Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason to return next season

Vanderbilt will bring back head coach Derek Mason next season, the school announced Tuesday. The guiding thought is that the new athletic administration wants to give the football program adequate support before making a determination about Mason’s future.

Mason is 26-46 in his sixth season at Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 2-8 this season, including a 1-6 mark in the SEC. The school extended Mason’s contract in February, but did not announce the length of the extension. Vanderbilt is a private university, so the terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Vanderbilt has long been regarded as the most difficult job in the SEC, an outlier private university where the athletic department’s priorities on campus haven’t always matched the rest of the football-mad league. In 116 seasons of football, Vanderbilt has just nine bowl appearances. Two of those have come under Mason, as Vanderbilt lost to Baylor in the Texas Bowl last season and to North Carolina State in the 2016 Independence Bowl. Both of those losses put Vanderbilt at 6-7 in those seasons.

Derek Mason has guided Vanderbilt to two bowl games. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
Derek Mason has guided Vanderbilt to two bowl games. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Bringing back Mason is the second major coaching decision in the young tenure of athletic director Malcolm Turner. He fired coach Bryce Drew in the wake of a winless SEC season last year, a slide that came after star freshman Darius Garland was injured during non-conference play.

Turner’s decision to keep Mason stays in line with what he’s said publicly this season. He told The Athletic that he was in the process of attempting to figure out how to best position Vanderbilt football for success. That includes fundraising and improved facilities. “Regardless of our coaching staff, regardless of where we are this season, we are concentrating on what we need to do to arm this program for success,” Turner told The Athletic in late October.

Vanderbilt closes this season with a game against East Tennessee State at home and a trip to Tennessee in Knoxville. Vanderbilt has beaten Tennessee three consecutive times.

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