Mike Schafer, the Jay R. Bloom ’77 Head Coach of Men’s Hockey, lifts up the Whitelaw Cup after leading the Big Red past St. Lawrence to claim the 2024 ECAC Hockey Tournament title on March 23 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Mike Schafer ’86 to retire as hockey coach after next season

Mike Schafer ’86, who over four decades has become synonymous with Cornell men’s hockey as a player, assistant coach and head coach, has announced that he will retire as the Jay R. Bloom ’77 Head Coach of Men’s Ice Hockey following the 2024-25 season.

Nicki Moore, the Meakem Smith Director of Athletics and 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.

Mike Schafer celebrates the 2024 ECAC Hockey Tournament title in the locker room.

“I’ve had a 38-year coaching career in college hockey – 33 of them at Cornell,” said Schafer, an assistant coach at Western Michigan University 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 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.”

In his 28 seasons 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.

The Big Red has had 14 seasons with 20 wins, and 17 with at least a .600 winning percentage, since Schafer took over as head coach in 1995.

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 Red to an ECAC Hockey championship and No. 5 national ranking as a senior.

Schafer was 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, 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 I 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 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.”

Casey Jones coaches from the Clarkson bench during a 2022-23 men’s ice hockey game against Cornell.

Jones, a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award in 2019, has spent the past 13 years as Clarkson head coach. He’s anxious to return to Ithaca.

“This is a really exciting moment for myself and my family – returning to my alma mater, the place where 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.

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, 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 letterwinner 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 – as 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, have a daughter, Gabrielle, and a son, Bryan.

Jeremy Hartigan is senior associate director of athletics for communications.

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