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Honoring Mac: SAU renovates Fieldhouse into McDonald Athletic Center

SAU Fieldhouse

“Mac” is an important name in SAU Athletics — and lately it’s been a popular name among community members on our Spring Arbor campus. Everyone is waiting for the finalization of renovations to the SAU Fieldhouse, the completed facility to be known as the “MAC,” short for “McDonald Athletic Center.”

A beloved and respected athletics coach and mathematics teacher, Donald A. “Mac” McDonald served at Spring Arbor for 26 years (1945-71) during the institution’s high school, junior college and four-year college years. His high school coaching career included 13 years with basketball, 12 years with track, seven years with baseball, five years with cross country and nine years with intramural football. When Spring Arbor became a four-year college, he also assumed the coaching responsibilities for golf.

Mac was a multi-talented coach, but his true passion was for the game of basketball. As a Spring Arbor basketball coach, Mac led the now-Cougar basketball team into interscholastic competition for the first time in 1948. He returned from his 1958 retirement to coach the final Spring Arbor High School basketball team in 1961, before the high school was discontinued. His 1955 team had a 20-1 record, and his 1952 team, which is in the SAU Athletics Hall of Fame, went to the state Class D quarterfinals. For his dedication to Spring Arbor Athletics and his commitment to excellence as a coach, Mac was inducted into the Spring Arbor Athletic Hall of Fame in its inaugural 1996 class.

“Mac basically was the founder of athletics here at Spring Arbor,” says Director of Athletics and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Ryan Cottingham ‘94. “The stories we’ve heard about Mac have been phenomenal — like he coached baseball and basketball and track, and he would use his own money to build hurdles or to provide equipment. He would transport kids. He was just really, really impactful.”
Mac himself was an alumnus of Spring Arbor, graduating from both the high school and the junior college. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, earned his master’s degree from the University of Michigan and completed advanced study at the

University of Michigan and Wayne State University. During World War II, before coming to Spring Arbor as a teacher and coach, he taught airplane mechanics and mathematics at the Henry Ford Naval Training School in Dearborn, Michigan.

Mac was also a dedicated member of the Spring Arbor community and an active member of the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church.
This year, to celebrate Mac’s legacy, the SAU Fieldhouse, home to SAU’s basketball and volleyball teams, is receiving a $1.9 million complete facility renovation and becoming the McDonald Athletic Center. Construction on the MAC began at the end of the 2017-18 academic year, and completion is scheduled for this fall. This state-of-the-art facility will ensure the stability and growth of SAU Athletics for decades to come and allow for the greater Spring Arbor, Michigan, community to continue to enjoy collegiate level athletics at SAU.

The idea for the MAC began with a question posed by Larry Starr HS ‘51, a supporter of SAU Athletics and admirer of Mac: “How can we honor Coach Mac?” Charlie and Beth (McDonald HS ’61, JC ’63, ‘65) Kuntzleman, son-in-law and daughter to Mac, were enthusiastic to join the effort to memorialize Mac’s impact on SAU Athletics.

“As we move forward — and we always want to be forward thinking — we never want to forget the past and those who have made tremendous sacrifices and impact,” says Cottingham. “To be able to be in a facility that’s named after Mac, and to continue to try to carry on a tradition that he started — I think it’s pretty cool for all of our coaches and athletes.”

“I’m excited to have an updated version of the Fieldhouse,” says Mackay Heasley ’18, a Cougar volleyball player entering her fourth year and beginning study on her master of social work. “I’m really excited that we’re going to be calling it the MAC.”

The project entails a complete transformation of the 42-year-old fieldhouse, focused on improving safety and functionality and enhancing the overall aesthetics of the facility. The current bleacher systems, original to the building, will be removed and replaced with new, safer bleachers that will surround all four sides of Bockwitz Court, creating an arena-style environment. Additionally, the facility will receive an upgraded sound system, scoreboard and LED video display to help improve the fan experience. The hardwood floor will be updated with the new Athletics logo, which the department unveiled last spring. Other improvements to the facility will include converting the current press box into a suite, improving the training room and team laundry equipment and updating the public restrooms.

“The newly renovated McDonald Athletic Center will offer the best possible experience for Spring Arbor University athletes,” said SAU President Dr. Brent Ellis. “We are extremely thankful for the generosity of Charlie and Beth Kuntzleman, who provided the lead gift for this project. To honor Coach McDonald in this way is a long-lasting tribute to the mission he undertook almost 75 years ago — guiding Spring Arbor University to pioneer a vibrant athletic program, one that thrives to this day.”

Ryan Cottingham

“The improved facility will undoubtedly increase visibility and impact the ability to recruit top-flight student athletes,” says Cottingham. “One thing will remain constant, and that is the coaches’ relentless discipline borne of passion to offer the best possible experience to Spring Arbor University athletes. As they have done for decades, the department’s coaches will offer the best of themselves to the students they lead and work tirelessly to fulfill their mission of developing within our student athletes a depth of faith, strength of character and skills of leadership essential for a lifetime of service to Jesus Christ.”

The SAU Fieldhouse project is the fourth major athletics facility project undertaken by the university in the last seven years. Other facilities recently updated include the Cougar Soccer Complex (2011), the Ronald L. and Marvel C. Jones Tennis Complex (2016) and the Ralph G. Walker Memorial Track & Field Complex (2017).

For more information about the MAC, contact Matt Gin at or visit