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[Hocking College]

Hocking College Athletics Looking Forward

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Despite end-of-the-season controversy, officials with Hocking College’s athletics program said they are looking forward to a new football season, and a season of new sports as well.

Head Football Coach Al Matthews recently spoke briefly of the four games the Hawks were forced to forfeit after being found to be in violation of National Junior College Athletics Association rules.

The Hawks failed to certify the eligibility of their student-athletes prior to participation, according to a release sent out in January by the college. The NCJAA confirmed the violations in a later statement to WOUB.

“I still say it was a positive year,” Matthews said at the Hocking College Board of Trustees meeting last week. “We’ve matured greatly from our experience.”

Officials also expressed their encouragement about the team’s progress.

“This program has gained national attention,” said Hocking President Dr. Betty Young at the meeting.

Matthews said nearly 400 inquiries had been made into the football program between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The nearly 90 football players saw a 68 percent retention rate for the year.

In the 2015-2016 intercollegiate athletics report provided during the meeting, it was reported that nearly 30 football players were benched due to “poor midterm grades.”

The new season has been scheduled for ten games so far. Six home games have been scheduled, which will be played on local fields.

Last season, Boston Field was home for many of Hocking College’s games, but Matthews and Athletic Director Joe Wakeman said facilities should be the next thought for the board.

Wakeman said finding room on the campus for a football field was a challenge, since any land that wasn’t already used was too steep or was “floating.”

“So, that’s what I would like to see, say, five years from now, it’s talk about facilities,” Wakeman told the board.

The first year of the athletics program included 118 students, resulting in a revenue of $1.3 million, according to the athletics report. The operating budget was reported as $260,000, or 19.7 percent of the revenue.

The athletics report presented a proposed budget for the 2016-2017 budget of $1.8 million. The report anticipated a 42.4 percent increase in revenue due to “the increase in student-athlete participation and addition of women’s volleyball.”

The football program has brought in plenty of players from outside the area, something the newest trustee, Leon Forte, addressed during the athletics presentation.

“What are you doing to help with the…blending of Appalachian children and inner city children?” Forte asked Matthews.

Matthews said he was encouraged by the welcoming atmosphere he saw during the season, even hearing of local players bringing out-of-town teammates home with them.

Board Chairman Tom Johnson said he liked the new perspectives that the team was bringing to the campus.

“One of the benefits is the diversity the program brings to the college,” Johnson said.

Matthews said they are using the team as a “life skills” program as well, helping the players learn how to dress and present themselves to the community and potential employers.

“We have to prepare them to work for the Nationwides of the world,” Young said. “Hocking College is going to serve as a finishing school.”

Wakeman said they are hoping to bring in women’s soccer and women’s cross country in the fall, along with timbersports, bassfishing, mountain biking, rodeo, kayaking, men’s wrestling, men’s cross country and men’s soccer in future years.

In other sports, retention rates were 89 percent for men’s basketball, 93 percent for women’s basketball and 100 percent for both cheerleading and archery.

The athletics report also cited the need for an athletic department central office, a wood floor for the student center multiplex and, with a “significant fundraising and sponsorship campaign,” a new athletic facility complex.