Derek Mason has coached Vanderbilt to a 10-21 record over the last three years.
The victory that finally brought the third-year coach to double-digit wins was the biggest of his career. The Commodores’ 17-16 win over Georgia last Saturday was also his first road victory in the SEC since coming to Nashville in 2014.
So what did Saturday’s win mean for Mason’s program?
“It is validation. It is validation that you stick to your process,” Mason said on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference. “Your process gives you confidence and you have to make sure that you get into a routine that guess you confidence. From there, you have to be discipline. For our guys, it’s been a long road. We’ve had to go through a couple of classes, figure out exactly what Vanderbilt under Derek Mason look like. This hasn’t been an overnight process.
“It’s been a hard road for all these young men. Different coaching styles, different way of doing things. But I think what all these guys have seen is I am going to give everything I have for them. I expect the same thing. We’re all accountable together. More than anything else, we have goals. Academic goals, athletic goals. We play in the SEC and we want to win. If we want to win, we better make sure that we hold each other accountable. That’s what we are starting to see. It hasn’t come fast, it’s come slow.”
Sitting at three wins, Vanderbilt needs three more victories to become eligible for a bowl game this season.
The first step in the process starts this Saturday against Tennessee State, while the Commodores also hold contests against Auburn, Missouri, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
It will not be an easy road to postseason play, but Mason feels more comfortable than he did three years ago.
“I think I am definitely right back to center in being who I am, Mason said. “If you don’t have a strong personality and don’t know who you are, you can get lost in the shuffle. Everyone has an opinion on what you should do and how you should do it. Really, that’s why leaders and coaches in the conference have been picked to lead programs. You need to stick to what you know, make tough decisions, continue o lead young men, and make sure you surround yourself with a staff who everyday embodies who you are. I am definitely more comfortable in my own shoes and being who I am, but I also like the men around me. I like what they stand for and like what they teach.”