Glen Mason began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ball State in 1972, he got his first head-coaching job at Kent State in 1986 and he coached at Kansas and Minnesota before retiring in 2006.
That’s 35 years of college coaching. That’s a long time. And believe it or not, Mason, who was Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1999, feels that many things about the sport have remained timeless, especially the way games are won and lost.
“I always thought that fundamentals won football games,” Mason said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “More often than not when you look at what wins or loses a game, it’s not some exotic play that was drawn up or exotic blitz. It was someone making a mistake – a fumble, an interception, a missed assignment.”
Indeed, often the team that wins is not the team that makes the most plays, but rather, the team that makes the fewest mistakes.
But one thing that Mason feels definitely has changed over the years? Recruiting.
“I say that because it started toward the end of my era coaching, but for the most part, college coaches downplayed the National Football League,” Mason said. “You sold the college experience, you sold the education, you sold the going away to school and growing as a person. And now you fast-forward, it seems like all coaches – all they talk about is, ‘Come to our place. We’ll get you to the National Football League.’ And the reason they do that is it works. That’s what kids – that’s what parents – want to hear. That is the major change that’s taking place.”
DA found this intriguing, especially since such a small percentage of college players actually make it to the pros. Thus, aren’t coaches playing mind tricks with the majority of their roster?
“It’s a great injustice,” Mason said. “As you already mentioned, such a small percentage of kids even get a chance (in the NFL). Then when you start talking about how minimal the guys that actually play long enough to really make it worthwhile or make a career out of it – to me, it was a great injustice to the kids in recruiting. And more importantly, when you had them on your campus, on your team and sitting in the team room and you still kept stressing National Football League, National Football League, National Football League – (that’s wrong).”
Mason, 65, also doesn’t like that scholarships are now year-round.
“You know, when I was a player, when I first got involved in coaching, everybody went home during the summer,” the former Ohio State linebacker said. “The only kids that stayed were the kids that didn’t do well academically – and they hated it and you got a job. Most of the time it was hard, menial labor and you started thinking, ‘Man, I don’t want to do this the rest of my life. I better get that education.’ Now these kids are on scholarship year-long. They’re training during the summer with weight coaches. There really is no break, and our graduation rates really haven’t improved that much.”