Vanderbilt announced that they fired their head coach, Derek Mason, the day after he put Sarah Fuller, the first woman ever to play in a Power Five conference football game, on the field.
Derek Mason had an underwhelming career as the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores. From 2014 to this year, he was 27-54, capped off by an 0-8 start to this season. He had led Vanderbilt to two bowl appearances, losing both. This is the kind of resume that leads to a coach not being the coach anymore. It was a good decision.
It wasn’t because of Sarah Fuller that Mason was relieved of his duties, but man, those are some really bad optics. On the surface, this looked like bad timing, a school lacking the self-awareness to allow Fuller’s feel-good story to play out for a fanbase that has nothing else to celebrate. Why dump the coach now? Why, in a lost season, is Vanderbilt so eager to move on from Mason, whom they’ve had for nearly seven years?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Apparently, Sarah Fuller, whose soccer team had just won the SEC Conference Championship, gave quite the empowered halftime speech to the football team, and called them on their shit.
Before you go on a tangent attempting to explain to me that it seems out of place for Fuller to step into that position and speak to a team she literally just joined, before she had even stepped on the field, don’t. I don’t care at all about any of that. Coming off a conference championship, Fuller is expecting greatness. She is holding her team accountable, and I love it.
“I had coaches come up to me and say, ‘I’ve been wanting to say that for a while now,’” Fuller told ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. This, this, is why a struggling coach was relieved of his duties sooner than most people thought he would have been.
This is a glaring and shocking display of a lack of leadership.
The kicker, who had been playing football for all of five days, had the guts and the courage to say to the team what the head coach, who had been the head coach since 2014, wouldn’t. This has nothing to do with Sarah Fuller being a woman — this has to do with leadership. I don’t care if Fuller was a woman, a man, a Senior, or a redshirt Freshman — she said what Derek Mason wouldn’t. Derek Mason lost the locker room and was fired for it.