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VOL. 38 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 24, 2014

Mason gets to sell what few prior VU football hires could

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New Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason will face something that no other Commodores coach has faced in the last half century – high expectations.

For the first time in who knows how long, a new coach takes over the Vanderbilt football program after it has enjoyed unprecedented success, thanks to James Franklin’s three-year tenure.

And now, with a taste of winning, fans will expect Mason to continue that upward ascent begun by Bobby Johnson and accelerated by Franklin.

To say that there is more pressure on Mason to succeed than there was on Gerry Dinardo, Rod Dowhower, Woody Widenhofer, Johnson or even Franklin is an understatement. Four wins and the promise that things will get better down the road won’t cut it anymore.

No matter what you thought of Franklin, who certainly had a bit of snake-oil salesman in his approach, it is hard to argue with the results. With back-to-back, nine-win seasons and three consecutive bowl games, these are the glory days for Commodore football after the program languished that there were calls to get out of the SEC and go to a conference where it could be more competitive.

With Franklin moving on to Penn State, Vanderbilt athletics director David Williams had to move quickly to find the right fit to continue what has been built on West End over the past few years.

He apparently believes Mason, who comes to Nashville after being defensive coordinator at Stanford, is just the man to carry the Commodores onward and upward.

For his part, Mason says he is excited by the challenge. For the first time in many years, the Vanderbilt job is not a coaching graveyard. In fact, it was one that Mason said he had his sights on all along.

“There was only one place,” Mason said at the press conference introducing him as coach. “When this job at Vanderbilt came available, I wanted that job. ... This job means everything to me. This is where I want to be. This is where I plan on spending the rest of my career.”

Mason is saying the right things. He also seems to be seeing and selling the big picture with the Vanderbilt program.

And Mason has something to sell that perhaps no Commodore coach before him has had at his disposal – on-field success. That, combined with the university’s high academic standards, can be a strong selling point.

Asked about his goals for the program, he boldly declared: “SEC East title, here we come. Make no bones about it, if you can’t talk about it, you can’t be about it.

“We will win – make no doubts about that,” he continued. “I understand what college football is about. It is about winning.

“You hired a winner for sure.”

Now it’s up to Mason to back those words on the field.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.

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