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Notre Dame photo / Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea, a former Vanderbilt fullback, was named Monday night as the new coach of the Commodores.

Vanderbilt didn't pull any surprises when it came to naming a new head football coach.

The Commodores simply found one of their own.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea, who played fullback for the Commodores during the 2002-04 seasons, was named Monday night as the 29th coach in Vanderbilt history. Lea officially will be introduced next week, which follows Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference championship game between the No. 2 Fighting Irish and No. 4 Clemson.

"Clark Lea is the leader we trust to continue the challenging but exciting work that will elevate the Vanderbilt football program to unprecedented heights," Commodores athletic director Candice Lee said through a university release. "It was clear that the college football world is aware of the tremendous value proposition Vanderbilt holds, and that was reflected by the deep pool of talent that showed an interest in this position.

"We are so excited to be introducing him as our head football coach, because we are confident that he can build upon our successes on and off the field."

Lea will inherit a roster that went 0-9 this season, marking the first winless year for a program that started in 1890 and was a power during the early 1900s. The Commodores made just three bowl trips — 1955, 1974 and 1982 — during the second half of the 20th century but made six postseason journeys in the 11-season stretch from 2008-18.

James Franklin led the Commodores to consecutive 9-4 seasons in 2012-13 before parlaying that for an opportunity at Penn State, while Derek Mason followed to produce three straight wins over rival Tennessee from 2016-18. Vandy slipped to 3-9 last season, however, and Mason was fired after an 0-8 start this year.

Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch served as interim head coach for last Saturday's 42-17 loss to Tennessee, and this Saturday's scheduled finale at Georgia was canceled Monday afternoon due to COVID-related issues within the Commodores program.

"I'm excited to come back to Vanderbilt to lead a program, at an institution and in a city, that gave me so much and shaped who I am today," Lea said. "Vanderbilt is a special place with a competitive drive that I believe can translate into winning."

Before competing at Vanderbilt, Lea played at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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