Notre Dame’s Clark Lea expected to be hired as new Vanderbilt football coach

Vanderbilt is expected to hire Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea as its new football coach with final details being worked out, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Tennessean. The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the hire.

Vanderbilt's official announcement could come as early as today. Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports was the first to report it.

Lea, 38, is a Nashville native and former Commodores player. He graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy, played baseball at Birmingham-Southern and Belmont and then walked on at Vanderbilt to play football. He's also a friend of Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin.

Lea knows the Vanderbilt program, and he’s been a successful assistant coach at premier programs. Before serving as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, Lea was a linebackers coach at Wake Forest, Syracuse, Bowling Green and UCLA.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea has overseen improvements in the Irish defense in his first season as the team has reached the College Football Playoff. (Photo: Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports)

Lea replaces Derek Mason, who was fired on Nov. 29. He had a 27-55 record in seven seasons, along with two bowl appearances and three wins over rival Tennessee. 

Lea steps into one of the toughest jobs in Power Five conferences. Vanderbilt needs facility upgrades. Its high academic standards provide a smaller recruiting pool than other SEC programs, and, historically, winning has been difficult. 

Since 1953, only two of the last 14 coaches left Vanderbilt with a winning record. Steve Sloan went 12-9-2 in 1973-74 and left for Texas Tech. James Franklin went 24-15 in 2011-13 and took the Penn State job.

OLea's first items of business will

Reach Adam Sparks at [email protected] and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

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