The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Press Conference Notes: Candice Lee speaks on Vandy United

Vanderbilt athletics announced additional details on the much-anticipated Vandy United campaign on Tuesday and athletic director Candice Storey Lee met with the media to discuss the announcement.
Tight+end+Ben+Bresnahan+dives+to+make+a+catch+in+Vanderbilts+second+scrimmage+of+the+spring.+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29.
Tight end Ben Bresnahan dives to make a catch in Vanderbilt’s second scrimmage of the spring. (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Following Vanderbilt football’s 14th fall practice of the year and just hours after announcing further details regarding the Vandy United campaign, athletic director Candice Storey Lee and head football coach Clark Lea met with the media on Tuesday.

Both offered optimism and excitement surrounding the future of Vanderbilt athletics as students have arrived back to campus and fall sports are slowly getting underway.

Candice Lee

On Tuesday morning, Vanderbilt announced further details regarding the $300 million Vandy United campaign that is designed to enhance both the student-athlete and athletics’ stakeholder experience. After football practice concluded, Lee gave her thoughts on yet another monumental step in her efforts to transform Vanderbilt athletics.

“What you see today is what I hope feels like a significant investment in our fans,” Lee said. “We said in March—and it’s being detailed further now—that we need our fans to feel that the experience is elevated and that we are also pouring [support] into them.”

The announcement provided an aerial view of where the facilities are expected to be located along with further details on each upgrade and two additional target areas for the fund. Lee explained that this was the second in—likely—a series of announcements as the university continues finalizing new details for the large scale project.

“We aren’t going to wait until we have every single ‘T’ crossed and ‘I’ dotted to share information because it is important for people to come along this journey with us,” Lee said. “We are going to share what we are firm about.”

The aerial view showed that the new basketball operations center will likely be housed in the north end zone while a revamped south end zone will yield a number of fan experience amenities. Lee explained to the media that McGugin Center will also likely be adding a third floor and that upgrades to the Currey Tennis Center and the track and field complex are forthcoming as well.

“We are in a pretty tight footprint and it is incumbent on us to make sure we are maximizing every piece of the space. Anytime we can give ourselves the room to be innovative, we are going to do that,” Lee explained.

In addition to working closely with architectural firm Populous on renderings, a central part of the Vandy United campaign has been fundraising. The school announced in March that $200 million of the target $300 million had already been raised. But without getting into specifics, Lee explained that the fundraising of the final $100 million is under way. 

“Donors have been fantastic,” Lee said. “I’m not ready to share an exact number, but it is going really, really well.”

With ground set to break after the 2021 football season, Lee is eager to complete construction as soon as possible. But in the meantime, outside of the Vandy United plan there are several minor upgrades happening on West End. Lee noted a new refueling and nutrition station in McGugin Center and new locker rooms in Memorial Gymnasium.

“We are also consistently improving things [outside of Vandy United],” Lee said. “All of the work we are doing and all of the contributions are not Vandy United level, but they are extremely important and part of the ground we are making up.”

Clark Lea

Before Lee briefed the media, head football coach Clark Lea offered updates on his team’s progress with less than two weeks until opening kickoff. With his squad continuing to push through the heat of fall camp, the first-year head coach reflected on his team’s progress.

But first, he provided a few words on the importance of the Vandy United campaign and how it will continue propelling his vision for Vanderbilt football.

“This facility can really reshape football on this campus and there are other sports that will benefit as well,” Lea said. “It’s been exciting for me. With every update or upgrade, I get more excited about what the potential is here and how it is really meant to position our football program in a place where we can be competitive in our league for a long time.”

With less than two weeks until his head coaching debut, Lea noted that opponent scouting has begun and that he is nearing a decision for his starting quarterback, but will continue evaluating both Ken Seals and Mike Wright for the time being.

“I feel like we are getting close. I feel like the scrimmage helped us move along in that process,” Lea said. “I want to focus on the chemistry of the group. We aren’t ready to make that announcement yet.”

Another focus for the Commodores over the next few weeks will be maintaining health. Despite the growing number of COVID-19 cases across the country, Lea is optimistic about his team’s vaccination status.

“We are in a really good place with our vaccination rate,” Lea said. “The last I checked, we were north of 95 percent. With the variants and new cases, we understand that it doesn’t fully protect us; it still takes discipline and accountability but we are in a good place right now.”

The Commodores will continue to practice ahead of their season opener on Sept. 4 against ETSU.

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About the Contributor
Justin Hershey, Former Sports Editor
Justin Hershey ('22) was Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Deputy Sports Editor and Lead Sports Analyst. He majored in human and organizational development with minors in business and economics. In addition to writing, he hosts The Hustler Sports 30 Podcast, enjoys playing golf and is waiting for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers to complete The Process. For tips and comments, feel free to reach out to: [email protected]    
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