Mason AD Tom O’Connor announces retirement
Tom O’Connor announced he will retire after 20 years as George Mason University’s athletic director and 40 years in NCAA Division I athletics.
“A Patriot legend is retiring,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of George Mason University. “Tom has devoted his career to building an athletic department that has made this university proud.”
O’Connor has built an athletic department that now boasts 22 varsity sports, significantly upgraded facilities and maintained a commitment to excellence in academic performance, gender equity and compliance with NCAA rules and regulations.
Under his leadership, the university joined the Atlantic 10 Conference, one of the most competitive in the nation in men’s basketball, a move that showcases the strength of the athletic programs and contributions of Mason’s talented student-athletes.
Most importantly, he was responsible for building the men’s basketball team noted for memorable success in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. That year, the 11th-seeded Patriots stunned the basketball world by reaching the Final Four and finished as the eighth-ranked team in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.
“I’m very proud of what we have accomplished during my tenure at George Mason,” said O’Connor. “I believe with the recent move to the Atlantic 10 that Mason athletics will continue to thrive in the classroom and gain prominence on the national stage that the conference provides. The well-being of the student-athletes has always been my motivation, and watching them mature and graduate has provided me with great satisfaction during my 40-year career.”
O’Connor has also been a champion for more than just athletics. The Patriots were one of 10 schools nationally to earn the 2008 Diversity in Athletics Award in the category of African-American Graduation: Male Student-Athletes. Mason was one of the nation’s first 15 schools to complete the NCAA certification process and perennially ranks among the nation’s best in the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act survey.
O’Connor will officially step aside as athletic director on June 30. He will remain at the university in a fundraising role until his full retirement in January 2015. The university will immediately begin recruiting a new athletic director.
O’Connor started his career as a high school basketball coach. He later coached at Dartmouth College (1970-74) and Loyola (Md.) College (1974-76) before leaving the bench and taking the top athletic position at Loyola. He would serve as athletic director at Santa Clara University and St. Bonaventure University before coming to George Mason in 1994.
Basketball was never far from his mind. During his tenure, the Patriots have made a total of six NCAA Tournament appearances, three of which have come in the last eight years.
A highly respected leader in college athletics, O’Connor has served on several NCAA committees, including the highly visible 10-member NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Committee, which he chaired during the 2007-08 year. He has held a seat on the prestigious Management Council and was a member of the Division I Strategic Planning Committee and the Selection Review Committee.
Mason has had more than 100 NCAA sports postseason appearances, and 23 Patriot student-athletes have claimed 35 individual national championships. This includes NCAA titles in men’s indoor track and field (1996). Under O’Connor’s leadership, Mason student-athletes have excelled in the classroom. Several Patriots have received National CoSIDA Academic All-America recognition; most recently men’s soccer player Richard Edgar earned First- Team Academic All-American by CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine in 2009. Chris Looze became the first Mason student-athlete to garner Academic Player of the Year in baseball in 2005.
A native of Union City, N.J, the 67-year-old O’Connor earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968 from Assumption (Mass.) College, where he was a four-year basketball letter winner. He is a member of the Assumption College Athletic Hall of Fame and was honored as the recipient of the 2008 Father Louis Dion A.A. ’35 Outstanding Achievement Award.