Now that Gordon Gee has announced he will leave Vanderbilt to take over as president at Ohio State, the big question to answer from a sports point of view will be whether his successor takes a different approach to managing athletics. The changes Gee brought to Vanderbilt were radical (such as eliminating the position of athletic director), and his active support of sports was a departure from predecessor Joe Wyatt. He understood that successful athletics could greatly impact all aspects of university life.
It is undeniable that athletics greatly improved in Gee's tenure. Though yet to post its first winning record since 1982, the football program is more competitive than before he came. The men's basketball team made the NCAA Sweet 16 this year, and the women's team won the SEC tournament. Also, other sports like tennis, golf, and bowling thrived. And, of course, the baseball team was ranked number one nationally for much of the most recent season.
However, what will the future hold? I predicted last month (see June 12 entry) that the football team will return to a bowl this season for the first time since '82, and Gee's departure does not impact my decision. Coach Bobby Johnson is first rate and has done a good job rebuilding the program. The football team will get over the hump.
Unfortunately, when a new administration takes over, they tend to only look at wins and losses when evaluating personnel. Hopefully, they will not make that amateurish mistake when taking a look at Johnson. He is the man for the job there.
After years of suffering, Vanderbilt fans have slowly begun regaining their self-esteem when it comes to sports. Athletics, as a whole, have been gaining momentum. Let's hope the new folks don't mess up that momentum.