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January 17, 2014

Vanderbilt finds its man

VandySports.com has learned that Vanderbilt has hired Stanford director of defense Derek Mason as its next head football coach.

The 44-year old Phoenix native interviewed with the Commodore search committee on Thursday and will be the next head coach, per trusted university sources.

Vanderbilt officially announced the decision at 5:30 p.m. The university will formally introduce Mason to the Commodore community and media at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Mason has been considered one of the top rising coaching candidates this off-season after leading the Cardinal to a Pac 12 championship and trip to the Rose Bowl.

A four-year assistant in Palo Alto, Mason coached defensive backs in 2010 before being promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2011 and director of defense in 2012.

He was a Frank Broyles Award finalist in 2012 after his defense topped the national rankings in sacks (57) and in tackles for loss (124). The defense also ranked fifth against the run, 25th in pass efficiency and 11th in scoring defense as the Cardinal finished 12-2 on the season and captured the Pac 12 championship and won the 99th Rose Bowl.

This fall, Mason's defensive unit ranked third against the run, 16th in total defense and 10th in scoring defense. The Cardinal also ranked fifth in sacks (44) and third in tackles for loss (109) as the Cardinal went 11-3.

"I am so excited to be at Vanderbilt," Mason said in a press release by the school this evening. "This university combines the best of what's good about college athletics and academics. We expect to be competitive and look forward to competing for an SEC East crown."

Prior to his time in California, Mason served as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2007 to 2009. The Vikings won a pair of NFC North Division championships during his time there and appeared in the NFC Championship game in 2009.

A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Mason also served internships with the St. Louis Rams, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders through the Minority Fellowship program.

Mason coached receivers under Frank Solich at Ohio University in 2005 and 2006, helping the Bobcats to a 9-5 mark and trip the Mid-American Conference title game his last season in Athens.

He coached receivers at New Mexico State in 2004, helping the Aggies lead the WAC in passing his one year on campus.

Mason served as the assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator at St. Mary's in 2003 after serving a year as the receivers coach and special teams coordinator for the University of Utah in 2002.

"We are very pleased with our search. It was evident that the football world is aware of the tremendous progress our program has made and that was reflected by the deep pool of talent that showed an interest in our position," Vanderbilt athletics director David Williams said in the press release. "We talked to outside experts and did our own evaluations and the person that always seemed to be in the spotlight was the same person that was at the top of our list and that was Derek Mason.

"We are so excited to be introducing him as our head football coach because we are confident he can build upon our successes on and off the field and that he will take us to the next level. Derek will be an asset to our university," Williams added.

Mason began his coaching career mentoring receivers at San Diego's Mesa College in 1994 before moving on with a two-year stint at Weber State as the Wildcats receivers coach in 1995 and 1996.

His other stops included a two-year run as running backs coach at Idaho State in 1997 and 1998, and as a defensive backs coach at Bucknell in 1999 through 2001.

Mason attended Camelback High School. Derek and his wife, Leighanne, have two daughters, Makenzie (14) and Sydney (13).

Mason is the 28th head football coach at Vanderbilt University during the program's 124 years of existence.

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