OPINION

Strong academics paired with SEC athletics is a blueprint for greatness at Vanderbilt | Opinion

Our student-athletes and our coaches chose Vanderbilt because they see vast potential and, importantly, the exciting new direction our athletics programs are headed.

Daniel Diermeier and Candice S. Lee
Guest Columnists
  • Daniel Diermeier is chancellor of Vanderbilt University. Candice S. Lee is athletics director for Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt has always stood out in SEC athletics. We’re the only private university in the conference, the only one in a major metropolitan area, the only top 20 university—and by far the smallest.

Many doubters have long viewed our university’s size and rigorous academic requirements as a disadvantage when competing against other athletics programs, nationally and within our conference. But as programs like the VandyBoys consistently prove, they are wrong.

We embrace our differences, and we know that when Vanderbilt’s unique qualities are combined with Nashville’s cultural vibrancy and enthusiastic fan base, they create opportunities like no other.

Coach Corbin recruits student-athletes who excel in class and on the field

Vanderbilt basketball coach and former NBA player Jerry Stackhouse, left, greets Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin after Stackhouse sang the national anthem before an NCAA college baseball super regional game between Vanderbilt and East Carolina, Friday, June 11, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Tim Corbin recognized — earlier than most — the power of combining a Vanderbilt degree, top-level SEC athletics and a destination city like Nashville. For nearly 20 years, he has leveraged our unique strengths to develop a baseball program that is second to none.

And Saturday he showed once again what Vanderbilt can accomplish as the baseball team again clinched a spot in the College World Series. They are heading to Omaha this week to defend their championship title.

Each year, talented baseball recruits postpone the rewards of a professional career to invest their time honing their skills under Coach Corbin’s leadership at Hawkins Field while pursuing an education that will last them a lifetime. And nearly every offseason, the team’s alumni — people like MLB stars Dansby Swanson, Walker Buehler and David Price — return to Nashville and to campus to train and connect with current student-athletes and the coaching staff.

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For his part, Corbin looks for student-athletes who are eager to develop physically, intellectually and emotionally—on and off the field. He knows that building and maintaining a program of strong, thoughtful individuals is key to creating championship teams. It also aligns perfectly with Vanderbilt’s mission to enable every member of our university community to reach the heights of their vast talent and potential.

Pairing SEC experience with rigorous academics is a recipe for greatness

At Vanderbilt, academics and athletics don’t stand in opposition to each other; they go hand in hand.

And they do so at a place where words like “united” truly mean something. As we finished our baseball regular season and hosted postseason games, Vanderbilt football student-athletes were on hand to lead the crowd in cheering on the VandyBoys.

Men’s basketball head coach Jerry Stackhouse sang the national anthem at Friday’s game. This kind of synergy doesn’t happen many places, and it happens here because we actively build and nurture connections across our community—academically and athletically.

As Coach Corbin regularly tells recruits, pairing a top college education with an SEC athletic experience isn’t merely possible. It is a blueprint for greatness.

The VandyBoys are not alone. For all the challenges of this past year, Vanderbilt student-athletes have shined. They’ve been celebrated for their community and academic accomplishments, competed in NCAA Championships, won SEC titles and been drafted by professional teams.

On the soccer field, Sarah Fuller helped Vanderbilt win the SEC championship. Just a few days later, she inspired people far beyond Commodore Nation by making history on the football field.

Meanwhile, Clark Lea returned home as head football coach, and Shea Ralph, coming from one of the most successful programs in all of college sports, seized the opportunity to lead the women’s basketball program.

Vanderbilt place kicker Sarah Fuller (32) warms up on the sideline during the third quarter at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.

$300 million Vandy United fund is a stake in the ground

Our student-athletes and our coaches chose Vanderbilt because they see vast potential and, importantly, the exciting new direction our athletics programs are headed. They also chose Vanderbilt because they saw a chance to live, work and compete in a city that — like Vanderbilt — has seen tremendous momentum in recent years and continues to see a growing and enthusiastic community of supporters.

Chancellor Daniel Diermeier

We are doubling down on those strengths.

To demonstrate our commitment to harnessing Vanderbilt’s potential, we announced in March a $300 million athletics investment campaign called Vandy United. Initially, the funds will be used for major facilities and operational upgrades. But we truly see it as our stake in the ground. It marks the beginning of a new era and is proof of our commitment to elevate the best student-athlete experience in college athletics and take our fan experience to the next level.

Athletics Director Candice Lee

Vanderbilt is different. But our distinction pushes us to be better than we were yesterday. It challenges us to take chances and seize opportunities. It inspires us to work harder and to work together.

People like Coach Corbin and the VandyBoys — and the scientists and researchers helping eradicate COVID-19 — embody a championship mindset that inspires everyone in the Vanderbilt community.

We embrace that identity in everything we do, whether the venue is a stadium or a gymnasium, a laboratory or a lecture hall. And Commodore Nation will be there every step of the way for our VandyBoys in the College World Series.

Daniel Diermeier is chancellor of Vanderbilt University. Candice S. Lee is athletics director for Vanderbilt.