Derek Mason is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the head football coach at Vanderbilt University.
Early life and playing career
Mason attended Camelback High School in Phoenix, Arizona. After graduating from high school, he attended Northern Arizona University from 1989 to 1992, where he was a four-year letterman and two-year starter at cornerback.
After his playing career ended, Mason coached college football at Mesa Community College, Weber State, Bucknell, Utah, St. Mary's, New Mexico State, and Ohio. From 2007 to 2009, he coached defensive backs for the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL under Brad Childress, who had been one of his coaches at Northern Arizona.
In 2010, Mason was hired as defensive backs coach on Jim Harbaugh's staff at Stanford. In 2011, Mason was promoted to associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator under new head coach David Shaw. In 2012, Mason became the sole defensive coordinator for the Cardinal and was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in college football. In 2013, the defensive coordinator position was endowed and named the Willie Shaw Director of Defense.
On January 17, 2014, Vanderbilt hired Mason as its new head football coach, succeeding James Franklin. With the hire, Vanderbilt is the first and only school in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) to have multiple minority head football coaches in its history. After back–to–back home losses, Mason won his first game as head coach against UMass by a score of 34-31. Vanderbilt had been outscored 10-78 in the two games prior to the win. The Commodores struggled offensively for much of the season. Vanderbilt did not score an offensive TD for nine quarters and was the last D1 team to reach the end zone on offense.
After a disappointing first season in Nashville, Mason fired both his offensive and defensive coordinators. He hired Andy Ludwig, formerly the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, to run the offense. Mason decided to call the defensive plays himself.
His second season saw moderate growth for Vanderbilt, culminating in a 4-8 record with numerous firsts for the young head coach. Mason earned his first win against an SEC opponent (against Missouri) and his first win while on the road (at Middle Tennessee State University). The team was lauded for a nationally respected defensive scheme, but the Commodores were unable to perform equally well with their offensive or special team capabilities.
Coach Mason continued his role as Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator in his third season at Vanderbilt, leading the Commodores to a 6-6 (3-5 SEC) record in 2016, earning bowl eligibility for the first time as a head coach. Mason won his first SEC road game on October 15 at Georgia, by the final score of 17-16. The Commodores nearly picked up another road win against a ranked conference opponent on November 5 at Auburn, losing 23-16 after throwing a late interception at the opponents' 30 yard line in the final minute. After a disappointing loss to Missouri the next week, the Commodores needed to beat both Ole Miss and Tennessee at home in the team's final two games of the season to assure themselves of bowl eligibility, though they would have still reached a bowl with a 5-7 record based on a high Academic Performance Rating (APR), which determines the bowl eligibility of five win teams for open bowl slots. APR became a non-factor as the Commodores upset both Ole Miss and Tennessee at home in back-to-back games to end the regular season with a 6-6 record on the strength of 3 conference wins. Vandy scored a combined 83 points in the two wins as the offense came alive late in the season. Coach Mason's dancing on the sideline and postgame celebration after defeating Tennessee were widely shared on Twitter and ESPN.
Under Mason, redshirt junior linebacker Zach Cunningham became a national finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's best collegiate linebacker.
Mason and his wife, Leighanne, have two daughters.
Head coaching record
|Vanderbilt Commodores (Southeastern Conference) (2014–present)|
|2016||Vanderbilt||6–7||3–5||T–5th (Eastern)||L Independence|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|