MSU HOCKEY: Mason To Be Honored as Distinguished Alumnus at April 15 Hockey Banquet

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Legendary coach, former athletic director will collect honor at MSU hockey banquet on April 15.
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EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Ron Mason, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA hockey history and former Michigan State athletic director, has been selected to receive the Spartan Hockey 2008 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Mason will be honored at the Hockey Awards Banquet on Tuesday, April 15 at the Kellogg Center.
       Mason’s 36-year coaching career, 23 seasons of which were spent as the Michigan State mentor, concluded in 2002, when he announced his retirement from coaching and assumed the leadership of the 25-sport department. Mason finished his coaching career with a record of 924-380-83. In 23 years at Michigan State, he posted a 635-270-69 mark. His career highlights include an NCAA Championship in 1986 and an NAIA Championship with Lake Superior State in 1972. He led MSU to 17 CCHA regular-season and playoff titles and guided 23 teams to the NCAA Tournament, an all-time record. In addition, he coached 35 All-Americans and 50 former Spartans who went onto to establish careers in the National Hockey League.
       “Ron Mason’s name is synonymous with Michigan State hockey,” noted current MSU head coach Rick Comley. “Ron’s records and reputation speak for themselves - he is a very deserving recipient of this honor.”
       “I established this award to recognize former players who played for Amo Bessone,” noted Mason. “We really have some unbelievable alumni with impressive accomplishments not only in hockey, but in life. So now, to be the recipient, it’s very special to me, and I could not have accomplished what I did without the assistance of so many people along the way.  I’m very honored that they have selected me as the recipient.”
       In 1966, Mason began his coaching career as the first head coach at Lake Superior State, where he also served as assistant athletics director. He guided the Lakers to five NAIA Tournament appearances, including the 1972 National Championship. Three of his other teams finished as NAIA runners-up.
In 1973, he moved on to Bowling Green, establishing the Falcons as a national hockey power. In six seasons, he led Bowling Green to three CCHA regular-season titles (1976, 1978, 1979) and three playoff championships (1977, 1978, 1979). His 1977-78 squad finished third in the NCAA Tournament with an impressive 31-8 record. The following season, his BGSU squad established a then-national record with 37 wins. While at BGSU, he coached two members of the 1980 U.S. Gold Medal Olympic Hockey Team - Ken Morrow and Mark Wells, the only two members of the team from the state of Michigan.
       Mason’s Michigan State career began with the 1979-80 season when he replaced the legendary Amo Bessone. The seven-time CCHA Coach of the Year led the Spartans to seven regular-season league championships and 10 playoff crowns. In 2001, the conference honored Mason by renaming the CCHA playoff trophy - The Mason Cup - in recognition of his contributions to college hockey and the formation of the league as well as his success behind the bench. Mason is considered one of the “Founding Fathers” of the CCHA, as he joined Bowling Green’s Jack Vivian and St. Louis University’s Bill Selman in establishing a “coaches’ league” in 1971.
       On March 18, 1994, a win over Bowling Green established him as the winningest college hockey coach in history. In 2001-02, Mason’s final campaign as the Spartan coach, he recorded his unprecedented 900th-win as a college hockey coach with a victory over Ferris State (Oct. 20, 2001).
       Mason also had a first-hand perspective on one of MSU’s biggest athletic endeavors, as he coached his Spartans against Michigan in front of a world-record crowd of 74,554 in an outdoor hockey game at Spartan Stadium (Oct. 6, 2001). He coached MSU’s only two Hobey Baker Award winners - Kip Miller in 1990 and Ryan Miller in 2001. He also coached the first college player - Joe Murphy - to be taken first overall in the NHL Draft in 1986 by the Detroit Red Wings.
       During Mason’s five-year tenure as athletics director, State squads captured 11 conference championships (regular season and postseason combined) and one national championship. In addition, MSU was been represented at the NCAA Championships 72 times, including Final Four/Frozen Four appearances by men’s basketball (2005), women’s basketball (2005), field hockey (2002 and 2004) and ice hockey (2007).
       In 2006-07, 12 of MSU’s 25 sports participated in NCAA Championships. The ice hockey team capped an incredible postseason run by winning the program’s third national championship, defeating Boston College 3-1 in the NCAA title game. With the championship, Michigan State became one of only nine schools in the country to win at least three ice hockey national titles. In addition to the national championship, both the men’s and women’s golf teams captured Big Ten titles and advanced to the NCAA Championships. In March, the men’s and women’s basketball teams extended their program record for consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, as the men’s team earned its 10th-straight bid and the women’s team made its fifth-straight appearance. The overall success of the department was represented in Michigan State’s jump to 34th place in the U.S. Sports Academy Directors’ Cup. The department also reached another milestone by hosting the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament First and Second Rounds at the Breslin Center, marking the first time MSU has hosted the prestigious event. East Lansing led all eight First- and Second-Round sites with a total 21,340 fans passing through the turnstiles during the three sessions.
       During Mason’s watch, Spartan student-athletes also excelled in the classroom. In fall 2006, 12 teams posted a 3.0 or higher grade-point average, including 304 student-athletes who recorded a 3.0 or better for the semester. In spring 2007, student-athletes produced a cumulative GPA of 2.98, as 40 student-athletes posted a perfect 4.0 term GPA (most in program history) and a record-tying 14 sports maintained a 3.0 cumulative GPA. A total of 193 student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten honors during the 2006-07 academic year.
