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Clark Lea

Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea watches as his team loses 23 to 3 against ETSU game at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021 in Nashville.

Clark Lea is the 29th head football coach for the Vanderbilt Commodores. Lea played for Vanderbilt football from 2002-04. After more than a decade of working as an assistant coach, he returned to his alma mater ahead of the 2021 season for his first head coaching job.

Lea played fullback at Vanderbilt, but was a defensive coach as an assistant. He got his start in 2006 as a graduate assistant at UCLA on Karl Dorrell’s staff. A year later, Lea took his first position coaching gig as the linebackers coach at South Dakota State.

Lea remained at South Dakota State through 2008, adding the recruiting coordinator title in his second year. In 2009, it was back to UCLA as a grad assistant again, this time under head coach Rick Neuheisel.

In his second stint at UCLA, Lea got to be the team’s linebackers coach for 2 seasons (2010-11). After a coaching change for the Bruins, Lea went to Bowling Green, where he first worked under Dave Clawson and Mike Elko.

It only took Lea a season to get back to the Power 5 ranks. Following his stop at Bowling Green, Lea spent 3 seasons coaching linebackers at Syracuse (2013-15).

In 2016, Lea linked back up with Clawson and Elko at Wake Forest. Lea served as linebackers coach for the Demon Deacons under Clawson (head coach) and Elko (defensive coordinator).

When Brian Kelly hired Elko away to Notre Dame as defensive coordinator, Lea followed Elko to South Bend to be the team’s linebackers coach for the 2017 season. The following year, Elko was poached by Jimbo Fisher to be Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator.

After Elko left South Bend for College Station, Kelly promoted Lea to his first coordinator position. Lea was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame for a strong 3-year stretch for the Irish (2018-20).

The Irish went 12-0 in the 2018 regular season, falling to eventual national champion Clemson in the College Football Playoff. The 2019 Notre Dame team did not make a New Year’s Six game but still finished 11-2 with a win in the Camping World Bowl. During the 2020 season, Notre Dame played an ACC schedule, starting 10-0 to reach the conference championship game and return to the CFP.

Lea returned to Vanderbilt having coached in 9 bowl games, including 2 College Football Playoff semifinals. Lea hasn’t yet taken the Commodores to a bowl game, but his team has recently shown a promising trajectory after the Derek Mason era at Vanderbilt ended in disappointment.

Lea inherited a team that went 0-9 against an all-SEC schedule in 2020. The 2021 season didn’t go much better.

Lea’s tenure opened with a 23-3 home loss to FCS program East Tennessee State. The Commodores picked up wins over Colorado State and UConn in 2021, but dropped their final 7 contests to finish the year 2-10 and 0-8 in SEC play.

In Year 2, Lea got his first signature wins as a head coach in back-to-back weeks. Vanderbilt picked up its first SEC win since 2019 by upsetting No. 24 Kentucky 24-21 in Lexington on Nov. 12. The following Saturday, Lea’s squad kept the momentum rolling by defeating Florida 31-24 in Nashville. It was Vandy’s first win over UF since 2013, and the program even picked up an SEC fine for fans rushing onto the field to celebrate.

Clark Lea’s Coaching Experience

Head Coaching Record

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