Blue and Gold Illustrated

Jan. 1, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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16 JAN. 1, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI F ollowing a second straight top- 10 finish in his four seasons at Texas A&M, budding football coaching legend Paul "Bear" Bryant accepted the head coach po- sition at the University of Alabama, where he graduated in 1936. The Crimson Tide was reeling like never before with four straight losing seasons, finishing 0-10 in 1955 and 2-7-1 in both 1956 and 1957. "Mama called," Bryant replied on why he was returning to Alabama. "And when Mama calls, you just have to come runnin'." For 38-year-old Clark Lea, a mar- velous four-year run at Notre Dame, the last three as the defensive coor- dinator, ended for similar reasons when he was officially hired as the new head coach at Vanderbilt on Dec. 14. A native of Nashville, Tenn., where Vanderbilt is located, the 2004 gradu- ate and former fullback for the Com- modores will attempt to restore a program that has had the least suc- cess in the history of the ultra-com- petitive Southeastern Conference. Since the start of the Associated Press poll in 1936, only once has Vanderbilt finished in the top 20 (No. 12 in 1948). In the 45 years since 1976, the Commodores have finished above .500 only four times, and none in the last seven seasons under head coach Derek Mason, who was fired following an 0-9 finish this season and a 27-56 record overall. Mama was not just calling, she was beseeching. Vanderbilt can and never will be Alabama, but it is turning to Lea to at least provide a winning culture. "Clark Lea is the leader we trust to continue the challenging but exciting work that will elevate the Vanderbilt football program to unprecedented heights," Vanderbilt athletics director Candice Storey Lee said in a state- ment. "He embodies the demon- strated commitment to success, the integrity and the strategic thinking that it takes to build a winning foot- ball program, and help our student- athletes reach their full potential. "He understands the important role that athletics plays in the life of a vibrant university, and that out- standing scholarly pursuits and top- notch athletics are integral parts of the Vanderbilt experience." "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 in a statement. 'Mama Called' Defensive coordinator Clark Lea will return to his hometown and alma mater as the head coach of Vanderbilt after this season Lea will finish out his fourth season on the Notre Dame staff and remain with the Irish through the College Football Playoff before departing to Nashville, Tenn. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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