Sources: Vanderbilt set to hire Clark Lea as head coach

Syracuse Notre Dame Football
Posted at 10:54 AM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 11:54:07-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea has emerged as the leading candidate to become the next head coach at Vanderbilt, sources tell NewsChannel 5. The hire is expected to become official this week.

It will be a homecoming for Lea, 38, who played at Vanderbilt and holds a bachelor's and graduate's degree from the university. He also grew up in Nashville and attended Montgomery Bell Academy.

Lea is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks. He’s built one of the best defenses in the country at Notre Dame and has the Irish in position to reach the College Football Playoff for the second time in three seasons.

Notre Dame is 10-0 this season and will face Clemson in Saturday’s ACC Championship bolstered by Lea’s defense than ranks among the nation’s best in scoring (17.1 PPG) and rushing defense (99.3 YPG). Lea is a nominee for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach. He was also reported to be a finalist for the Boston College job that went to Jeff Hafley last year.

Lea, who was a football and baseball standout at MBA, played baseball at Belmont before walking-on the football team at Vanderbilt from 2002-04. His strong ties to the community and the program was a strong factor in athletic director Candice Storey Lee’s decision to focus the search on him. Buffalo’s Lance Leipold and Air Force’s Troy Calhoun were also candidates.

Lea will inherit a Vanderbilt team that will be coming off its seventh straight losing season since it went 9-4 under James Franklin in 2013. The Commodores are 0-9 and will wrap up this season Saturday at Georgia under Todd Fitch, who was made interim coach after Derek Mason was fired Nov. 29.