Vanderbilt announces it has "parted ways" with head coach Derek Mason after the Commodores started the 2020 season with an 0-8 record. The school will begin its search for a new head coach immediately. Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
"On behalf of the entire Vanderbilt community, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Coach Mason for his many years of dedication and service leading our football program," athletic director Candice Storey Lee said in a statement. "Derek cares deeply about the student-athletes under his charge. His tenure at Vanderbilt will be remembered for his steadfast commitment to our student-athletes, not only on the field, but in the classroom and as young people."
Mason was 27-55 in seven seasons with the Commodores. He led the team to bowl appearances in 2016 and 2018 but never finished with more than three SEC wins or six wins overall in a season. He was the first Vanderbilt coach since the 1920's to defeat Tennessee in three consecutive meetings, but things had been trending in the wrong direction since the start of the 2019 season.
According to the Tennessean, Mason had "at least three years left on his deal" after contract extensions in 2017 and 2019. The terms and specifics regarding salary are not public because Vanderbilt is a private university.
"While this was a difficult decision, but I know this change is necessary," Lee said on Sunday. "We wish Derek and his entire family the best."
This was Mason's first head coaching job, prior to his arrival in Nashville in 2014 he was the defensive coordinator under David Shaw at Stanford. He also served as associate head coach and was a finalist for the Broyles Award, helping lead some of the defenses in the country as the Cardinal went to back-to-back Rose Bowls in 2012 and 2013. Even with Mason's struggles, he still finishes his tenure as the sixth-winningest coach in Vanderbilt history and only the second coach to take two different teams to bowl games.
"It is with gratitude that I have served as the head football coach at Vanderbilt University, a world-class institution, for the past seven years. I am blessed to have worked alongside and built relationships with some of the finest and most dedicated coaches, staff and faculty in the nation," Mason said in a statement. "It has truly been my honor to have been given the opportunity to teach, mentor, champion and coach hundreds of Vanderbilt young men and one courageous female.
"I am confident that our current student-athletes and their families are in good hands with Chancellor Diermeier and athletic director Candice Lee and will continue to rise to today's challenges with integrity and character."
Vanderbilt lost 41-0 to Missouri on Saturday in a game that made history for Sarah Fuller's appearance as the team's kicker. There is only one game left on the schedule at this time, at No. 9 Georgia on Dec. 5.