Home College Cornell Men’s Hockey’s Mike Schafer Announces Plan To Retire Following 2024-25 Season

Cornell Men’s Hockey’s Mike Schafer Announces Plan To Retire Following 2024-25 Season

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Casey Jones ’90 to Succeed Him As Program’s 13th Head Coach

ITHACA, N.Y. — Mike Schafer ’86, a legendary name in college hockey as well as the face of the Big Red men’s program for more than three decades, has announced that he will retire as the Jay R. Bloom ’77 Head Coach of Cornell Men’s Ice Hockey following the 2024-25 season.

Nicki Moore, the Meakem & Smith Director of Athletics & Physical Education, has also announced that Casey Jones ’90 – a former Big Red captain and assistant coach and current head coach at Clarkson University – will succeed Schafer as Cornell’s 13th men’s head coach. Jones will join the Big Red coaching staff this year as associate head coach before taking the reins next spring.

“I’ve had a 38-year coaching career in college hockey – 33 of them at Cornell,” Schafer, an assistant coach at Western Michigan from 1990-95 before returning to his alma mater. “It’s been a tremendous experience helping the players and teams over the years to reach their goals while helping create Big Red pride and building spirit through Cornell hockey. I feel now is the perfect time for me to begin the transition into retirement.

“I am grateful for all the amazing relationships I have with players, alumni, community members, and colleagues,” he said. “I am confident that the team will be in good hands with Director of Athletics Nicki Moore and Coach Jones when he takes over a year from now. I look forward to seeing the unmatched tradition of Cornell hockey continue throughout the years to come, but for now, I am focused on the work to be done this coming year.”

“Mike Schafer is a legend in the world of college hockey and is on a very short list of the most impactful people in the history of Cornell Athletics,” Moore said. “For nearly four decades as a player, captain, assistant, and ultimately head coach, Mike has poured his heart and total effort into the success of the program, and more importantly, into the individual student-athletes who have played for him and have flourished on and off the ice thanks to his mentorship. I am so grateful that he has agreed to continue coaching this year after considering retirement. I believe our approach will facilitate a smooth transition, and a seamless progression for the program as we extend and build upon Mike’s incredible legacy.”

During his 29 years behind the Big Red bench, Schafer has led the program to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the 2003 Frozen Four — its first appearance in the NCAA semifinals since 1980. The 2002-03 Big Red established a school record for wins (30), one more than the 1969-70 national championship squad (29-0-0), which remains the lone Division I men’s program to win a national title while finishing undefeated and untied.

Following the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, Schafer was named co-recipient of the Spencer Penrose Award, given to the nation’s top head coach, sharing the honor with the University of North Dakota’s Brad Berry. Cornell was 23-2-4 and ranked No. 1 in the nation when the season was halted in mid-March. Schafer has been named ECAC Hockey’s Coach of the Year five times (2002, 2003, 2005, 2018, 2020) and Ivy League Coach of the Year four times (2018, 2019, 2020, 2024) since the award was established in 2016.

Under Schafer, Cornell has claimed six Whitelaw Cups (ECAC Hockey tournament titles), surpassing the legendary Ned Harkness for most in Big Red history. He has also guided Cornell to six Cleary Cups as the conference’s regular-season champion, including three over the past seven years, and 13 Ivy League titles.

A defenseman during his playing days, Schafer was a four-year letterman and a two-year captain. He appeared in 107 games for Cornell, scoring 70 points (10 goals, 60 assists), and capped his collegiate career by leading the Big Red to an ECAC Hockey championship and No. 5 national ranking as a senior.

Schafer was named an honorable mention All-ECAC Hockey selection in 1985-86 and earned All-Ivy second-team honors for a second consecutive year. Schafer also served as president of the Red Key Athletic Honor Society and was the recipient of the ECAC Medallion for academic excellence and athletic prowess.

Schafer and his wife, Diane ’86, have two sons, Luke and John ’18, MBA ’22, and a daughter, Michelle.

“When Coach Schafer approached me this past spring about his desire to retire, his focus was to support the current student-athletes and to make sure he left the program in the best possible position,” Moore said. “I think in every way we are doing that. After agreeing to stay on as head coach for one more season, and with the understanding of my commitment that Mike’s successor would be a successful sitting Division 1 head coach with an uncommon passion for Cornell hockey, Mike and I worked together to develop an impressive list of candidates.

“Casey emerged as the right successor for this esteemed program,” Moore said. “This creative succession solution allows us to seamlessly compete to win in the present and plan for the future with our current and future student-athletes top of mind. To have a coach of Casey’s caliber be supportive of this approach, and to have a person with his character and with his deep ties to Cornell be fully enthusiastic about the unique opportunity our plan offers is extraordinary! I am so excited for Mike, for Casey, and for our student-athletes and staff.”

“This is a really exciting moment for myself and my family – returning to my alma mater, the place I met my wife, and where I spent the best four years of my life,” Jones said. “Mike is a great friend and someone I have unlimited respect for, and I’m excited to celebrate what he has helped build before accepting the challenge of leading Big Red hockey into the future.”

Jones’ Clarkson teams compiled a 234-185-56 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances and five top-three conference finishes. His 2018-19 team won the ECAC Hockey Tournament title, and he was named ECAC Hockey’s Tim Taylor Coach of the Year; his 2019-20 team was 23-8-3 and poised for another trip to the NCAA Tournament before COVID-19 cut the season short. Over a five-year period from 2017-22, Clarkson ranked among the top 16 teams nationally in the final Pairwise each year.

Eleven Clarkson players have been selected in the NHL Entry Draft during Jones’ tenure, with four players going on to have NHL careers, three (Josh Dunne, Sheldon Rempal, and Nico Sturm) who are currently on active rosters.

Jones was associate head coach under Schafer from 2008-11, before taking over as head coach of the Golden Knights. Jones spent 1991-93 as an assistant coach for the Big Red under head coach Brian McCutcheon ‘71, then was an assistant for two years at Clarkson before joining Ohio State as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator from 1995-2008.

Jones was a four-year letter winner for the Big Red with Schafer as one of the team’s assistant coaches and Doug Derraugh ’91 – the Everett Family Head Coach of Women’s Ice Hockey – was a teammate. Jones served as team captain during the 1989-90 season, leading his team to a 16-10-3 mark. Jones scored 112 points (30 goals, 82 assists) in 110 games in his career and won the team’s Bill Doran Sportsmanship Award in 1990.

Following his freshman campaign, Jones was selected by the Boston Bruins in the 10th round (203rd overall) of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft.

Jones and his wife, Kimberlee ’95, a Cornell graduate, have a daughter, Gabrielle, and a son, Bryan.

As both Schafer and Jones, along with the staff, are fully focused on coaching and supporting the 2024-25 team and recruiting, there will be no immediate public recognition of Schafer’s planned May 2025 retirement, or of Jones’ projected succession. At the appropriate times, both of these events will be celebrated with the Big Red Hockey community.

(Photo provided by Cornell University Athletics/Alumni Dept.)