SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason has transformed the Mustangs defense over the last few years. After SMU won their fourth bowl in three years in December, Mason became a hot commodity. When the head coaching job at Nevada opened up, Mason openly and publicly campaigned for the position.
"There are a few schools in the country that I think are good jobs," said Mason, Monday night. "Being an alumn and knowing the landscape there, I recruited Nevada for a lot of years, I thought it was really a good fit for me. I thought I'd be a real positive there."
Mason, who not only played for the Wolf Pack in the 70's but also was a defensive coordinator in 1999, saw an opportunity to take the next step in his coaching career.
"I have 8 to 10 years probably left in me. I haven't achieved all the goals I wanted to do as I set out to be a coach. I had an interim head coach opportunity at Boise. The head coach part has always intrigued me. I'd like to run my own program and see what I can do. You have to constantly challenge yourself."
Last week, Nevada announced that Texas A&M assistant Brian Polian would become their new head coach.
"I was a little disappointed. I felt like I was a good fit for that job. In the same token, I have a great job at SMU. There are a lot of bad jobs out there but SMU isn't one of them."
Mason arrived at SMU alongside head coach June Jones in 2008. With a fan base craving a winning season immediately, there were cries amongst Mustang Nation that perhaps Mason needed to be replaced after a 1-11 debut by Jones' staff.
One year later, it's Mason's 3-4 defense that stopped the nation's number one rushing attack in Nevada at the Hawaii Bowl. The Mustangs finished 8-5 with their first bowl victory in 25 years. Since then, Mason's defense has continued to improve and so has his stock as a head coach.
"I'm proud of the way we've played defense since we've been here. I was embarrassed the first year but one of the things I've been proud of is that we've developed a reputation of being a defensive school year in and year out. We have played really good defense for the most part, that's the one thing that I'm really proud of with what we've done here."
[RELATED: How good Mason believes SMU can become]
Nevada was the only coaching job that Mason interviewed for this off-season and said he's ready to keep building the SMU program for the future.
"I'm committed to what we're doing here at SMU. I believe we haven't gotten it to the level we can get to. There's a lot left here for us to do as far as I'm concerned and I'm committed to do that.
"Any time you get a chance in any business to move up or better yourself as far as a HC job, you have to take a serious look at it. My thing is with the way the game is going, I'm 56 and I'd like to have some stability in it. The biggest problem in college coaching is that there's no stability in it. You're only as good as your last game."
In SMU's last game, the Mustangs shut out the Mountain West Co-Champions Fresno State in the first half. Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Derek Carr was limited to just one touchdown in a 43-10 victory in the Hawaii Bowl.
The defensive unit for SMU was led by seniors defensive end Margus Hunt and linebackers Taylor Reed and Ja'Gared Davis, all of which could realistically be taken in this spring's NFL Draft. Many wonder how the Mustangs will fair in 2013 without three of the best defensive weapons that they've had at one time in a while.
[RELATED: Mason's take on Margus Hunt's ability]
"I think we're at a point in the defense where I don't think we're going to drop off a lot. Those are three good football players but we have guys in the pipeline and we are establishing a reputation that we have good defensive football players on campus.
"I've always said it's not about rebuilding every year. It's about the kids you already have and to make sure they're ready so that you don't have a drop off. I don't anticipate much of a drop off next season, in fact, I think we could be better."
Mason's defense finished as the 62nd unit in total defense in 2012 but were 26th in the country the season before. SMU opens up their 2013 season at home on August 31st against Texas Tech.