Here’s the sort of exchange you get when Derek Mason talks to the media about spring ball.
REPORTER (who’s not on screen but is obviously Adam Sparks): That’s obviously not what the other SEC schools are doing...
This is the sort of thing that makes me appreciate Derek Mason. Derek Mason doesn’t care that the other thirteen schools in the SEC are having a televised spring game. Derek Mason is sticking to his guns, insisting that the decision to have a “spring showcase” instead of a “spring game” was his alone.
His reasoning makes sense. The NCAA limits teams to 15 practices in the spring, and by God, Derek Mason is going to have 15 practices in the spring. According to Mason, when you have a spring game, you lose two practices: one to the spring game itself, and another to the walk-through the day before. And with practice time limited to four hours, he’d rather not waste time dicking around while the SEC Network shows you the alma mater commercial (KILL IT WITH FIRE) or doing showy stuff like having all the walk-on kickers on the roster have a contest to see who can kick a football the farthest.
We speculated earlier this week that there might have been a scheduling issue, and while that really didn’t come up (Mason: “I haven’t talked to the SEC), Mason said that he wants to have spring practice earlier in the spring. Spring ball starts on February 27 and ends on March 25, and Mason’s reasoning is sound here as well: by holding practice earlier in the spring, if anybody gets hurt, they’ve got an extra few weeks to heal up before the season starts. The difference between ending spring ball on March 25 and ending it on April 22 is the difference between a guy being back at the start of fall practice and being questionable for the season opener. That’s pretty important.
The TL;DR version of all this is that Derek Mason is going to run his football program the way he thinks it should be run and he really doesn’t care if that makes Vanderbilt the only SEC school that’s not holding a televised, glorified scrimmage slash fun day for the fans. Because, well, this is really about the team and not the fans.
Another side note: Mason says that we’ll have 75 players in spring ball. Two of those, obviously, are early enrollees Tae Daley and Dimitri Moore, but by my count Vanderbilt had 101 players on last year’s roster and 14 seniors. Do the math: Vanderbilt has 14 players who have either left the program or otherwise won’t participate in spring ball. Obviously we know three of those (Zach Cunningham, Nigel Bowden, and DeAndre Woods), but let the speculation begin on who else is gone.