibly honored to lead the Commodores, and I could not have been in this position without the support of the university's leadership, our dedicated coaches and staff, and all of Commodore Nation. There are challenges ahead and much uncertainty about what college athletics can and should look like during a pandemic, but I firmly believe that anything is possible if we all work together.

"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 was named Vanderbilt's interim athletic director in February following the resignation of Malcolm Turner, and her position as full-time AD was cemented Thursday.

In addition to athletic director, Vanderbilt named Lee the school's vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs.

Lee is deeply rooted in the fabric of Vanderbilt University, as she was a four-year letter winner and captain of the women's basketball team until her graduation in 2000. Lee later went on to earn two more degrees at Vanderbilt.

Prior to being named AD, Lee served as the associate vice chancellor, deputy athletic director and senior woman administrator of the athletic department at Vandy.

Lee is taking over as athletic director at a time when the football and men's basketball teams are largely struggling. The football team went just 3-9 last season and hasn't finished with a winning record since going 9-4 in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013.

Vandy is just 27-47 with two bowl appearances in six years under head coach Derek Mason, and it may be time for Lee to make a difficult decision regarding Mason if significant progress isn't made in 2020.

The Vanderbilt men's basketball team reached the NCAA tournament in consecutive years in 2016 and 2017, but it has been all downhill since then. The Commodores are a combined 32-64 over the past three seasons, including an 11-21 mark last year.

Vanderbilt is just 9-45 in SEC play during that time, although last year's 3-15 SEC record was an improvement from going 0-18 in 2018-19.

There may be some hope on the horizon since Vandy hired highly regarded former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse as its head coach prior to last season.

Vandy is often overshadowed in the SEC by big-time schools like Alabama, LSU and Kentucky, which is the challenge that Lee will face in her new role.