Ahead of Georgia game, Vanderbilt fires coach Derek Mason

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt on Sunday fired coach Derek Mason after losing the first eight games of his seventh season. Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch will serve as the interim coach.

“While this was a difficult decision, but I know this change is necessary,” athletic director Candice Lee said in a statement. “We wish Derek and his entire family the best.”

Mason was hired in 2014 as Vanderbilt’s 28th coach, replacing James Franklin when he left for Penn State. Mason came to Vanderbilt after being associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Stanford. He became the first Vanderbilt coach since the 1920s to beat in-state rival Tennessee three straight seasons.

But with the Southeastern Conference playing only league games this season, Vanderbilt is 0-8 and on the verge of the first winless season in school history after a 41-0 loss to Missouri. The Commodores face the Georgia Bulldogs next in Athens (4 p.m, SEC Network).

“I take full responsibility,” Mason said following the loss to Missouri, Vanderbilt’s fifth by double digits this season.

Mason hired Fitch and a new defensive coordinator after last season. Then he had at least seven players opt out, with eight others transferring this year. Linebacker Dmitri Moore opted out, then changed his mind before deciding to transfer after playing in a loss to then-No. 6 Florida.

Vanderbilt became the first SEC school to have a game postponed due to not having at least 53 scholarship players available; that happened before a road trip to Missouri scheduled for October. The Commodores also played two other games with the number of scholarship players in the 50s.

The most notable thing to happen this season for Vanderbilt came Saturday, when soccer goalkeeper Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power Five conference football game.

Mason leaves as the sixth-winningest coach in program history at 27-55.

Vanderbilt said the search for a new head coach will begin immediately.