Every year homecoming weekend is a grand occasion for Dartmouth alumni. Dressed in their green garb they walk proudly around campus with old friends and remember what it was like “back in the days.”
These weekends, however, are just a small part of their lives for as the festivities come to a close they must leave their memories of the past and return to their lives of the present.
For Mike Mahoney ’92, Dartmouth sports are not an occasional reason for celebration; they are a way of life.
As Assistant Director of Sports Information for Dartmouth, Mahoney has seen more of Dartmouth sports in the last three years than the most dedicated fans do in a lifetime.
Mahoney has watched athletes come and go. He has seen some thrilling victories and some agonizing defeats. If it happened to a Big Green sports team, Mahoney knows about it.
A third generation Dartmouth grad, Mahoney played soccer and JV lacrosse as a student. He was also the sports editor for the Dartmouth and started out his freshman year as a member of the DDS corps at Full Fare dining hall.
Mahoney’s father was friends with Dave Gavitt ’59, founder and commissioner of the Big East Conference and the president of USA Basketball. Because of this, Mahoney had a chance to do some work for Gavitt during his sophomore spring. He reluctantly chose to abandon his culinary aspirations and leave the salad bar in favor of working at USA Basketball in Colorado Springs, Co.
Mahoney’s role in Colorado was “not a whole lot.” Although his job was what he called “mostly menial intern work,” he said that “when I left there I thought ‘this is awesome. This whole world [of sports information] is great.'”
At this time the U.S. National Basketball Team Trials were going on in Colorado. Mahoney attended practices and was able to meet many legendary players.
“You knew all the guy’s names. You’re sitting there watching practice and there’s Billy Owens, Kenny Anderson, and all those guys,” he said. Mahoney said that “the highlight of my basketball career… was when I beat Kenny Anderson in a game of horse before practice one day.”
As a whole the internship “definitely gave me a warped sense of how the sports world worked because the money just grew on trees out there. We were getting wined and dined all the time,” Mahoney said.
As all good things come to an end, Mahoney had to leave Colorado to come back east for his sophomore summer. But he was not unchanged.
When he arrived back on campus he chose to leave Full Fare in favor of working for Kathy Slattery, director of Sports Publicity both then and now, at the Sports Information Office.
Spring of 1992 found Mahoney graduating from Dartmouth with a degree in English. He went to work in Princeton for a year at the Ivy League office where he helped produce weekly Ivy League sports releases.
A year later Mahoney applied for a job at Hamilton College. Three days after this fell through he received a call from Kathy Slattery and went in for an interview.
“It was fortunate that at the time he didn’t have a job,” Slattery said. “He was clearly the man” to fill the vacant position in the Sports Publicity office, she said.
With that offer, Mahoney found himself back at his alma mater working as Assistant Director of Sports Information.
Although his business cards say “sports information” on them, Mahoney prefers to call his field “athletic communication” or “sports publicity.”
His job involves keeping tabs on all the varsity sports and relaying statistics and highlights to public news media. If a newspaper wants to talk to players or coaches they have to set up press sessions through Mahoney’s office. This is to avoid “inundation” of the players. The office is also the “sports version of the archives office,” he said.
Over the last three years working in Sports Publicity Mahoney has found that the scene is not all glamour as it was in Colorado.
“The schedule in our office is dictated by the sports schedule,” he said. “Yes, [our hours] are very irregular. On Saturdays, when everyone’s playing, it’s mayhem.”
For nine months–from September to the end of May–the work is really intense, he said. This fall he has been in the office for at least four hours every day since Sept. 10.
“You don’t have a life,” he said. “You really truly have to love what you’re doing to do it. Kathy told me, ‘It’ll eat you up if you don’t watch out,’ and she was right.”
Summers in Hanover provide Mahoney with a time to recharge. “Hanover is so incredible in the summer,” he said “There’s so much to do-there’s a lot of hiking and biking. I really like that stuff.”
The rewards of working in his position make the hectic hours worthwhile. Mahoney said a large part of his happiness comes from the people he works with. To him Kathy Slattery is “the big boss.” He also works with administrative assistant Cindi Mansell and two interns.
“It’s hard,” Mahoney said “There are 34 varsity sports, and we’re trying to keep up with them. We don’t ever lose control at least, and if we ever did we’d never tell anyone.”
Mahoney said that traveling with the teams is rewarding as well because it lets him get to know many athletes.
“It’s fun just to see how the different athletes operate from team to team, and from individual to individual.”
The bus rides, he said, are a lot of fun.
“It’s always funny when [athletes] find out that I’m actually only 26 years old,” he said. “They don’t want to say [that I look older] but I know what they’re thinking.”
Another perk of the job according to Mahoney is that “sometimes it’s nice to get out of Hanover” in the winter time. It gives him a chance to see people out of town whom he would never otherwise see.
Perhaps the greatest of his rewards is the pride that Mahoney feels in seeing a Dartmouth sports team do well. Last year the women’s basketball team won the Ivy League championship and went to NCAA’s.
This type of thing is exciting because it shows that “Dartmouth sports for the most part can compete at a national level with anyone. It gives you a flavor for what the big time is all about,” he said.
For Mahoney, one of the hard parts of his job is maintaining a professional disposition when Dartmouth teams are doing well.
“Last year at the NCAA tournament game it was so hard not to cheer,” Mahoney said. “I was thinking, ‘if we win this is the greatest thing ever.’ For the most part, though, I manage to keep a pretty even keel and just watch the game for what it is.”
There are times when this stoic demeanor has to fall. Smiling, Mahoney said, “Sometimes I get on a ref about a call, but I’ll walk away from the press box before I do that.”
This week Mahoney is gearing up for one of his favorite times of year, Homecoming. He said he loves it because many of his friends come back to campus.
“It’s a chance for people to come up here and really remember what Dartmouth’s all about,” he said.
Sometimes he loses sight of the true beauty of Hanover and the surrounding mountains– especially in the dead of winter. When alumni come back and remark on the natural splendor he said it “reminds me of how lucky I am that I’m back here.”
Perhaps the most striking thing about this man is his enthusiasm.
“One of the biggest things when I got out of college in looking for a job was that I wanted to be happy. I’m very happy here,” he said.
Mahoney is entirely relaxed in regard to the future.
“I really don’t know where it’s going to take me or what the next step is going to be but I’m not really worried about it. The day I don’t enjoy [my work] is the day I’ll walk away. I have absolute confidence in myself that I would do that.” he said.
As Kathy Slattery said, “Mike brings a great deal of skill and personality” to his work. “He’s been a terrific addition” to the office, she said. “He’s willing to tackle any project… and he’s not afraid of working long hours.”
This weekend people will get dressed up in their green attire and cheer on the football team with boundless enthusiasm. Yet it will be hard for anyone’s enthusiasm to exceed the intense school pride embodied in this alumnus who devotes his life to being a fan of Big Green sports.