UTEP football head coach Sean Kugler announced the hiring of Tom Mason as the Miners defensive coordinator on Saturday.
“Tom is an outstanding coach, who comes highly recommended and brings a lot of experience to UTEP, “ said head coach Sean Kugler. “He has 38 years of experience in coaching many of those as a defensive coordinator.”
Tom Mason brings nearly 40 years of defensive experience to the Miners.
“We feel his defensive scheme fits our personnel and I am looking forward to him working with our players,” said Kugler.
Mason served as the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach for Hawaii during the 2015 season. During his time with the Rainbow Warriors, Mason mentored defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii, who garnered All-Mountain West first team honors. Tulimasealii was featured on the preseason watch list for Polynesian Player of the Year and led the conference in tackles for loss with a season total of 18.5, ranking 16th in the nation.
He racked up 63 tackles this season, including 42 solo stops. Tulimasealii finished the season ranked third in tackles among MW defensive linemen and notched eight quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Mason also helped inside linebacker Julian Gener finish the season with team highs of 95 tackles and 62 unassisted tackles, ranking sixth in the MW in tackles and third in solo tackles (27th in NCAA).
Prior to Hawaii, Mason was the defensive coordinator at SMU for seven years. During his tenure with the Mustangs, he transformed the SMU defense into one of the nation’s best, helping the program regain its former glory while working under former UH head coach June Jones. Mason’s defense aided SMU to four consecutive bowl seasons and a narrow loss in the 2010 Conference-USA Championship Game.
The Mustangs hit a new high in that journey in 2012 with the defense under Mason’s guidance, posting two shutouts and tying an NCAA interception record, ranking 15th in rush defense with just 118 yards per game, while also tying for third in takeaways (37), ranking second in fumble recoveries for touchdown (16) and led the nation in interceptions for touchdown (8).
Mason guided numerous SMU players to all-conference honors, including cornerback Kenneth Acker, who was named all-American Athletic Conference (AAC) and was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Five Mustang defenders earned All-Conference USA honors in 2012, with first-teamers Ja’Gared Davis and Margus Hunt, while the 2011 season saw eight SMU defenders earn all-C-USA accolades, highlighted by first-teamers Richard Crawford and Taylor Thompson.
The 2012 squad capped off its fourth consecutive year in a bowl, putting Mason’s defense on display in defeating Fresno State 43-10 in the Sheraton Hawai‘i Bowl, highlighted by Hunt’s two-forced fumble, three-sack Co-MVP performance, holding FSU to just 16 yards rushing.
SMU closed the 2011 season with a BBVA Compass Bowl win that saw the Mustangs limit Pittsburgh to just 10 rushing yards and a bowl-record-low six points.
The 2010 season saw Davis and Thompson tabbed all-CUSA first-teamers, with a narrow 16-14 loss to Army West Point in the Armed Forces Bowl. Mason’s defense played to the challenge, limiting the Black Knights to only 229 yards of offense despite the loss.
In 2009, Mason transformed SMU’s defense from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 and the results were immediate. In SMU’s 45-10 win over Nevada in the Sheraton Hawai‘i Bowl, the Mustang defense held the Wolf Pack’s No. 1-ranked rushing offense to a season-low 137 yards—more than 200 yards below its average. Under his tutelage, SMU linebacker Chase Kennemer was named first team all-C-USA and seven other Mustangs were tabbed for honorable mention all-conference honors.
Mason arrived at SMU after spending seven seasons at Fresno State, where he coached linebackers. There, he developed numerous standout linebackers including 2007 WAC Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Riley, 2006 first team all-WAC honoree Dwayne Andrews and 2003 first-teamer Bryce McGill.
Mason joined the Bulldog coaching staff in 2001 after spending one season as linebackers coach with the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL. He also spent time in the pro ranks as receivers coach for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League and as defensive backs coach for NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores.
Mason boasts an extensive collegiate resume, having served as defensive coordinator (1999) and secondary coach (1998-99) at Nevada and defensive coordinator at both Northern Iowa (1997-98) and Boise State (1993-96). At Boise, Mason helped coordinate a Bronco defense that reached the 1994 NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game and then served as Boise’s interim head coach from August through November 1996.
Prior to his time in Boise, he was defensive coordinator at Portland State (1982-86), helping lead the Vikings to four playoff appearances and two national championship games. He also served as the linebackers coach at Eastern Washington (1981-85) and was the defensive line coach at Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College (1978-80).
As a player, Mason began his career as a linebacker at Idaho before transferring to Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College. He finished out his playing career at Nevada from 1976-77. Mason received his bachelor’s degree in physical education and a Master of Science degree in physical education and post-secondary education from Eastern Washington.
Mason and his wife, Jami, have a daughter, Brenna.
Author: UTEP Athletics