MURFREESBORO, Tenn. December 6, 2023 – Middle Tennessee Director of Athletics Chris Massaro announced today that Derek Mason will take over the reins as head coach of the Blue Raider football program. Mason, who takes over for Rick Stockstill, becomes the third coach in the I-A era and the 15th overall in the program’s history.
“We are ecstatic to welcome Coach Derek Mason to Middle Tennessee and the Blue Raider football program,” Massaro said. “With his experience as a head coach, his reputation for coaching fast, aggressive defenses, his strong reputation as a recruiter, and deep connections in college football to formulate an outstanding staff, Coach Mason’s vision for MTSU football fits exactly what we were looking for during our interview process. Coach Mason is no stranger to the mid-state community and we expect his connections to allow him and his staff to hit the ground running as our 15th head football coach.”
Mason signed a five-year contract to lead the Blue Raiders.
Mason, who spent the 2023 season working as an analyst for the SEC Network, has 29 years of collegiate coaching experience including seven years as a head coach. He most recently coached in 2022 at Oklahoma State as the defensive coordinator and helped the Cowboys to a spot in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
“We selected a coach who wants to be a Blue Raider, who wants to be part of elevating our football team to the top of our conference and win championships, and who wants to make MTSU and our Blue Raiders a nationally recognized brand,” said President Sidney A. McPhee. “He has a great understanding of who we are and an exciting vision for what we can become.”
Prior to his stint at Oklahoma State, Mason served as the defensive coordinator at Auburn for the 2021 season. The Mason-led Tigers improved by 14.5% in third down defense from 2020 to move up 84 places in the final FBS rankings. Auburn also improved from the previous season in tackles for loss by 1.4 per game (up 65 places), rushing defense by 35 yards per game (up 33 places), first downs allowed by three per game (up 32 places), fourth down defense by 10% (up 21 places), sacks by .33 per game (up 13 places), scoring defense by three points per game (up 11 places) and total defense by 32 yards per game (up two places).
“I am excited to be the 15th head coach at MTSU,” said Mason. “This is an emotional moment for me. This is the house that Rick Stockstill built and he left good bones and a strong foundation. He did a lot to raise and encourage these young men and help them take the journey. Now, that responsibility has been passed down to me. It’s about winning and making sure we can do everything we can to resource our student athletes in a way to make them successful both on and off the field.
“It’s been an exhausting journey, but I appreciate Dr. McPhee and Chris Massaro for giving me this opportunity. Now we have to attack the challenge of Conference USA and I can’t wait to get started.”
From 2014-2020, Mason was the head coach at Vanderbilt where he became just the second coach in program history to lead a team to multiple bowl appearances. His 2018 team won six games and capped the regular season with a third straight victory over rival Tennessee and fifth in seven years. It also marked Vanderbilt’s second bowl appearance in three years under Mason.
Mason guided Vanderbilt to its eighth postseason appearance in 2016 and finished the regular season 6-6, including four wins over the final six games. The season featured marquee SEC victories over Georgia, Ole Miss and No. 24 Tennessee. Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham became Vanderbilt’s first consensus All-American in more than three decades, sweeping first-team honors.
The architect of Stanford’s vaunted 3-4 defense, Mason spent four seasons with the Cardinal and was elevated to defensive coordinator in 2011 after leading the program to a pair of Rose Bowl appearances and consecutive Pac-12 titles. Mason’s elite defensive units at Stanford ranked among the NCAA’s best in defensive efficiency for three consecutive seasons.