NELSONVILLE — You can't blame Ted Egger if he felt like he's been fighting an uphill battle for the last four months.
Egger's first official day as Hocking College's new football coach was April 6. Every day since has been spent trying to figure out the best way to move the Hawks' football program forward while dealing with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's just been a crazy year already to say the least," Egger said. "I got hired during the time where COVID-19 was really taking off. It's been a different year to take over the head coaching job. Recruiting was different. We made the best out of what we could. We think we got a really good recruiting class."
Egger has recently dealt with another obstacle, and will have to wait until the spring to make his debut on the sidelines. The National Junior College Athletic Association announced on July 13 that it is moving its fall sports to the spring semester.
That means there will be no Hocking College football games this fall.
Football organizations at all levels are currently dealing with trying to figure out the best way to move forward. Egger said it's all about making the most of the current situation for the student-athletes.
"That's the No. 1 thing," he said. "When the NJCAA made this decision to go to the spring, the next thing for me is thinking, OK we just have to continue to make the best out of this situation and do what we can so that our kids can be successful. That's kind of the route we're going."
The Hocking College volleyball team will also see its season move to the spring semester. Volleyball and men's and women's basketball will start seasons in late January, and wrap up in early April.
The football season will start in late March and continue into May. The Hawks are allowed up to eight games.
Those athletic teams will be allowed 60 days of consecutive practice in the fall.
For Egger, the first focus in the fall for his football players will be on academics.
"We're going to make sure that we use this opportunity to really get these kids a great jump start in their academics, to use this semester to do really well in school and propel themselves in the spring in that regard," Egger said.
As far as on the field, the fall practices essentially give the coaching staff an extended summer camp in which to stay in shape and install offensive and defensive principles.
"We're going to use the time to develop them in all regards as far as lifting, running, understand what we expect out of them football-wise and install our offense and defense," Egger said. "I think those are the things that we're really going to focus on, the total development of the student-athlete."
Egger takes the program over from Al Matthews, who coached the team from its inception in 2015. Egger noted that most of the Hawks players on what would have been the 2020 team are freshmen after a big turnover from last year.
"They're going to be here for two seasons anyway," he said. "We just need to make sure they take advantage of this fall — the lifting, the running and development part of it — and the spring part will take care of itself and hopefully we'll get back on track with a regular timeline."
Hocking College Director of Athletics Ken Hoffman supported the NJCAA's decision.
“This is the decision I had been hoping for over the last few months,” Hoffman said in a press release. “Our No. 1 concern is — and always will be — the health and welfare of our students, faculty, staff and community. This gives us the best opportunity to give our student-athletes a quality experience while keeping everyone as safe as possible during these days when coronavirus infections are spiking around the country. Perhaps we will even have a vaccine by spring semester, which would once again allow for attendance at athletic events without fear of spreading the virus.”
The virus hit home for Hocking College athletics as well. Craig Moore is the Assistant Athletic Director and has been an assistant football coach since the Hawks' first season.
Moore posted on social media that he spent two weeks in the ICU battling COVID-19 before being cleared to return home on July 16.
"He's doing better," Egger said. "My biggest thing was just making sure for him and his family — making sure they know that we're thinking about them and know that we're there for him and making sure that they're OK. I think that's the most important thing."
The pandemic has certainly made for a difficult transition to a new job for Egger, but he said he's prepared to make the most of the opportunity at Hocking College.
"I think we can build something special here," he said. "I'm excited to get this class in, get started and get this thing going. I got hired and got working right away and got going. We've been at it for a little bit now and we're just anxious to get on the field and get going."