EAST LANSING After 36 years (23 at Michigan State) and 916 wins, Michigan State hockey coach Ron Mason decided that he had had enough.

The 62-year old Mason officially announced that he would step down from his current position effective at the end of the season in order to be named the 16th athletic director at Michigan State.

“It was a difficult decision to give up coaching and it will always be a major part of my life,” said Mason at a press conference held yesterday. “I”m very excited and proud to be the athletics director at Michigan State.”

“You always wonder when the time to stop coaching is going to be if you had asked me in September, I would”ve said that I”d coach as long as I can.”

The current athletic director at the university, Clarence Underwood, will retire, allowing Mason to assume administrative duties as of July 1.

“It became clear that the candidate who fit our requirements and even more was Ron Mason,” Michigan State President M. Peter McPherson said. “We were looking for an athletics director and we got a legend.”

Mason holds the title as the winningest coach in college hockey history, with an overall record of 916-376-81. That includes a 627-266-67 mark in his 23 years heading the Spartans.

“One thousand victories would have been nice to get,” Mason said. “But it was never something that was a major thing for me my goal has always just been to win the next game.”

The selection of Mason to inherit the athletic director position is one that was met with a very positive reaction from the other Michigan State coaches in attendance at Mason”s press conference.

“The fact that we”ve hired someone that really knows the coaches and the university and the lay of the land of the administration is really key,” said Michigan State football coach Bobby Williams. “Now (Mason) can step into that role and really take this program to the next level.”

Said Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo: “Ron and I have been friends for 18 years, and I am happy for him if it is really what he wants, and it seems like it is.

The stepping down of Mason will also end the fierce rivalry that has blossomed between himself and Michigan coach Red Berenson.

In the 18 years that Berenson”s Michigan career has overlapped with Mason”s Michigan State career, the Spartans have a 39-29-6 advantage in the series.

“I was surprised we”re not done yet, but after this year it”ll be different,” Berenson said. “I think he”ll be a good administrator and a good athletic director and he could be a real force for (college hockey) in the big picture.”

With the legendary Mason leaving at the end of the year, this team will be his last shot to capture his second national title. He won his lone NCAA Championship in 1986.

“I think that it”s just an extra motivator,” said Michigan State senior forward Adam Hall about the pressure of being Mason”s last team. “Seeing how much hard work he”s put into this team over the last four years and knowing that that”s been there the entire 23 seasons, I think that is just all that much more motivating for the team.”

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