Vanderbilt Fans, we need to talk about Derek Mason and SEC Football. About three years ago, I wrote an article titled What Has Derek Mason done for The Vanderbilt Commodores? There were a handful of fans that were clamoring for Mason’s job after two and a half years. Today, I am here to defend Mason and this program. I do not believe the average football fans have any clue what Mason and his staff are up against when it comes to winning games in the SEC.
Vanderbilt is a prestigious academic institution that has neglected its football program for the last 30-40 years, if not longer. Do you honestly think that neglect can be rectified in five or six years? The answer is a big fat NO. The Vanderbilt football program is DECADES behind every other team in the SEC, with their (lack of) football facilities and their non-existent stadium renovations, just to name a few. However, let us have a civilized conversation with an open mind and see if we can understand what Vanderbilt is up against in the SEC.
We Need To Talk
Derek Mason has worked tirelessly to build a football program and to lay a solid foundation that can, and someday, will be a competitive football team. No one really knows what happens behind the scenes of a major college program: meetings, practice, injuries, etc. It is a constant struggle to put a healthy team on the field, yet every keyboard cowboy has an opinion that they feel the need to share at the drop of a hat.
Do you think you are frustrated? How do you think Mason, his staff, and his players feel? Do you think they enjoy the games when they don’t execute plays perfectly? How about turnovers that result in points for the other team? Those are gut-wrenching to watch. Now, imagine being the player who threw the interception, dropped the ball, missed the block, or got flagged for a senseless penalty. Put yourself in their shoes; could you do a better job? Could you call a better play? Would you drop the ball while getting hit as your entire body is extended and vulnerable to bone-crushing tackles? Seriously, think about how you would feel if you were the one running off the field as “your fans” heckle and booed you? Keep it classy Commodore Nation, booing isn’t a good look for any fan base. EVER.
PLEASE, Stop With The ‘We Want Franklin Back’
I know some of you will bring up James Franklin… Stop it! Franklin is beyond shady and you know it. The bottom line is Franklin somehow got players into Vandy that normally would not have been admitted. Those players are easily admitted at every other SEC school and are wooed by the superfluous stuff the other schools have to offer.
Vandy has the highest academic standards of any educational institution. I am not saying smart kids cannot play football because we know they can, but not all smart kids are outstanding athletes. Side note, yes, Stanford has been successful over the last decade, however, they are NOT competing in the SEC. Since Franklin’s “players” ran amuck off the field, the reins on Mason and his staff have been exponentially tighter. Do I even need to mention that when Franklin was winning, YOU did not show up to games consistently? We can just stop there.
Tweaks and Tune-Ups
Mason has made staff changes where he can. However, what does Vandy really have to offer an assistant football coach? The fans do not show up. The coaches get roasted for every play call that isn’t executed properly. On top of it all, they are expected to recruit game-changing athletes with very few bells and whistles to woo an extremely materialistic generation of football players. Why would anyone want to come coach here? Yes, Nashville is an outstanding city, yet as I stated above, Vanderbilt is decades behind the rest of the SEC with their commitment to football.
The new athletic director, Malcolm Turner has already promised to update the stadium which hasn’t happened since the early ’80s. Every other school in the SEC has updated its stadium in some form or fashion over the last 8-10 years. But for Vandy, it has been 30+ years. Yes, they have built a multi-million dollar indoor practice facility in the last 10 years, upgraded their football weight room, revamped the athletic training area, as well as added some cosmetic touches to the halls of the football offices and player areas. Nonetheless, all of these updates are very small band-aids on large gaping wounds.
Bigger Than The Game
Everyone loves the feel-good stories that we read about these Vanderbilt Men as they continue to serve the people and the community around them. Time after time, their stories show you and the world what great men they are. If off-field achievements could be converted to on-field triumphs, Vandy would win the SEC every single year. Unfortunately, the off-field achievements do not get recorded in the box scores and are immediately forgotten when the game doesn’t go the way the fans expect it to.
These student-athletes achieve more with their service to their fellow man and community than any other school in the SEC. Good deeds are not the exciting stuff that National Championships are made of but they contribute to a better world. These Vanderbilt Men are making an impact on the world above and beyond football. And the good deeds of these Vanderbilt Men will last longer than any shiny trophy.
College football is a business. And it is a brutal business. Coaches no longer have the luxury of building a program, which is a shame. Derek Mason is motivational; he is influencing athletes to become more. Mason is coaching future community leaders. He is educating men to become great citizens who will change the world. Mason is building a great program and he is doing it the right way. Quality takes time. Commodore Nation, you need to calm down and pay attention to what Derek Mason has accomplished.
Although I wrote the above paragraph in 2016, I still wholeheartedly believe it and stand by every word of it. Vanderbilt now has Turner as their athletic director, and he is not afraid to spend money to help programs grow and achieve more. Combine that with the foundation Mason has already laid and it is a formula for success.
P.S. I know, in the grand scheme of things, most fans don’t typically care about the behind-the-scene obstacles, you just want your team to win. No excuses. This team has some great things going however, they need more confidence in themselves to get the job done. And YOUR support as fans goes a long way in boosting that confidence.