By Grace King, Layout Editor
It is 1975. After four years of juggling basketball practices, baseball games, and studying for his physical education degree, Ralph Hodge is receiving his diploma with a characteristic firm handshake and warm smile.
Now 36 years later, Hodge, ONU’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach, who already holds a place in ONU’S Athletics Hall of Fame as a student athlete, is also being inducted as a coach.
“It’s certainly a great honor for me and [Olivet’s] basketball team. You know, the coach of the year and the hall of fame, there’s a name attached to it, but it’s about the program. Other than when I was a player here, I’ve never made a basket in those wins. It’s not a ‘me’ thing; it’s a ‘we’ thing,” Hodge said.
Recruited to play basketball and baseball for Olivet, Hodge came here knowing he wanted to teach and coach, but also with a dream in the back of his mind, what he calls a “loftier goal,” to pursue a career in professional baseball.
“Oh, I love baseball,” Hodge said with a smile. “But I love the game of basketball too and that’s what I immersed myself in from a coaching standpoint. As far as the two games are concerned, [my love of each is] a balancing act.”
Between sports and school, Hodge managed to marry Janice, whom he first laid eyes on in the eighth grade.
“I guess it was love at first sight,” Hodge said.
After graduating from Olivet, Hodge taught and coached at Alwood Highschool in Woodhull, Illinois. He was head basketball coach, assistant football coach, assistant track coach, and head baseball coach during his three-year tenure.
Hodge said it feels like yesterday when he and his wife made the move back to Bourbonnais in 1979 so he could coach here. He said the reason his career at Olivet has been a success is because of the people he works with.
“I think it just boils down to the people, the players, and the quality of the guys we get. They’re willing to just jump right in and be a part of ONU and the basketball program,” Hodge said.
Hodge celebrated his 700th career win last year and was inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes (NAIA) hall of fame. He said it was a great accomplishment for the program, and he’s had the opportunity to be the one in charge of the program for the last three decades.
“Seven hundred wins, 600 wins, 500 wins, 100 wins, it’s all the same. Right now, I’m concerned about that homecoming game coming up, you know?” Hodge said.
The team is working hard to prepare themselves for the game. Hodge and the students want to take on a competitive spirit to play their best no matter whom they are up against.
“Coach Hodge is very good when it comes to motivating us and getting us prepared for games and practices. He is such a deserving coach of [ONU’s Athletics Hall of Fame],” junior Aaron Larson said.
“[Hodge’s] practices are run like a well-oiled machine,” junior Seth Johnson said.
Hodge works hard to challenge the players everyday. He said they teach him patience and never to give up on someone.
“Playing under [Hodge] has taught me and continues to teach me so much about the game of basketball, and not only basketball, but about life in general,” junior Alex Thorson said. “Every day, we learn a new lesson on what we need to do to be successful on and off the court.”