HOOVER, Ala. -- New Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason doesn't plan on waiting his turn.
Whether its the success he enjoyed at Stanford with David Shaw or the fact that the Vanderbilt team he's inherited has gone to straight four bowl games, Mason isn't prepared to settle for middle of the pack.
"I think our opportunity to compete for an SEC East title is now," Mason said. "We want to make sure that we work extremely hard day in and day out to be men of character, men of integrity. We're going to play extremely hard."
Under former coach James Franklin, the Commodores experienced unprecedented success. Along with three straight bowl game appearances, Vandy had back-to-back nine win seasons for the first time in school history. Franklin averaged eight wins a season with a 24-15 overall record. The Commodores finished its 2013 campaign 9-4 and were ranked in both the AP and USA TODAY top 25 polls.
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Mason acknowledged that Franklin "established this program." He credited Franklin for doing the "legwork" necessary to build a program. But Mason wants to raise the expectations even more.
"When I look at where we're at, what's going on, Vanderbilt is a great opportunity, a great job," Mason said. "But my expectation is to push the envelope a little bit. We have to move past the idea of playing for nine wins. Nine wins, it's really exceptional. At the end of the day, why have nine wins when you can have 10. Why settle for 10 when you can have 11?
"That's the way I think. That's the way I wake up. That's the way I want my team to be. Dream big, you can accomplish big things. Dream small, you come up short."
His first order is business is establishing himself as a head coach in a conference that features some of the best in the game. Mason doesn't feel the need to "be bold" or "make bold, brash statements." His only concern is being able to compete at a high level.
"I need to be competitive from a recruiting standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, from selling of our program, our city. Those things are what I've been charged with to do. I really embrace that from the standpoint of here is the opportunity, let's go."