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Derek Mason’s job should not come down to Saturday

Okay, fine. Let’s have the discussion we need to have.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start this discussion with some important facts.

Derek Mason is in his fifth year as the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores. In those five years, his record is 23 wins and 37 losses. His record in SEC games is 8 wins and 31 losses.

Over the past three years, his record is 16 wins and 20 losses. His record in SEC games, over the last three years, is 6 wins and 17 losses.

His record this year is 5-6, with a 2-5 SEC record.

Got all that? Okay. On what planet is 24-37, 9-31 in the SEC, acceptable, but 23-38, 8-32 in the SEC is not? Or 17-20 in the last three years, 7-17 in the SEC, is acceptable, but 16-21/6-18 is not? We’ll skate right past the fact that 6-6 means a bowl game and 5-7 means the season is over; otherwise, why is 6-6 acceptable and 5-7 is not? If Saturday were the difference between any other two records, would you even make the argument?

This isn’t an argument in favor or against retaining him. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m agnostic on the subject, if only because both the arguments for and against Mason are somewhat convincing. The overall record and the SEC record aren’t good, but they’re better than basically any Vanderbilt coach of the last 50 years not named James Franklin. Of course, I can also understand why you’d want to be better than that.

I can understand why you’d believe that the main problem with the program is above Mason’s head, and Mason is doing fine under the circumstances. I can also understand why you’d believe that his performance has been deficient.

Vanderbilt has been favored to win in five games this season and has won all five. They’ve also lost all six in which they’ve been an underdog. Is that a point in his favor or against? What about the fact that Bill Connelly’s postgame win expectancies show that Vanderbilt “should” have won 5.8 games this year? That they probably should have gone 2-2 against the foursome of Notre Dame, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ole Miss, but actually went 1-3? You could chalk that up to bad luck or bad coaching. If Donaven Tennyson hangs onto a sure touchdown at Notre Dame, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt has a road win over a top 10 team. Better play calls in the red zone at both Kentucky and Missouri might have meant wins in either or both.

You can spin all of this any way you want. The point is, the arguments against retaining Mason won’t go away with a win over Tennessee on Saturday, and the arguments for won’t really go away with a loss. (I can accept changing your mind if Vanderbilt puts up a listless performance and loses a blowout to the Vols.)

This is all just to point out the silliness of this. Frankly, most of the time, as soon as the head coach is on the hot seat he’s never getting off until he’s out as head coach; you don’t really ever win the fan base back once you’ve lost it. This is Kevin Stallings 2.0: we all pretty much know what the head coach is at this point, and we’re all just debating whether or not that’s acceptable for Vanderbilt.