NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WREG) – From storming the field after beating Florida to upsetting No. 6 Tennessee at the buzzer in a sea of Memorial Magic, Vanderbilt sports has been exhilarating this year.

And, for athletic director Candice Storey Lee, those $250,000 fines are more sweet than bitter.

“We pay our bills on time here,” Lee laughed. “That’s the SEC rule and I understand it. What was most important to me, one people stayed safe, but two we had something to celebrate.”

Lee was named the AD at Vanderbilt back in May of 2020, becoming the program’s first female athletic director and the first black woman to head an SEC athletics program.

“I have to credit [former Vanderbilt AD] David Williams, who told me long ago I could be an athletic director, and I think he believed it before I did. So that’s a very long way of saying did I expect it? No, I didn’t, not for a long time.”

But being the first, however, wasn’t easy.

“My husband had me watch an interview with I think his name is Bill Duke, a black man who talked about being the first and when you shatter the ceiling you get cut. And it was very poignant for me because it is hard. It’s hard to navigate a space that hadn’t necessarily been carved out for you. I grew up knowing that you needed to be twice as prepared. I earned the opportunity to be the athletic director of Vanderbilt. It was not something that was promised to me. It was not something that was a foregone conclusion by any means.”

‘Vandy United’ is top priority for Lee. The program is aimed to raise $3 million for athletics facilities. The university has already broken ground on renovations to the football stadium and new basketball operations.

“I think we are in a position now where we understand that we can invest in athletics and not detract from the academic mission that we all believe strongly in. I believe in that. I’m a triple Dore. I’m proud of my Vanderbilt degrees. I would it would be irresponsible of me to do something that waters that down, but I believe we can have it all. Best bowling program in the country, best baseball program in the country, best men’s golf program in the country. I mean, that’s just today at this moment. Our football program — we’re so proud of the work that Clarke Lea is doing. I look at Jerry Stackhouse and Shea Ralph and I’m like Memorial Magic, let’s go!”

“You look now in the last few weeks at Memorial — I’ve been around a long time and I love Memorial, I played at Memorial, I know I know what it can feel like and to have those feelings again, that that’s been tremendous. I have to say, I’ve enjoyed it, but I’m not surprised.”