Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton turned down the Vanderbilt coaching job, and Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason now appears to be the new main target.
Vanderbilt had a private plane set to get Hamilton this morning, but he passed to remain with the Colts, according to a report from CBS Sports.
Mason, who reportedly interviewed at Vandy on Thursday, now is the front-runner to replace James Franklin, who left last week to become coach at Penn State. Nationalfootballpost.com reported Friday morning that Mason is the top choice, and footballscoop.com tweeted that Mason's hiring "should be soon."
Franklin certainly elevated the job. Had coordinators at Clemson and Stanford been mentioned as potential Vandy coaching candidates even five years ago, most observers would have scoffed and said Vandy was aiming too high. But Franklin has shown that Vandy can win games in the SEC and get to bowls. Granted, SEC East foes Tennessee, Florida and Georgia have struggled at times in the past two seasons, but in the past, even struggling Vols, Bulldogs and Gators teams would've cruised past Vandy.
Mason's background in recruiting at Stanford, which like Vandy has tougher academic standards than most of its conference brethren, likely appeals to Vandy decision-makers.
Mason, 43, has been at Stanford since 2010, as either secondary coach, coordinator or both. Before that, he spent three seasons as the secondary coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He also has experience coaching at Utah, Ohio University and New Mexico State, among other stops.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.