       Community outreach and service were a priority during his tenure, with more than 300 student-athletes participating in outreach activities during the 2006-07 academic year. Now in its fourth year, the outreach initiative PACT (Putting Athletes and Community Together) has reached over 45,000 area children.
       Mason’s vision on diversity programming had a significant impact on the daily lives of MSU’s student-athletes. MSU’s Student-Athlete Multicultural Center, the first of its kind at the NCAA Division I-A level, provides quality leadership training for minority student-athletes as well as social and outreach programs.
       Under Mason’s leadership, the Ralph Young Fund set all-time record highs each of the final five years of his tenure, including $28.5 million for the 2006-07 fiscal year. In addition, he helped secure the largest single gift to Michigan State Athletics, a $5 million dollar gift from Bob and Julie Skandelaris for the Skandelaris Football Center at the Duffy Dougherty Football Building.
       He successfully introduced Scholarship Seating for football and courtside seating for men’s and women’s basketball, which has generated significant funds for the athletics department. Fundraising efforts were completed on three major athletic facility initiatives, including the Alfred Berkowitz Basketball Complex, Spartan Stadium expansion and Doug Rearick Golf Practice Facility. Significant progress also was made towards the funding of two additional athletic facilities, including expansion of the Duffy Daugherty Football Building and the Old College Field project, which supports MSU’s men’s and women’s soccer, baseball and softball programs. In addition, the men’s and women’s basketball teams moved into new locker rooms at the Breslin Center for the 2007-08 season. At a cost of $2.6 million, the privately funded locker rooms rank among the very best in the nation.
       In 2005-06, 12 sports participated in NCAA Championships. In November 2005, the women’s soccer team earned its second-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament. In addition, the Spartan hockey team won its first Central Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament championship since 2001 and its 11th overall. In May 2006, the women’s rowing team attained its highest NCAA finish in program history, claiming sixth place.
       In 2004-05, Mason saw a school-record five teams (field hockey, men’s golf, women’s basketball, crew and men’s soccer) capture Big Ten Conference Championships. The field hockey team, which won the regular-season title, advanced to its second Final Four in the last three years in November, while the men’s soccer team captured its first-ever Big Ten title. The men’s golf team won just its second Big Ten title in school history in May, while crew won its first-ever conference crown. The basketball teams became the sixth school in NCAA history to send both its men’s and women’s programs to the Final Four in the same year, as the women’s team fell in the national title game. In addition, the women’s basketball team shared the Big Ten regular-season championship with Ohio State and won the Big Ten Tournament title for the first time in school history.
       In 2003-04, 17 of the 25 sports were represented at the 2003-04 NCAA Championships and the football team participated in the Alamo Bowl. In addition, the softball team captured the school’s first-ever Big Ten Tournament Championship, while the field hockey squad won its second-straight Big Ten Championship and advanced to its third-straight NCAA Tournament. In addition, “The BasketBowl” - the MSU-Kentucky basketball game - was played before a world-record crowd of 78,129 at Detroit’s Ford Field on Dec. 13, 2003.
       In 2002-03, 17 of MSU’s 25 sports were represented at the NCAA Championships, including the field hockey team which advanced to the Final Four for the first time in school history. In addition, the men’s basketball team moved on to the Elite Eight and the women’s basketball and softball teams made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1997 and 1999 seasons, respectively.
       Mason served on the American Hockey Association Board of Directors from 1973-77 and is a former member of the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee and NCAA Ice Hockey Championships Committee.
       He is active in a number of local organizations and charities. He is very involved with Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, where he recently completed a four-year term on the Sparrow Foundation Board and has set up the Ron Mason Fund for Kids that supports the Pediatric Rehabilitation Department, which has raised nearly $675,000 since 1998. He also served as the honorary chairperson for the Children’s Miracle Network, which has raised $19 million over the last 19 years, and has worked with the Coaches For Kids campaign, which has raised $5.3 million in the last seven years for a pediatrics emergency room at Sparrow Hospital. In addition, he served on the committee for the broomball game for the Legal Eagles, which benefited the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing, and spent several years on the Lansing Safety Council. Mason recently completed his term as a board member for the Lansing Chamber of Commerce.
Mason received his bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University in 1964 and his master’s degree from Pittsburgh in 1965. He was presented with an honorary doctorate from Michigan State in the spring of 2001.
       For all his career accomplishments, Mason has been inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (1994), Lake Superior Sports Hall of Fame (1996) and St. Lawrence Sports Hall of Fame (1999). In addition, the American Hockey Coaches Association honored him with the John MacInnes Award for his outstanding contributions to hockey in the spring of 2003, and he received the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation’s “Legend of Hockey” award in April 2004.
       Born Jan. 14, 1940, in Blyth, Ontario, Mason and his wife Marion, have two daughters, Tracey and Cindy, and two grandsons, Tyler and Travis. An avid fisherman, Mason also enjoys golfing.
       Tickets for the banquet are available for $35; additional information can be obtained by calling the hockey office at 517-355-1639 or by emailing hockey@msu.edu
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