South Carolina was the first SEC program to fire a coach this year, axing Will Muschamp after the Gamecocks’ loss to Ole Miss. It is unclear if we’ll get another this year, but it is impossible not to point to Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason as the next person up.
It should be noted that Vanderbilt it one of the most difficult jobs in all of Power Five football. Between the realities of being in the SEC, and Vandy’s academic restrictions, the level of success that James Franklin was able to reach there was remarkable. Mason hasn’t been able to carry that torch since taking over in 2014.
He is just 27-53 in six-plus years with the Commodores, with an SEC record of just 10-44. Things are bottoming out this year, with the team at 0-6. The team still has four games left, including those against SEC East powers Florida and Georgia. They’ll be solid underdogs in every remaining game.
Ahead of Saturday’s game against the Gators, Mason was asked directly if he’s had discussions with the higher-ups at Vandy about his job security during a Zoom call with the media. He says that he has not, and praised the support he’s received from athletic director Candice Storey Lee and other administrators there.
Here are Derek Mason's full comments from today as Vanderbilt prepares to host No. 6 Florida. Including:
-Update on Keyon Henry-Brooks' status
-How VU will use Ja'Veon Marlow
-If he has discussed his future with admin
-Whether the SEC will get thru 2020https://t.co/y8pMdaF1nj pic.twitter.com/X4UkSyPtBb
— Robbie Weinstein (@rwweinstein) November 17, 2020
As you’d guess from a coach, Derek Mason says full attention is on Florida. Via 247Sports:
“No. I haven’t had any conversations with anybody. They know where I’m at, and I think at the end of the day, I’ve got a great relationship with Dr. Lee. She’s been at most of our games this year. (Deputy AD) Tommy (McClelland) has traveled with us and got a chance to pull back the curtain a little bit and see what this year has had in store for us a little bit. I talked with Chancellor (Daniel) Diermeier at the beginning of the season, and obviously through COVID continued to get updates on where we are. But right now I think they’re letting me do my job, and they understand week to week we’re gonna put the best product out there that we can. I feel comfortable about how I continue to lead this team. That’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna go week to week preparing. This week is Florida. Like I said, I haven’t had any other conversations other than our numbers and are we healthy and can we play this week.”
The Commodores have been competitive in some games this year, notably losing by just five to Texas A&M, a team that is now on the outside looking in of the College Football Playoff conversation. The last two games, losses to Mississippi State and Kentucky, have been one-score games. Between those, Vanderbilt football lost to LSU, South Carolina, and Ole Miss by 34, 34, and 33 points respectively.
The national circumstances may lead Vanderbilt football to hang on to Derek Mason for another year, but in normal circumstances, it is hard to see him holding onto his job. We’ll see what the school decides.