Vanderbilt hires Stanford DC Derek Mason as head coach

Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason has helped the Cardinal reach back-to-back Rose Bowl games the past two seasons.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After losing former coach James Franklin to Penn State last week, Vanderbilt opened its coaching search looking for someone to carry on the program’s unprecedented three-year run of success. The Commodores have found their guy.

Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason is set to become Vanderbilt’s newest head coach. Mason had a second interview via Skype with the Vanderbilt brass on Friday afternoon before the two sides reached an agreement.

"I am so excited to be at Vanderbilt," Mason said in a statement released by the university. "This university combines the best of what’s good about college athletics and academics. We expect to be competitive and look forward to competing for an SEC East crown."

"Derek Mason is the leader we trust to continue the challenging but exciting work that has elevated the Vanderbilt football program to unprecedented heights," added Vanderbilt chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. "He embodies integrity, strategic thinking and a demonstrated commitment to success. He understands the important role that athletics plays in the life of a vibrant university, and that outstanding scholarly pursuits and top-notch sports are integral parts of the Vanderbilt experience. We are thrilled to welcome him to the Vanderbilt community."

The school will hold a press conference to formally introduce Mason on Saturday.

Working under head coach David Shaw in Palo Alto, Mason helped Stanford become one of the most successful programs in the country in recent years on the strength of its running game, physicality and defense. Mason, 44, will more than likely look to bring a similar style to another academic institution — this time east of the Mississippi River.

After originally being hired by Jim Harbaugh as the Cardinal’s defensive backs coach in 2010, Mason was promoted to the defensive coordinator/associate head coach position when Shaw took over the program in 2011.

Since he arrived on campus, Stanford has finished no worse than 30th nationally in scoring defense, with top-15 finishes coming the past two seasons. The Cardinal have compiled a 46-8 record with Mason on staff, including two straight Pac-12 titles.

According to CBS reporter Bruce Feldman, Mason was not the only candidate Vanderbilt pursued. Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was also involved in the search, perhaps even as the leading candidate:

"We are very pleased with our search," athletic director David Williams said. "It was evident that the football world is aware of the tremendous progress our program has made and that was reflected by the deep pool of talent that showed an interest in our position. We talked to outside experts and did our own evaluations and the person that always seemed to be in the spotlight was the same person that was at the top of our list and that was Derek Mason."

Now Vanderbilt will attempt to build Stanford East in Nashville, and it nabbed one of the most fitting (and successful) coordinators around to do it. The Phoenix native was a finalist for the 2012 Broyles Award, handed out to college football’s top assistant coach.

Mason will be the 28th coach in program history and the fifth African-American head coach in Southeastern Conference history, joining Franklin, Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State), Joker Phillips (Kentucky) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M).