Big Ten Medal of Honor Q&A: Jason Botterill (1997)
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April 16, 2014

Big Ten Medal of Honor 100th Anniversary
Michigan's Big Ten Medal of Honor Recipients

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, the Michigan Athletic Department will be profiling some distinguished student-athlete alumni who received this prestigious academic and athletic honor.

Jason Botterill is 15th on the all-time Michigan ice hockey scoring list with 104 goals and 82 assists in four seasons with the Wolverines from 1993-97. Botterill was an outstanding student-athlete during his time at Michigan, earning the U-M Athletic Academic Achievement Award four times and Academic All-Big Ten and CCHA All-Academic honors three times. On the ice, Botterill enjoyed a highly decorated career with the Wolverines. A second team All-American in 1997, All-CCHA second team selection in 1996, and CCHA All-Rookie Team selection in 1994, Botterill helped Michigan win the 1996 national championship. Although concussions cut short his professional hockey career, Botterill returned to Michigan to earn his MBA from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. He is currently in his fifth season as assistant general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Jason Botterill

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I viewed it as an award for all of the people that helped me along the way -- my teammates and coaches on the ice and the professors and academic advisors that made coming to class interesting.
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Jason Botterill
Q
What is your favorite memory from your time at Michigan?
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From an athletic standpoint, it was obviously winning the national championship in 1996 down in Cincinnati. I went back to that building a couple of weeks ago for the NCAA Regionals. You get back in that building and all the memories come rushing back. Just the way it happened, with Brendan Morrison scoring the overtime goal, and the disappointments from the previous years where we had been ranked No. 1 in the nation in both our freshman year and our sophomore year and not finding a way to win the national championship, the teams previous to our arrival having success, getting to two Frozen Fours but not winning a national championship, it was just such a great feeling. The building for that day too -- we were playing Colorado College in the final and there was one little sliver for Colorado College and the rest of the 14-15,000 people were all maize and blue. It was almost like a home game for us. To be able to reach the pinnacle of what we aspired to as a group was something extremely special and it keeps our group together that much more. I think you always have a relationship with your teammates from college and we have a strong relationship with all of our teammates from all four years. But the fact that there's a banner hanging from Yost from the 1996 team, and reunions coming back from the national title, it just keeps that team closer together.
 
Q
What was the best lesson you learned at Michigan?
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I learned a lot about time management skills, which I carry on to my job today, from a standpoint of trying to have everything organized and balanced between academics and athletics. What I loved about my time at Michigan was that I was challenged in both fields. You're challenged with interacting with professors, and students in the classroom at Michigan are the best out there. Then you also have practice every day. We played against top competition, but I was also challenged every day in practice going against my teammates and that made me a better hockey player. Just trying to balance the academic load and the dedication to hockey too, it was difficult at times but it allowed me to get into a job where you're handling different aspects and it's something that I've been practicing since I was 17 years old at Michigan.
 
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What influenced your decision to come back to Michigan to get your MBA, and how has that helped you in your position today?
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I felt that myself being a Michigan grad, my wife being a Michigan grad, Ann Arbor is home for us. We may go elsewhere, but whenever you come back to Ann Arbor it feels like you're coming home. And that's the same for some of my classmates. You talk to Brendan Morrison or Warren Luhning or Blake Sloan. When you come back to Ann Arbor, it feels like you're coming back home. For myself, I had a ton of respect for the business school program, and I felt it was a great situation for me, having an athletic background. One of the major programs within school is the MAP program, which is a second internship that you get between your first and second year. For a person like myself, getting actual experience in the field I thought would help me that much more for my career. In between my first and second year I got an internship with the National Hockey League. I realized that it was something I still wanted to do, to stay in hockey. I am forever grateful for my two years at the graduate program here. I met people that I never would have met before. I really enjoyed the group work we did in the MBA program and it opened so many doors. Yes, I had connections to people in the NHL world, but when I put on my resume "MBA from Michigan" that was something that could separate me from other candidates and it allowed me to get me a foot in the door of professional hockey from an executive standpoint.

Q
What did it mean to receive the Big Ten Medal of Honor?
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I think as the years go on it's something that I've had more of an appreciation for. When you're [at U-M], you're trying to excel as much as you can both in the classroom and on the ice. From my standpoint, I viewed it as an award for all of the people that helped me along the way -- my teammates and coaches on the ice and the professors and academic advisors that made coming to class interesting. When I got the award I was very humbled by it. When you get any award from the Big Ten it certainly lends a lot of credibility to it. And now it's something you reflect back on, what you accomplished as a student-athlete at Michigan and receiving the award. I look back on it as a humble man but very proud of that accomplishment.
 
Q
What lessons did you learn from head coach Red Berenson? And did you think he would still be coaching today?
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I definitely didn't think he'd still be around, but I remember when we graduated in 1997 there were rumors, because we're such a big class, that maybe he was going to retire then. That was in 1997 and here we are in 2014 and he's still going strong. With the entire staff that he has, [U-M] has people that are passionate about what they do, bringing top players into Michigan and also making players better once they get there. The best thing about Red was that I knew he was passionate and he was always very honest with me. That honesty came through and helped me throughout my career, not only at Michigan but in preparation for pro hockey afterward.
 
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How does playing for Coach Berenson help prepare you for life in the NHL?
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It's a situation where you're challenged every day. You're challenged every day in practice, you're challenged in the games. There's also great feedback. You know exactly where you stand with the staff and what you have to work on to have success at Michigan and pro hockey. You get to pro hockey, it's a lot different than college. You're not just playing on Friday and Saturday night, you're playing 4-5 games a week and it's throughout the week. There needs to be an element of consistency. I think that Coach challenged us every day in practice, we started to work on the consistency in our games at Michigan, and it certainly helped in pro hockey.

• Previous Q&A: Jon Jansen


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