What has long been rumored is now official: Derek Mason will be the new head coach at Vanderbilt.
Mason comes to Vanderbilt from Stanford, where he served on Stanford's defensive staff for the past four seasons. He was promoted to associate head coach and defensive coordinator in 2011, helping the Cardinal win back-to-back Pac-12 championships and appear in a FBS-best four consecutive BCS bowls.
Vanderbilt athletics director David Williams is understandably copying a page from the same playbook that brought him James Franklin, tapping another hot, young coordinator for his first head coaching job. And, after a completely unprecedented 24-15 run over the past three years with three straight bowl trips, why wouldn't he?
Stanford ranked 28th, 20th and 16th nationally in total defense during Mason's three seasons at the helm, jumped from 59th to 14th to 15th in yards per play allowed, and improved from 30th to 11th to 10th in scoring defense. His physical brand of football - the Cardinal ranked in the top five nationally in rushing defense each of the past three seasons, led the nation in sacks in 2012 and 2013, and placed first and fifth in tackles for loss over the past two seasons - will play like Mozart to the ears of recruits in the South.
Speaking of recruiting, Mason, through no fault of his own, is already behind in recruiting a staff and a roster. Every head coach hopes to hit the ground running, and every new head coach steps into a new challenge, but both will be doubly true for Mason. He'll have to build his first coaching staff and construct his first recruiting class late in the game. Most of Vanderbilt's coaching staff and recruiting class filed out the door after James Franklin's departure. Mason will have to hit the ground in a dead sprint.
A Phoenix native, Mason played at Northern Arizona and got his coaching start at San Diego Mesa College in 1994. From there, he moved on to Weber State, Idaho State, Bucknell, Utah, St. Mary's, New Mexico State, Ohio and, finally, the Minnesota Vikings before joining Jim Harbaugh's staff in 2010.
Mason is the 19th FBS head coach hired this season, leaving UAB as the only vacant head coaching position in the country.
As always, we'll have more updates as they become available.