December 6, 2023

"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.
While facing seven ranked opponents in 2013, Stanford ranked third nationally in rushing defense (89.4 ypg), 10th in scoring defense (19.0 ppg) and 16th in total offense (343.1 ypg). The Cardinal was also one of only five teams to allow less than 100 rushing yards per game in 2013 and ranked fifth nationally with 44 sacks and seventh with 109 tackles for loss.
In 2012, Mason was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach, after directing a Stanford defense widely considered the program's finest unit ever.
Mason's leadership paved the way to a historic defensive output, breaking Stanford's single-season record with 57 sacks and pacing the Pac-12 in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense, and helped the Cardinal to an 11-2 season capped off with a Rose Bowl title. In 11 of 14 games, Stanford held its opponent to 20 or fewer points, including a 14-point effort in an overtime win at top-ranked Oregon, who led the FBS with a 54.8 scoring average. The 2012 Stanford defense held eight of 13 opponents under 100 yards rushing.
In 2011, Mason's first year as co-defensive coordinator, his unit ranked either first or second in the Pac-12 in six defensive categories, including rushing defense, third-down conversion defense, scoring defense, total defense, sacks and opponent first downs.
Mason also helped develop an array of Stanford defensive standouts, including All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, All-America defensive end Trent Murphy, All-America linebacker Shayne Skov and All-Pac-12 safety Ed Reynolds.
Prior to his arrival in Palo Alto, Mason served as an assistant defensive back coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2007-09. He played a vital role in the team ranking sixth in total defense in 2008 and 2009 as the Vikings won NFC North titles each season. Mason was introduced to the NFL coaching circles through the Minority Fellowship program.
Before joining the Vikings, Mason tutored wide receivers at Ohio under Frank Solich, helping the Bobcats improve from 4-7 in 2005 to a 9-5 campaign and GMAC Bowl appearance the following year. Mason spent the 2004 season as wide receivers coach at New Mexico State, where the Aggies led the conference in passing.
During the 2002 campaign, Mason mentored receivers and assisted with special teams at Utah. The Utes featured the NFL Draft's No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Alex Smith and wide receiver Paris Warren, an eventual seventh-round pick.
Mason's move to Utah came after a three-year stint at Bucknell (1999-2001) in which he gained his first experience as a defensive assistant coach. At Bucknell, Mason served as defensive backs mentor for three straight winning Bison squads.
Mason's first three collegiate positions came as an offensive assistant at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College in 1994, Weber State in 1995-96 and Idaho State in 1997-98.
As a player, Mason was a two-year starter and four-year letter winner at Northern Arizona.  Mason earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Northern Arizona in 1993. A native of Phoenix, Mason was a standout football player at Camelback High School.
Derek and his wife, LeighAnne, have two daughters, Makenzie and Sydney.