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Derek Mason well-compensated for first season at Vanderbilt

Derek Mason

The phrase "a rising tide lifts all boats" definitely applies to football coaching contracts.

In 2014, his first year as Vanderbilt's head coach, Derek Mason took home around $2.6 million in salary and benefits, according to tax documents obtained by The Tennessean. That's up nearly 45 percent from the salary James Franklin earned in his first season on the same job.

Franklin led the Commodores to a 6-7 mark in 2011, then followed with back-to-back 9-4 campaigns in 2012-13 before bouncing to Penn State. His salary rose from $1.8 million to $4.1 million during that span.

So while Mason isn't earning as much as Franklin did during his final year in Nashville, he is quite well paid for a coach in his station.

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald pulled in $2.5 million in 2013, his eighth as the Wildcats' head coach. David Cutcliffe earned a hair over $2 million at Duke in 2015, also his eighth with the program. USA Today has Stanford's David Shaw, a two-time Rose Bowl winner, pegged at $2.24 million.

The obvious caveat here is that private schools have many more avenues to flush their coaches with off-the-books cash than their public counterparts. Case in point: Notre Dame lists Brian Kelly's base salary at $1.62 million.

Baylor's Art Briles and TCU's Gary Patterson are believed to be the highest-paid private school coaches on record, with Patterson around $4 million and Briles at around $6 million.

Mason is also within range of coaches with similar resumes. D.J. Durkin, who like Mason left a Power 5 coordinator job (Michigan) for a Power 5 head coaching job (Maryland), will earn $2.82 million in 2016.