Three Decades Later, Geneseo Still Inspires

Mike Mooney stands in front of the soccer team that is practicing, at the stadium.

Story by Tim Volkmann | Photo by Keith Walters ’11

Mike Mooney started his career coaching soccer in 1985 and figured it would be a short stay. He remains a fixture behind one of the top Division 3 athletic departments in the country.

Mike Mooney planned to get his soccer coaching career off the ground at Geneseo and move on. Thirty-three years later, he’s mentored countless student-athletes and coaches while transforming the Knights into one of the premier programs in Division III athletics. 

“The idea was to get my foot in the door, win a couple of games and position myself to go somewhere else,” recounted Mooney. “I didn’t have much of a plan past that.”

Hired in 1985 as the part-time men’s soccer coach, Mooney also worked as a residence hall director for a year before being tabbed director of intramurals and recreation for the next five. He followed that up with an eight-year stint as athletic facilities manager. 

“Any time I thought about leaving, something happened that made me feel like folks wanted me to stick around,” said Mooney. “The athletic director at the time, John Spring, gave me opportunities to get administrative experience in addition to coaching, so I must have been doing something right.”

He was.

Mooney became the winningest coach in the program’s history over his 26-year coaching tenure, from 1985 to 2010. He guided a team that had traditionally underachieved, earning 262 victories and three State University of New York Athletic Conference Championships (SUNYAC), highlighted by a 2004 squad that ranked fourth in the nation after playing to the NCAA Tournament Semifinals.

“As we started getting better, a lot of our other programs began improving, as well,” recalled Mooney. “People wanted to be part of the success, and took more pride in working for the department.” 

In 1999, newly appointed Director of Athletics Marilyn Moore elevated Mooney to assistant director for five years and then associate director for the next six. Mooney was appointed as interim director following Moore’s retirement in 2010, before assuming the director position in 2011 after a national search.

Being able to help shape what makes Geneseo so special to its student-athletes has inspired Mooney to stay all this time.

“Geneseo became kind of an identity for me,” says Mooney. “I built a house and raised a family here. Folks in the community thank me for what our teams do and how they give back. People smile at you on campus, say ‘hello’ and hold doors open. It’s like a big family. You belong to this place and you want to make sure it’s that way for other people.  I love that we can be competitive as well.”

Mooney has led Geneseo to unprecedented success. The Knights were the top-ranked public institution after an 11th-place finish in the 2017-18 Learfield Directors’ Cup, which ranks the overall excellence of the nation’s 450 Division III programs. Geneseo also clinched its fourth-consecutive SUNYAC Commissioner’s Cup after winning a record 13 out of a possible 19 championships. 

“I’ve made a living doing something I love,” said Mooney. “I get to work with people who make me feel young and I’m surrounded by great staff. I get to see people succeed and hope, maybe, I helped them a bit. That’s what has kept me going for so long and makes me want to work harder.”

Author: geneseoscene

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