George Mason University started life 22 years ago as a 17-student extension of the University of Virginia, using one rented building at Bailey's Crossroads.
The school fueled by increasing revenue from Virginia's state legislature, has grown into an autonomous degree-granting institution, sprawled over 567 acres in Fairfax and serving 11,000 student. Plans are to have another 4,500 enrolled by 1985.
Propelled by an aggressive athletic department plus the newfound support of the surrounding Northern Virginia community. George Mason's inter-collegate sports program has also developed rapidly.
That evolution has paralleled -- and possible surpassed -- the schools considerable academic maturation. [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE]
ThePatriot basketball team which finished [WORD ILLEGIBLE] six years ago playing the likes of Lather Rice and Virginia Wesueyan rolled to a 17.8 mark last season. Next year GMU has scheduled among others Goerge Washington, Virginia, Military Long Island, Old Dominion, Howard and Bowling Green.
The school will play eight home games against Division One foes - twice as many as it played during the entire 1977-78 season.
Jay Marsh assistant athletic director played basketball for George Mason and remembers the Jean years.
We traveled cramped in two station wagons or in some player's car." said Marsh. All meals were eaten at fast-food places. Rarely did we spend the night on a road trip. Our home games were played at W.T. Woodson High School until the campus gym was built."
The trophy case in the college's gym is dominated by mementos of Patriot baseball success in the National Association of the intercollegiate Athletics, the Mason-Dixon Conference and the Potomac Intercollegiate Conference Nearly every Northern Virginia high school baseball standout who chooses to attend college in the area opts for Mason.
George Mason has no campus baseball field. Home games are played at the Old Fairfax High School two miles from the main campus.
(Raymond "Hap" Spuhler the school athletic director and baseball coach for the last 12 years recently announced his retirement because of cancer.)
David Romaine, the nations top high school indoor miler will enter GMU this fall. Steve Ferri, a former No. 2 high school mile and two-mile runner, will transfer from Georgetown; and Kevin Jackson, the area's only seven-foot high jumper is already enrolled.
George Mason has no crack facility on campus. Home meets are held at nearby high school tracks.
Home attendance at basketball games this past year was nearly triple that of 1977-78 the Patriots drew an average of 1,100 spectators last season.
The majority of fans do travel some distance GMU houses only 500 students on campus.
The woman's volleyball team has won the state title three years in a row.
The Patriot bandwagon is loaded, from the university's new pressports president, Dr George Johnson, to many members of the administration and faculty of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and local businessman who financially support the [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] Foundation.
Assistant Marsh oversees the PEF which covers all athletic scholarships. Two years, ago, the foundation raised about $25,000, this year, $65,000 has flowed in.
While that doesn't begin to rank George Mason with the Division One powerhouses in terms of capitol acquisition, continually increasing funds enable the school to make plans for recruiting.
Where we go will be based on community interest," said Virce Campanella the schools' sport information director "Hopefully parents will say it will cost them less for their kids to attend a local school."
Each full-ride athletic scholarship is worth $4,500 a year. Basketball Coach John Linn received funding for nine full scholarships this year, but he can divide the money any way he needs, giving partial aid to some athletes. Other sports at the school are accorded just enough money for a few parted scholarships.
Basketball is the key to our identity out front," said Marsh. "We have other sport we do well in but basketball gets the public to notice the school in the first place."
The administration is nearly unanimously against the idea of beginning an intercollegiate football program as being too costly. Far more scholarship funding would be needed, plus recruiting equipment and travel money.
This past season, George Mason competed in its initial Division One basketball compaign. Campanella cited three reasons for moving from Division Two.
The overall development of the school, the refusal of many metropolitan area colleges to schedule GMU in basketball and the fact that the Mason Dixon Conference went under.
The conference had provided several nearby rivalries. However, scheduling at the Division Two level had become a problem for many M-D school.Athletes entering Division Two schools can still look forward to at least partial athletic scholarships. That was still too costly for many of the high-budgeted M-D conference members so several [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to the re-scholarship plateau of Division Three.
[WORD ILLEGIBLE] knew small college athletics of the Division Two and Three types were not where GMU students would be interested," said Marsh. "We felt that if we were a major school, we had to be major across the board."
The Patriots ascendence to bigtime hoops resuited in better media cover age. Five games were telecast by Northern Virginia station WNVT. TV. 53 on a delayed basis; more are expected to be aired next year.
"They wouldn't broadcast the games last year (1977-78) because it was not profitable for them," said Camparella. But apparent revived viewer interest in Patriot fortunes caused WNVT to change its mind this year.
For the first time ever this season, WEEL radio carried every George Mason game, home and away.
"It was either George Mason or the University of Virginia," said WEEL General Manager Mike Gloster. Frankly, we were leaning more toward Virginia, but Vince is quite a salesman. In addition, there is a market of more than one million in the Northern Virginia area."
Marsh does not look for the basketball leans to duplicate this year's won lost record because of the normal problems encountered when a school upgrades it schedule.
NCAA rules stipulate a Division One team must schedule 85 percent Division One opponents. More established schools are reluctant to visit an unfriendly gym and chance losing to a lesser-known foe. Therefore, GMU plays 17 of its 27 games next season on the road. But Marsh, who handles the scheduling, sees some light at the end of the turnel: Several of next year's foes have tentatively agreed to a home-and-home format for 1980-81.
Other GMU teams, like the wrestling and soccer squads, already compete with mostly Division One schools. In those sports, any differences in scholarship and recruitment budgets play smaller parts with regard to parity.
The state champion women's volleyball team, will take trips to Tennessee and North Corolina next season to face tougher opponents. The men's track and field team will similarly travel to several invitational meets.
At the grand schemes of course reguire logistical backup from athletic department personnel as well as funds from the university via student activity fees.
Student fees - currently $180 per annum - will undergo stepped increases to $312 by fall of1981. The added revenue will however, go toward serving the non-varsity student body as well as intercollegiate athletes.
Much of it will pay for a long awaited recreational sports complex on campus part of which will be completed by this fall. A $500,000 outdoor track and playing field is under construction. A $4 million field house will follow to be finished by early 1982. Inside will be racketball, squash, tennis, handball and basketball courts as well as a one-eighth-mile running track.
No bleachers are planned for the field house, although the outdoor complex will eventually have 12,000 seat. Adiniistration officials stress that the field house will be for the use of all students and thereby plan to stick with the present gymnasium for intercollegiate basketball. There has been discussion on adding more seating for basketball.
The athletic department would like to obtain some of that additional student fee capital to hire one full-time and two part-time assistant basketball coaches. Money is also wanted to get Mason's respected track coach, John Cook, on the campus at in early hour of the day.
The university does not have any exclusive full-time coaches, those on campus all day also teach.
As Marsh summed up "We're had our bad times, but we know we're not tied into that. We are sure we will keeps growing."