Clayton State’s basketball arena at the Athletics & Fitness Center has gotten a major facelift over the last three months, and along with the renovation, the Laker home court of more than 600 games will get a new name.
Beginning in the 2012-13 basketball season, the Clayton State court will be known as the “Mason Barfield Court,” in honor of the Lakers’ former Athletic Director. Barfield, who retired last fall, founded the program 23 years ago.
“Mason Barfield’s Clayton State career focused on students, and their athletic, academic, and ultimately life successes,” says Clayton State President Dr. Thomas J. Hynes. “How fitting that we would dedicate a court named in his honor that has been the site of exceptional athletic victors, as well as the site for graduations and the conferral of more than a thousand degrees just last year — a percentage growth in degrees issued rivaled by only two or three other institutions in the University System. That such has and will happen on the Mason Barfield Court speaks volumes for both the University and the former director for whom the court will now be named.”
An official naming ceremony is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 13, the first official game of the 2012-13 basketball season. Clayton State’s women’s basketball team will play an exhibition game against an alumni team at 5 p.m., while the men’s team will open its regular season in a non-conference game against Tennessee Temple at 7:30 p.m. The naming ceremony is planned in between the two games, beginning at 7 p.m.
“Mason took a vision and turned it into a reality. Very few people get the opportunity to embark on taking a program from its inception and bringing it to the level Mason has. It is truly a remarkable accomplishment,” says Athletic Director Carl McAloose. “Through his hard work and commitment to Clayton State, Mason turned a fledgling program into one of the top athletic programs in NCAA II. In the process, he has touched the lives of thousands and has helped bring national recognition to Clayton State. He certainly deserves this honor and his legacy will now be remembered in perpetuity with the naming of the Mason Barfield Court.”
A native of Hahira, Ga., Barfield was hired as the athletic director and men’s head basketball coach at Clayton State in the fall of 1989 after serving one year as an instructor and men’s assistant basketball coach at Kennesaw State University, three years of teaching and serving as boy’s head basketball coach at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga., and three years of teaching and coaching at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga. Over the first five seasons as an NAIA program, he built the Laker men’s basketball program into a highly-competitive team in the Georgia Athletic Conference, winning consecutive regular season conference championships in 1994 and 1995, and winning more games than all but one four year intercollegiate program in the state over his last three seasons.
In addition, he also helped institute both women’s basketball (1991) and men’s soccer (1992) at Clayton State.
However, Barfield’s biggest challenge came in the winter of 1995 when the Clayton State administration announced the intention to move the athletic program to NCAA Division II status and join the Peach Belt Conference. To make that happen, Barfield oversaw the unprecedented move of starting up five new sports – women’s soccer, men’s golf, women’s tennis and men’s and women’s cross country – with competition in those five sports beginning in the fall of 1995, just six months after the announcement of the additions.
After the first few years of transition into the Peach Belt Conference, Laker Athletics began to take shape at the Division II level under Barfield’s leadership. Since 2000, Clayton State has won 15 Peach Belt Conference regular season championships and finished conference runner-up on 12 occasions. In addition, Laker teams have also won eight Peach Belt tournament titles and finished as tournament runner-up four times, establishing Clayton State as an elite power in the Peach Belt.
At the national level, Clayton State teams have advanced to the NCAA Division II National Tournament 48 times since 2000, including three “Final Four,” six “Elite Eight” and fourteen “Sweet 16” appearances. The culmination of that success was in 2011 when the Laker women’s basketball team captured Clayton State’s first NCAA Division II national championship, defeating Michigan Tech, 69-50, in the title game in St. Joseph’s, Mo.