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Dr. James Mason: The First Executive Director

Dr. James Mason, the first executive director of Ohio University's Sports Administration program

As written by his daughters Jan Mason Getz and Nancy Carol Mason

Our dad, Dr. James Gordon Mason, was always all about students. He loved teaching them. He loved thinking about how to teach them better. He celebrated their successes. He demanded excellence. He always wore a suit and tie to class as he saw his profession as professional. He wanted his students to believe the same and so he required that the field be called Physical Education, not phys ed or PE or gym. He worked out every day long before it was “fashionable.” He was an ace handball player, loved golf and tennis, and he jogged almost every day. He started class on time and if you were late you didn’t get in. He loved the energy and enthusiasm of college students.

As a young doctoral student at Columbia Teachers College in NYC in 1950 dad learned from one of his professors about a vision of the owner of the then Brooklyn Dodgers, Walter O’Malley. The seed was planted.

The first job after completing the doctorate was in the physical education department at Baylor University in Waco, TX. Waco is where their second daughter, Nancy Carol Mason, was born. After four years our family moved to Miami, FL where dad taught in the physical education department at the University of Miami. In 1959 he accepted the position as chairman of the graduate program in physical education at Ohio University and we moved to Athens.

After years of dreaming, laying the groundwork and several attempts to gain approval, the first ever academic program in Sports Administration was born. It happened at Ohio University in Athens, OH in 1966. The first class only had two people in it, growing to 1 and 10 people each year until 1971. From there, it really took off, graduating between 25 to 35 people each year.

In the spring of 1970, Dr. Mason took a sabbatical semester to travel across the country to meet with various sports teams and facilities to line up paid internships for Sports Administration students. He knew this was as important a component to the degree as the cross disciplinary course work. Originally the degree required one year on campus taking classes and then one year on a paid internship. The James G. Mason Sports Administration Scholarship at Ohio University was established by Mrs. Mason to honor his work and his commitment to students. The original intent of the scholarship was to provide moving expense money for a top student going from Athens to an internship location. We know that this scholarship over the years has provided not only funding to deserving students but also provided a distinguished link to the founder of their field.

In the fall of 1970 dad regretfully left his beloved Sports Administration program at Ohio University in order to fulfill one of his professional goals. He was selected by the Health and Physical Education faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso to be their department chair. Later he became acting dean of the School of Education.

During his time in El Paso he wrote his second book, Modern Sports Administration, with Jim Paul, Owner and President, El Paso Diablos Baseball Team, was inducted into the UTEP Athletic Hall of Fame and was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement. He was appointed to the El Paso Parks and Recreation board, remained a very active member of the El Paso Kiwanis club, serving many officer positions including president, and was a deacon for University Presbyterian Church. He remained forever grateful to his successors at Ohio University for sustaining and growing the Sports Administration program. He was always proud to be associated with The Program and its number one status.

His vision created a graduate program that has been copied by hundreds of colleges across the country. He has greatly impacted more than 1,000 graduates over the last 40+ years.

We, his daughters, are grateful that his name and contributions continue to be celebrated.