Who should replace David Williams as athletic director?


David Williams holds up the VU hand sign during Vanderbilt’s bowl announcement celebration on 12-2-12 in the SLC.

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

Vanderbilt University is on the clock.

David Williams will end his 15-year tenure as athletic director no later than June 30, 2019 and the school will need to name a replacement for him by that time. As Williams indicated in his press conference on Tuesday, Vanderbilt will be looking at candidates both inside and outside the university.

With that, here is a look at some of the candidates who could replace Williams.

Candice Storey Lee

If Vanderbilt decides to hire internally, Lee is the likely choice.  A former student-athlete for the women’s basketball team herself, Lee now serves as the deputy athletic director and is also one of the university’s vice chancellors.  Given her experience within the athletic department, both as a student-athlete and as an administrator, she would figure to pick up right where Williams left off.  If it were solely up to him, Lee might have the job already.

“Candice is an example of the true meaning of the gift and goal of college athletics,” Williams said last year in a press release from Vanderbilt’s athletic department.  “She is a role model for students as well as student-athletes, and her contributions have made Vanderbilt athletics and college athletics better in so many ways.”

Williams doesn’t seem to be the only one who thinks so.  This past July, Lee was one of 11 administrators honored as “Next Up” at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.  The honor is given to senior athletics administrators believed to be ready to take the next step in their careers.  For Lee, that next step might come sooner than anyone could have anticipated.

Tim Corbin

It’s hard to imagine a job in which Tim Corbin wouldn’t excel.  It’s very possible that the man often referred to as “Corbs” would be an excellent fit to run the university’s athletic department, and his tenure as head coach of Vanderbilt’s baseball team indicates a pattern of success.

Since taking over the program in 2003, Corbin has had just one losing season, has missed regionals just twice, has led the Commodores to three College World Series berths, and has won the university’s first ever collegiate baseball title.  More important than those totals, however, is that Corbin’s team is a microcosm of what Vanderbilt athletics should be.

This is a program that constantly recruits the best players in the country, drawing on both the athletic and academic merits of the university.  It’s a program with a state of the art facility that has a tangible effect on the team’s success.  And in an era where the Vanderbilt contingent everywhere is calling for renovations and a boost to athletic infrastructure, Corbin is the perfect poster boy.

There are two major drawbacks, however, to this potential hire.  The first is inexperience, and passing up an athletic administrator like Lee for a coach is a tough call to make.  The second, and way more important drawback, is the obvious.  Hiring Corbin to run the athletic department means taking him away from coaching baseball, and he might be the best in the country at doing just that.  Vanderbilt baseball is everything that’s right about college athletics, and nobody wants to see that team take a step back without its leader in the dugout .

Someone Else Outside Vanderbilt

While Vanderbilt has an extensive list of qualified candidates within the university, they have a laundry list of outside candidates that will be interested in the job. The school has passed the first test by launching a hiring process in the first place instead of immediately naming a successor.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken reported that there should be plenty of interest around the country.

An internal candidate could absolutely build on the legacy that Williams left and take Vanderbilt Athletics in a new direction, but an outside hire has a much better chance of coming into the department and moving it forward and upward. If there are highly-qualified candidates from top Power Five universities that are interested in Vanderbilt, you have to take a look and give them a shot.

Purely from an optics standpoint, hiring internally without at least a considerable amount of due process would be disastrous. Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos not-so-graciously avoided questions about athletics fundraising after reports surfaced that his administration undercut fundraising for football stadium renovations. Hiring someone internally connotes a lack of a desire for improvement and change.

Vanderbilt Athletics doesn’t need a complete overhaul, but hiring someone from the outside would be the best opportunity to bring in fresh perspectives and take Vanderbilt to the next level. As it turns out, Vanderbilt might not have to look too far outside its network for a new perspective, according to CBS’ Dennis Dodd.

Gragg oversaw Tulsa’s move from Conference-USA to the American Athletic Conference and the Golden Hurricane’s athletic programs have succeeded under his watch. There will be many other names that emerge over the coming months, but no matter who it is, external candidates deserve a fair shake in this process.