June 11, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As Florida State's interim athletics director, Vanessa Fuchs has a long list of goals she wants to accomplish as the 'Noles' new leader -- and one is of particular, personal interest to her.
While her first priority was to meet with the staff and coaches and remind them that FSU's athletics department "is not in a holding pattern" despite the recent change in power, she has placed great importance on the proper welcoming of a host of new student-athletes across 20 sports that will be added to the program this summer.
After all, Fuchs knows what it's like to be an excited, wide-eyed youngster joining the Seminole Family because she once was one -- and not too long ago, as a matter of fact. A former women's basketball player, Fuchs competed and served as team captain for coach Sue Semrau for four seasons until her graduation in 2001.
"I remember how special that time was when I was a student-athlete," said Fuchs (34), who was chosen as former athletic director Randy Spetman's replacement June 5 by FSU President Eric Barron. "I want to make sure that we exceed their expectations as they come in here and join Florida State athletics."
Fuchs had her own high expectations when she came to Tallahassee from her native Pompano Beach in 1997.
Born with a personal connection to the Seminoles because her father, Donald, competed as a pole vaulter at FSU before earning his degree from the school, Fuchs knew exactly where she wanted spend her college years after starring in basketball and track at Cardinal Gibbons High School.
"Playing for Sue [Semrau] for four years with the women's basketball program was one of the best experiences of my life," Fuchs said, "and I have been a member of the Seminole Family ever since."
The "ever since" part has only been 12 years but that short amount of time hasn't stopped Fuchs from creating quite the success story of an FSU graduate experiencing a rapid rise within a given profession.
After starting as a Championships Intern with the Atlantic Coast Conference upon graduation, Fuchs eventually took a position with the NCAA in Indianapolis where she specialized in the association's legislation, interpretations and governance process that eventually led to a role as the NCAA's Associate Director of Academic and Memberships Affairs (AMA).
Fuchs' work with the NCAA eventually brought her to FSU in 2010 to oversee the Seminoles' compliance department. She was later promoted to the position of Senior Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator before two years later earning the title of FSU Interim Athletics Director.
"If you would have asked me years ago which of my players could have ascended this quickly to the heights that she has, she would have been right at the top of the list," Semrau said. "I know that she will do a phenomenal job pushing this athletic department forward."
Barron obviously thought that Fuchs would be the perfect candidate to lead that charge and, somewhat ironically, told her of his intentions while she was in Indianapolis last week taking part in an NCAA rules seminar.
Having worked directly with the school's president on multiple occasions before, getting a call from Barron in the middle of day on a Wednesday wasn't out of the ordinary -- but the topic of conversation certainly was.
"I kind of paused for a second," Fuchs said, recalling her conversation with Barron in which he offered her the interim athletics director position. "In athletics we're told you've got to be prepared for anything and this was one of those moments. I immediately accepted the challenge and began working on a plan."
That strategy involves keeping an open dialogue with all coaches and staff, preparing for the new academic year and doing everything in her power -- and the department's power -- to help Barron's goal of pushing Florida State into the country's top 25 of public universities. Fuchs will also be focused on utilizing the experiences and skills of all staff members of the athletics department as the program makes this transition.
The reality of her promotion may still take a while to fully sink in but 16 years after officially becoming a new member of the Seminole Family, Fuchs is ready, excited and eager to now lead that family.
"It's been a fun week and a lot of people have asked me, '[Vanessa], are you ready for this?'" Fuchs said, smiling. "And my response has been, 'We're ready. We're Florida State."