My Last Day

Today, Jan. 31, 2019, will be my last day as the athletics director here at Vanderbilt, so this will be my final writing to you as the AD.

In 2003, when I was asked to assume the role of head of athletics, much was written and talked about regarding our future and direction. We had four simple goals: academic success, solid financial outcomes, championship performances on the field, court, diamond, lanes, links and pool, and to create the very best student-athlete experience that exists in college athletics. We strived to do all of this step-by-step so we could always maintain our strong sense of integrity and respect for who we were and those we associate with. We wanted to create and maintain an athletics department that the University could be as proud of as it is of its academic reputation.  

Now as I step aside and return to teaching and community service, I am proud that we have achieved an overall department grade-point average of 3.0 or higher for the past 27 semesters. The department has operated financially in the black most years, and entered this past academic year with the largest surplus in Vanderbilt Athletics history. We have won four NCAA national championships (before 2003, we had zero), we have appeared in the NCAA final championships four times, we’ve appeared in six bowl games (before 2003, we had only played in three), and we have captured over 20 conference championships. We achieved all of this while remaining in the top 10 percent of the Power Five Conference schools in graduating our student-athletes.  

As a department, we have also upgraded or built state-of-the-art facilities, created new programs such as our student-athlete internship program, our student-athlete study abroad program, our MLK Day trip experience, our partnership with Soles4Souls, which is our annual international service trip; and we also introduced our award-winning summer bridge program.  

In addition to watching our students compete here at Vanderbilt, I have been honored to attend their graduations, watch them grow into major roles in life, attend their weddings and meet their children. I have also had the privilege to attend and see our student-athletes win the World Series, the Super Bowl, NBA championships, professional golf tournaments, major bowling titles and professional tennis matches, as well as representing the United States and other nations in international competitions. As I have always stated, our student-athletes are the “best of the best” and they prove it every day. Well, it is time to move along and do as I did when running track in high school and college — pass the baton to the next runner.  

Tomorrow, Malcolm Turner will take the baton and become the athletics director at this fine University. Malcolm is a smart, talented person who has already developed a passion for who and what we are here at Vanderbilt. I have no doubt he will lead us to new highs and accomplish and achieve great things. Malcolm has my full support and confidence. With an amazing athletics department staff, the best set of coaches in college athletics, the “best of the best” as student-athletes, and the best and most loyal fans in athletics, Malcolm will do just fine. Vanderbilt Athletics will be in good hands and will continue to set new levels of success.  

In the past month or so, many people have written, tweeted, emailed, called me or just stopped me in the store or airport to wish me well and to thank me for what I have done for Vanderbilt Athletics. While I truly appreciate and am humbled by all of those thank you notes and expressions, the thank you’s are moving in the wrong direction. The thank you must go to and should be directed at every one of you, and it must come from me. Thank you to the great student-athletes! Thank you to deputy athletics director Candice Lee and the excellent athletics staff! Thank you to the amazing coaches! Thank you to the men and women who have worked guest services! Thank you to the wonderful campus police and our community service officers! Thank you to the faculty that teach our student-athletes! Thank you to the outstanding Vanderbilt staff members who take care of not only our student-athletes but make it possible for others to do our work! Thank you to the folks in housing and admissions who have worked so closely with us! Thank you to the staff in the Hendrix Room for helping us nourish the student-athletes! Thank you to the excellent medical staff and the medical center for all of the care you provided us! Thank you to the bus drivers and airline staff that safely transported us to competitions! Thank you to the parents that entrusted their children to our care! Thank you to former Chancellor Gordon Gee for asking me to join him here at Vanderbilt, and to our present Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos for asking me to stay and for supporting us! A big thank you to my wife, Gail, and my children Erika, David, Samantha, and Nicholas, for allowing me the time to do this job and being the supporters you have been! (Remember I told you, in the beginning, we would be going to bowl games!)

But most of all, thank you to all of the fans and supporters of Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Athletics! Thank you all for giving me this opportunity and for your support. It has truly been a blast and for me a great 15 years. I only wish I had more than a simple thank you, but for the last time as your athletics director, I will just say: