The mystery school has been identified.
Back in late October, Virginia Tech announced three future home-and-home series with SEC schools — Alabama in 2034 and 2035; Ole Miss in 2032 and 2037; and a school from the conference to be named later. Tuesday, Tech and Vanderbilt confirmed that the latter is the unnamed school as both programs announced a future home-and-home in tandem press releases.
The Hokies will make the trek to Nashville on Aug. 31, 2024, with the Commodores heading north to Blacksburg on Aug. 30 the following season.
“We are excited about opening the 2024 and 2025 seasons against one of the nation’s leading programs for the last 25 years in Virginia Tech,” Vanderbilt head football coach Derek Mason said in a statement. “Those openers will be great opportunities for our football program.”
Tech and Vandy have played nine times previously, with the most recent coming in 1989. The Hokies lead the all-time series at 6-3.
With the Tech series officially added, Vandy has been forced to adjust its future schedule. From that school’s release:
To accommodate the Virginia Tech series, Vanderbilt has moved two games with Stanford originally scheduled in 2024-25 to Stanford, California, on Sept. 4, 2032, and Nashville on Sept. 3, 2033. The Commodores and Cardinal also have games scheduled Sept. 18, 2021, at Vanderbilt and Sept. 11, 2027, at Stanford.
Three FBS head coaches have been dismissed thus far this season. One individual many thought could be the fourth has instead received a reprieve.
Last month, it was reported that Vanderbilt could turn to Jeff Fisher if the university decides to move on from Derek Mason. In a statement posted early Tuesday afternoon to his personal Twitter account, Vandy athletic director Malcolm Turner indicated there will be no moving on as the athletic department head confirmed that Mason is the program’s head football coach moving forward.
As Vanderbilt is a private institution, it’s unclear what Mason’s buyout would’ve been had they opted to change head coaches.
During Mason’s five-plus years at Vanderbilt, the Commodores have gone 26-46 overall and 10-37 in SEC play; this season, it’s 2-8 and 1-6. Vandy has yet to finish at or above .500 in any of Mason’s previous five years, and has led the Commodores to just two bowl appearances at the end of 6-7 campaigns.
Under James Franklin, Vandy went 24-15/11-13 before Franklin’s departure for Penn State opened the door for Mason at the SEC school.
For years, Jeff Fisher was mentioned myriad times in connection to a job at his alma mater USC. while nothing ever came to fruition on that front, the long-time NFL head coach is now connected to a job on the other side of the country that’s currently not open.
During Derek Mason‘s five-plus years at Vanderbilt, the Commodores have gone 26-43 overall and 10-34 in SEC play; this season, it’s 2-5 and 1-3. Vandy has yet to finish at or above .500 in any of Mason’s previous four years, and would need to win four of its last five regular-season games — remaining schedule: at South Carolina, at No. 6 Florida, Kentucky, East Tennessee State, at Tennessee — in order to have a shot at being average.
Given the amount of time he’s had and the poor results, Mason has been sitting on one of the hottest seats in the country since the 2019 campaign kicked off. Which brings us to Fisher, who ESPN.com‘s Adam Rittenberg writes would be a potential target should the Commodores decide to move on from Mason this year.
I’m told former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher is a potential target for Vanderbilt. Fisher remains popular in Nashville, and new Vanderbilt athletic director Malcolm Turner wouldn’t hesitate to make a nontraditional hire.
The 61-year-old Fisher, who still owns property outside of Nashville, was the head coach of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans from 1995-2010. He was also the head coach of the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams from 2012-16.
Despite a career that has spanned more than three decades, Fisher has never been a coach at the collegiate level.
This time last week, Vanderbilt was embarrassed by one-win UNLV in a 24-point loss to the Rebels. Seven days later, one-win Vandy was on the right side of the embarrassment — at the expense of one of its ranked SEC East brethren.
A 21-point favorite on the road coming in, Missouri never led in the game as Vandy stunned the 22nd-ranked Tigers 21-14 for its second win of the 2019 campaign. Mizzou, which entered the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season a week ago, fell to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in SEC play.
For Vandy, it broke a nine-game losing streak over ranked opponents, with the last win coming against No. 18 Kansas State in September of 2017. It was also their first win over a ranked conference foe since dropping No. 24 Tennessee in November of 2016.
In the Commodores win, Ke’Shawn Vaughn accounted for a pair of touchdowns — a 61-yard reception and a one-yard run to kick off the scoring three minutes into the game. Vaughn also accounted for a game-high 96 yards on the ground.
Neither team did much offensively, with Vandy outgaining Mizzou 315-293. The Tigers did have 12 penalties for 120 yards, so they had that going for them. Which was nice.
There aren’t very many Power Five leagues that can claim a winning record against the SEC over the past several years. At least one Group of Five conference can puff out its chest and make that claim, though.
To get where this post is ultimately headed, though, we’re forced to deal with the following: 1-4 UNLV at 1-4 Vanderbilt. In a battle of non-conference lightweights whose head coaches are very much on the hot seat, the Rebels jumped out to a 24-10 halftime lead and never looked back, cruising to a 34-10 win over the Commodores.
UNLV, whose only previous win this season came against FCS Southern Utah in the opener, scored on every drive of the first half with the exception of the last, a possession in which they essentially took a running knee after taking over the ball in their own territory with under two minutes left in the second quarter. In its scoreless second half, Vandy’s possessions went as follows: punt, interception, fumble, turnover on downs, turnover on downs, turnover on downs.
With that as a backdrop, the Mountain West Conference has officially finished the 2019 season with a 3-2 record against the not-so-mighty (for the most part) of the mighty SEC.