By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Vanderbilt Commodores will only play nine games this season. Plagued all year by a combination of roster shortages caused by transfers, opt-outs, and the imoact of COVID-19, the Commodores’ scheduled game against Georgia was cancelled Monday. It will go into the record books as a no contest. Vanderbilt concludes the first winless season in school history at 0-9. But there was some positive news emanating from Vanderbilt as well, namely the selection of a new head football coach.
Current Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea was officially named to the position Monday. Lea is a Nashville native, and was a former standout football and baseball player at Montgomery Bell Academy before helping Birmingham-Southern win an NAIA national baseball title in 2001.
A year later, he transferred to Belmont, but after five games left for Vanderbilt. He was a fullback for the Commodores, playing in 30 games. His coaching career began at UCLA as a graduate assistant in 2006. He’s had multiple other stops, including stints at South Dakota State, UCLA a second time, Bowling Green, Syracuse, Wake Forest and most recently Notre Dame, Their defense currently ranks 14th, while the Irish are ranked second in the College Football Playoff chase.
Lea will remain with Notre Dame until their season ends. He has been with them four seasons, getting promoted from linebacker coach to defensive coordinator in 2018. The Irish face Clemson Saturday in the ACC title game. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly gave Lea high praise this week,
“Clark Lea has been an instrumental part of our success the last three years here at Notre Dame,” Kelly said in a statement. “And he will be able to bring that same energy and relationship-driven philosophy to his alma mater. I look forward to watching Clark build a successful program and wish him the best in the future,”
Lea has coached one All-American and had 10 all-conference selections at Notre Dame. Others praising the choice of Lea included NBC’s Mike Tirico, who covered Notre Dame games this season.. “He is a perfect fit for Vanderbilt and I’m thrilled to see him heading back home.”