Athletic Director Tom O’Connor believes Mason’s athletic program is the model program in the CAA.

The unforgettable Cinderella journey to the Final Four in 2006 started the beginning of a new era in Mason Athletics.  Most recently named the number one Up-and-Coming University this year by US News and World Report, Mason is still feeling the effects of its historic underdog run.

Year after year, the sports program continues to thrive and gain more recognition.  Currently, the cross country and soccer teams are ranked 9th and 20th, respectively, in the nation.  Over the summer, four athletes from Mason represented the United States at the Olympics in London.  Last year, Men’s Outdoor Track and Field won the CAA championship while Men’s Swimming finished second place.  With a flourishing basketball team, yearly expectations are high once again.

“I don’t want to say it’s a roller coaster but we’re always on the upper level with our sports programs across the board; somewhat of a measure is the won and loss records of teams or championships but, you also have to remember that it is a complete program,” said O’Connor on the state of Mason Athletics.

“We don’t have any NCAA violations.  We’re at a complete NCAA certification: the NCAA came in, which they do to every school in the country, and [reviewed] the program. We didn’t have to fix anything.”

Even with Mason sports teams on the rise, O’Connor believes there is room to grow. However, it might not be your first guess as to what he thinks will bring the program to the next level: improving athletic facilities.  Although satisfied with athletic areas like the RAC and Aquatic Center, he thinks other facilities still need some work.

“We have great coaches.  We have great athletes.  Some of our facilities are terrific but some are not up to speed.  We know that and we want to make that a priority,” he said.

Mason is certainly on the right track to reaching that next milestone. New scoreboards, handrails, an extension of the hospitality room and renovations in the men’s and women’s locker rooms have all been a part of recent renovations of the Patriot Center.  The Field House is going to start undergoing renovation next spring to create a Center of Sports Performance.  This will include a rehab area, training room, exercise room, nutrition room and weight room for athletes.  Renovations to the baseball, soccer, lacrosse and track areas are also becoming a focus.

The biggest project is the West Campus Connecter, a road that will run from West Campus going under Rte. 123 to East Campus near the RAC.

“We want people to say, ‘wow, that’s really a neat place’,” said O’Connor, referring to the future motorists on the West Campus Connect, also known as Campus Drive.

The project is expected to be completed by November 2013 and will provide a drive-by at some of the Fairfax campus’ premier athletic facilities, including the Field House area and the RAC.

Standards for the Patriots are set high and it shows through the awards, recognition and even spirit of the students.  As seen just by walking around campus, the student body is more supportive of its sports teams than ever before.  The Patriots have their sights set on the next step toward improvement; it is just a matter of time, but for now,  but O’Connor likes where the program is headed.

“When you take a look at the breadth and scope of the whole program,” O’Connor said. “We’re in pretty good shape.”