#100Pac12 Alumni: Harvey Mason, Jr.

As part of the Pac-12’s Centennial celebration, the Conference is highlighting Pac-12 student-athlete alumni who have had tremendous success off the field of play—in their careers and in their communities.

Harvey Mason, Jr. 
Arizona Basketball ‘90
Currently: CEO and Producer, Harvey Mason Media
               Grammy Award-winning songwriter, music producer, and film producer

As part of the 1988 Arizona Final Four team, Harvey Mason Jr. had big dreams of playing in the NBA. His life took a slight turn during his senior season, and made him a prime example of how to utilize skills learned while playing sports to build an incredible career off the court. Today, he is the CEO of his own production company and an accomplished songwriter and producer with seven Grammy Awards for his work.

Mason played football, baseball, and basketball in middle school and considered himself to be worst at basketball. Because of that assessment, he worked the hardest at basketball and eventually became an All-American high school player in Southern California. He was recruited by several Pac-12 schools including USC and Stanford but was ultimately taken aback by the special things happening under legendary coach Lute Olson at Arizona.

“A lot of the things I learned from Coach Olson are things I still use everyday in my life: in my relationships, in my business,” Mason said. “His level of expectation for greatness is what I adopted more than anything else.” 

Mason came to Arizona as a high school star. He was sure he had been doing more than enough to be successful. But once he got to Tucson, he realized the bar Coach Olson set was higher than he could have ever imagined.

“I learned to hold myself to a higher standard and expect greatness in everything I did,” Mason said. “Coach expected greatness in the classroom, in the way we dressed, the way we talked to the media, the way we interacted with fans, in our philanthropic outreach, in the way we acted with the officials, and even in the way we walked in the airport. He expected nothing less than great.”

Mason’s teammates, including stars like Steve Kerr and Sean Elliot, also made a profound impact on his work ethic and standards, both on and off the court.

“Everyone had as much love and passion for the game as I did, or more,” Mason said. “They gave me a taste of what it meant to grow up, to mature, to become a productive member of society, and to contribute something to the world other than just putting the ball through the hoop.”

The support he felt at Arizona didn’t end there. Mason said he even had great exposure to legendary athletics director Cedric Dempsey and was exposed to influential people who helped him succeed at every turn.

One of his favorite memories while a student-athlete at Arizona was the game the Wildcats won to advance to the 1988 Final Four and the week leading up to that Final Four. But overall, Mason says his most memorable moments didn’t happen on the court. They were mostly less glamorous than that: times spent with his teammates in the locker room, on the bus, being caught in an earthquake, and even having a snowball fight in Alaska. “Those are the memories I’ll always have. When I think about my time at Arizona, I’m thinking about that,” Mason said. 

Mason double-majored in Political Science and English and had plans of attending law school if his NBA dreams didn’t quite pan out. During college, he interned with senators and at the county attorney’s office. At that time, music was a mere hobby—something he did in his dorm room for fun, not something he saw as a career path.

17 games into his senior season, Mason suffered an ACL injury and realized that playing professional basketball was no longer an option for him. “I felt like I missed out on my dream,” Mason said.

It was right around this time, as Mason was attempting to transition to life without competitive sports, that the idea of making money off of his musical talents truly presented itself. His girlfriend at the time and later wife, Jeannine (Arizona volleyball, ’90), had gotten a job at an advertising agency and needed some music written for a commercial. She knew just the man for the job. 

Writing the music for that commercial was a turning point for Mason.  He started his own company in Tucson to produce music for agencies as well as television and radio stations.

It wasn’t long before Mason was producing and writing music for some of the biggest stars in the world. He worked with acts like Destiny’s Child, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Toni Braxton, and Michael Jackson.

In the year 2000, Mason formed Underdog Entertainment, a company that produced countless pop and R&B hits for stars worldwide.

“I only do projects that I’m really excited about,” Mason said. Some of his favorite projects include Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown records, the films “Dreamgirls” and “Straight Outta Compton”, and the recent NBC television special of “The Wiz Live.” 

Mason is a seven-time Grammy Award winner, winning for albums like Chris Brown’s “F.A.M.E”, Jennifer Hudson’s 2008 self-titled album, Beyonce’s “B-Day” album, and Justin Timberlake’s “Justified” album, among others. This year he could win his eighth Grammy award after receiving a nomination for “Best Compilation for Visual Media” for producing the "Pitch Perfect 2" soundtrack.

“I’m proud that I’ve gotten to work with a lot of my idols, people I grew up listening to and loving,” Mason said. But his proudest accomplishment to date is having raised two great children, Trey and Mia.

Mason formed his independent company, Harvey Mason Media, in 2008. The company encompasses his film and record productions, music publishing, and website ventures.

“My proudest moment musically is hopefully still in front of me,” Mason said. “My ultimate goal is basically world domination, but that’s probably a little far-fetched,” he joked.

Mason does have plenty of plans for the future, including building his business by further expanding into the film and television industries and into other markets like Korea, China, and Japan. 

Many of the things Mason learned during his time at Arizona benefit him in the workplace even today. One lesson he particularly recalls is that you can’t do anything based solely on pure talent, something people often try to do in both basketball and music.

“You have to set goals, you have to be persistent, and you have to sacrifice. Those are things most people don’t do when it comes to their careers,” Mason said. “I had a leg up because I took everything I learned from Coach Olson and my teammates and I translated it to my profession.”

Today, the University of Arizona and Arizona Athletics remain a huge part of Mason’s life. He serves on the university’s Board of Trustees, his son Trey plays on the Arizona men’s basketball team, and his daughter Mia plays on the beach volleyball team. 

“I feel a very natural connection to this place,” Mason said of the U of A. “I have an affinity for this community because of what I got here. It gave me so much, and taught me so much that I want to be able to help provide that for other people."

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