Mason earns national and Big Ten awards

Michael Dougherty

The busiest two weeks Minnesota football coach Glen Mason has seen in a while culminated Tuesday with the announcement he won both the Football News coach of the year award and the Big Ten coach of the year award.
Last Tuesday, Mason flew to Chicago to meet with officials from Louisiana State about the school’s coaching vacancy. On Wednesday, he removed himself from consideration for the LSU job and also accepted an invitation to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
Sandwiched inbetween the LSU hoopla and Tuesday’s honors, were turkey dinner and a fitting for a new sling for tennis elbow on Mason’s left arm.
The 13th-ranked Gophers’ have their best record (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten) since 1967 and highest ranking since 1962. The Sun Bowl is the team’s first bowl bid since 1986. Mason beat out Frank Beamer, coach of Sugar Bowl-bound Virginia Tech and June Jones of Hawaii, who in his first year led the Rainbows to an 8-4 record after they went 0-12 last year.
“They made the call and said I’m coach of the year, but that just means that the University of Minnesota coaching staff is the coaching staff of the year,” Mason said. “Sometimes you get criticism you don’t think you deserve and sometimes you get credit you don’t think you deserve.
“I can honestly look anybody in the eye and say, ‘I don’t think anybody did a better job of coaching this year in college football than the University of Minnesota coaching staff. I believe that.”
He is the first Gophers football coach to win national honors since Murry Warmath was named coach of the year by the Football Writers Association and the American Football Coaches Association in 1960.
The award for the conference coach of the year is named after Dave McClain. He was Mason’s position coach when Mason played at Ohio State in the early ’70s. Mason also got his first coaching job from McClain when the latter was head coach at Ball State.
McClain ultimately ended up as coach at Wisconsin, where he led the Badgers to three bowl games during the ’80s. McClain died in the spring of 1986 and the conference named its award after him.
Prizes for players too
The All-Big Ten Team was also released on Tuesday and strong safety Tyrone Carter and running back Thomas Hamner were chosen to the first team by both the media and the coaches. Center Ben Hamilton was on the coaches’ first team and defensive end Karon Riley was on the media’s first team.
Defensive tackle John Schlecht made the second team on both lists and cornerback Willie Middlebrooks made the coaches’ second team and the media’s honorable mention list.
Garnering honorable mention on both lists were offensive tackle Adam Haayer, tight end Alex Hass, linebacker Sean Hoffman, kicker Dan Nystrom and defensive tackle Dyron Russ. Quarterback Billy Cockerham and receiver Ron Johnson earned honorable mention from the coaches.

Michael Dougherty covers football and basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]