Vanderbilt wanted to make a splash with its new hire, and in replacing the newly departed James Franklin with Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason, the Commodores did just that. Mason has an engaging personality, understands the college football landscape and recruits his tail off. Not to mention he already knows what it takes to win at a school with stringent academic standards; he was competing to land the same kinds of prospects Franklin was before Franklin left for Penn State.
Coaching the ‘Dores isn’t the type of fool’s errand it once was. Franklin built the program to a level where losing to Vanderbilt is no longer a blemish -- it’s something that happens to more than a few quality opponents over the course of a given season. Heck, Vandy has even won back-to-back bowl games, a feat virtually unheard of in Nashville before Franklin came along. (It's also a huge reason -- in addition to Franklin being a local boy -- that Penn State ultimately hired him.)
It’s hard to compete in the SEC. It’s even harder at a school like Vanderbilt. However, it’s Mason’s charge to not only continue the team's recent success, but also to raise the school’s profile even more. That’s a scary thought. Just writing the words “Vanderbilt, SEC East champion” seems vexing enough to create a rip in the fabric of the universe through which a tiny wormhole could emerge.
Still, when a new coach is hired, the possibilities really are endless. It’s a clean slate. Anything can be built anew. Tear down an old church, put up an Ikea. Demolish a warehouse, put up, well, another warehouse -- but a newer and cleaner version, you know, one with far less asbestos.
At his introductory press conference, Mason trumpeted the idea that Vanderbilt was “worldwide.” He outright said the school was “going global.” Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos offered to build Franklin a rocket ship when he was hired, and he mentioned that exact same rocket in Mason’s presser.
mason: ‘we’re worldwide here […] our mission is global’ oh man vanderbilt’s going to recruit budapest now isn’t it
— martin rickman (@martinrickman) January 18, 2014
Think about it: Maybe there is something to thinking outside the box at Vanderbilt. A computer analyst applied for the college football job. Things are already a little different for a school that tried to make a gosh-darned blue rose. So why not recruit in other countries? Punters and kickers are coming from Australia now. Mid-major schools have had success looking overseas for undiscovered gems in college basketball. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But that shouldn’t stop a school like Vanderbilt from trying. There are great football players just waiting to be found, even if those players haven't previously played a down of football in their lives.
Why stop there? Who knows, someday it could be possible to use that aforementioned rocket ship to find players from other planets. Comet-chasing probes are sending signals back to Earth. A house panel recently pondered the existence of life on other planets once again, leading to the conclusion by MIT scientist Sara Seager that the “chance that there’s a planet like Earth out there with life on it is very high.” The next recruiting hotbed could be anywhere. Eventually, Alabama is going to find those intergalactic five-stars. For all we know, LSU's Les Miles is finding them already. (Davon Godchaux? Leonard Fournette?) The window is closing. Don’t just go global, Vandy. Go universal. Space is the final recruiting frontier.