Derek Mason was introduced to and welcomed by members of the Nashville Metro Council recently at a reception sponsored by 21st District Council member Edith Taylor Langster. Mason is the new head football coach at Vanderbilt University and was accompanied to the reception by his boss, Vanderbilt Vice-Chancellor David Williams II. The event was held prior to the Metro Council meeting on April 15 on the Mezzanine level of the Historic Metro Courthouse at One Public Square.
“He’s really responsible for coach Derek Mason being here,” said Langster of Williams, who has been at Vanderbilt for 14 years, overseeing athletics among his numerous duties at the university. Williams is vice chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics, general counsel and university secretary, Vanderbilt University, and professor of law.
“Derek’s been here since January,” said Williams. “We’re just really thrilled to have coach Mason as our football coach, but more importantly to have him as part of our family. I think you all will lean what I know, and what I knew within 15 minutes of interviewing him, that he fits Nashville and Nashville fits him. So thank you all for having us down here, and Go, ‘Dores!”
The man of the hour spoke very briefly and from the heart to the dozens in attendance about his feelings after his first several weeks in the city, and about being “involved in the city, how warm it is, how welcoming it is. It’s a different place. It’s a special city,” Mason said. “My family as well as I we truly believe that when it’s all said and done, we plan on being here for a long time.”
Williams hired Mason to replace a highly successful predecessor, James Franklin. Franklin had led Vanderbilt to three post-season bowl games in his tenure at Vanderbilt, including wins in the 2008 and 2012 Music City Bowls in L.P. Field, before leaving to resurrect another faded program in his home state of Pennsylvania, the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Expectations for success are high for the Commodores, as Mason and his staff and players just finished spring practice at the West End campus, ending with the traditional Spring Game last Saturday morning in Dudley Field on the campus.
Mason has spoken recently about his three core values: faith, family and football.
“Those are the values that are most important to me and they are in order of importance,” Mason said.
Mason spent the previous four seasons at Stanford, helping the Cardinal to four straight BCS bowl games, and cultivating one of the top defenses in college football. Defensive coordinator at Stanford since 2011, Mason helped take the Cardinal to Rose Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014, and consecutive Pac-12 titles with one of the nation’s top defensive units. Under Mason, the Cardinal ranked among the NCAA national Top 15 in defensive efficiency for three consecutive years. While the success on the football field was exciting to him, Mason is even more proud of what was accomplished off the field.
“More importantly, we graduated 100% of players,” he has said.
Ahead for Mason and the Commodores is a challenging 12-game schedule in the fall, including a high-profile home game against Ole Miss to be played in L.P. Field on Saturday, September 6. (TSU’s John Merritt Classic will be played at L.P. Field Labor Day Weekend on Saturday, August 30).
Vanderbilt opens with four consecutive home games, beginning with Temple on Thursday, August 28, followed by the Ole Miss game at L.P. Field, then Massachusetts on Sept. 13 and their SEC opener against South Carolina on Sept. 20. Two SEC road games follow, at Kentucky on Sept. 27 and at Georgia on Oct. 4, then Charleston Southern visits Oct. 11. After a week off, the Commodores travel to Missouri on Oct. 25, host Old Dominion on Nov.1 and host Florida on Nov. 8. After another open weekend they travel to Mississippi State on Nov. 22 before closing out the regular season by hosting the University of Tennessee Volunteers on Nov. 29.