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Middle Tennessee targeting former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason after one-year sabbatical from coaching

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USATSI

Middle Tennessee is expected to hire former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason to replace longtime coach Rick Stockstill, 247Sports reports. Mason led the Commodores from 2014-20 and was the defensive coordinator for Auburn and Oklahoma State before serving as a TV analyst this season.

He will be charged with breathing new life into the Blue Raiders, who made 10 bowl games in 18 seasons under Stockstill but reached 10 wins only once back in 2009. MTSU finished 4-8 (3-5 Conference USA) this season. Athletic director Chris Massaro referred to parting with Stockstill as “one of the most difficult days in my tenure, but one I feel is necessary in our aspiration to compete and win championships.”

Mason announced a coaching sabbatical in January following his lone season as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, saying, “I look forward to spending time with my family to rest and reflect on opportunities within the game I love.” He subsequently spent the 2023 season as a color analyst on ESPN broadcasts.

The 54-year-old Mason is familiar with the local landscape at Middle Tennessee since it’s just 38 miles from the Vanderbilt campus. Though Mason’s recent experience is at the Power Five level and in the NFL, he has some Group of Five experience from his days as an assistant for Ohio and New Mexico State, among others.

Though his time at Vanderbilt ended with a 27-55 record, Mason led the Commodores to bowl appearances in 2016 and 2018. While that fell short of the standard set by predecessor James Franklin, it marked a good tenure by the standard of almost any other coach in program history. Mason’s replacement at Vanderbilt, Clark Lea, is 9-27 through three seasons.

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