By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- The last month has been a busy one for Scott Yoder, but the New York native is enjoying every minute of it.
A longtime assistant football coach at Hobart (N.Y.) College, Yoder decided shortly after the Statesmen's season ended with a Dec. 1 playoff loss to St. Thomas (Minn.) in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals that it was time to start exploring the possibility of advancing to the next stage in his coaching career.
Yoder will now have that opportunity. On Thursday, he was announced as the new head coach of the Shenandoah University football program.
"Just over a month ago, I was on a plane home from Minnesota when our season came to an end," Yoder said in a prepared speech Thursday at a press conference held on the university's campus. "With all of the emotions that were going through me at that time, there was one that was different than any other I'd ever felt, and that was I thought it was the right time to look at the next step in my professional career. And simply a month later, here I am."
Yoder was chosen from a pool of about 180 candidates, according Shenandoah University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Doug Zipp. Yoder is Shenandoah's third head coach since the university reinstated football in 2000.
When it came time to choose a new head coach, Zipp said it was important that the candidate meet three criteria that were "paramount for a new head coach."
"No. 1, did he have a thorough understanding of the Division III concept of academics and athletics?" Zipp said. "[No. 2], that he was a person who's had a winning tradition throughout their career ... and a coach who is a good fit for not only Shenandoah, but our student-athletes. We are confident that we found this person."
Yoder comes to Shenandoah after spending 16 seasons with the Hobart football program as both an assistant coach and a player. Yoder graduated from Hobart in 2001 and spent the last 12 seasons as an assistant under head coach Mike Cragg.
Yoder served as Hobart's defensive coordinator for the past six years, and the Statesmen defense thrived under his direction. Last season, Hobart (12-1) led the Liberty League in scoring defense and total defense, allowing just 17.3 points and 241 yards per game. The Statesmen were also ranked fifth nationally in total defense.
During Yoder's time as an assistant coach, Hobart had a record of 95-30 and won the Liberty League five times, according to Zipp.
Yoder is now tasked with turning around a struggling Shenandoah program that has had just one winning season since 2004, including a 1-9 record last year in the Hornets' first season in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Yoder said the first step is to construct a winning mentality among the players.
"The first thing that we have to do is get our arms around the team and get them believing in what we can accomplish," Yoder said. "Once we do that, then the sky is the limit. And that's not going to be an easy task, but I'm excited for the challenge."
Yoder said it remains to be seen how much of the current Shenandoah coaching staff will be retained, and he has reached out to several coaches outside of the Hornets program about possibly joining his staff. Yoder said he hopes to have his staff fully assembled by the end of January.
Yoder has already met with a few Shenandoah players in person, and the coach's initial reaction to his new squad has been a very positive one.
"I've had a lot of guys who have called me and texted me, and pretty much they've all said 'Coach, anything I can do.' And a lot of those guys I haven't even met yet," Yoder said. "Just to hear their genuine feelings just makes me feel great."
Yoder, who exchanged handshakes and greetings with members of the Shenandoah University family after the press conference, said the Winchester community has already shown him a great level of support.
Yoder and his wife, Alyson, have two young sons, with a third son due in February, and Yoder said the community played a huge part in his interest in Shenandoah.
"I think at my stage as far as where I am professionally and family-wise, it had to be a good fit for everybody," Yoder said. "The Winchester community is a family atmosphere and a great place to raise kids. That's something you can't put a price on."
The head coaching duties have already begun in full swing for Yoder, who will hit the recruiting trail today. What has been a hectic month is about to shift to an even busier offseason, but the new head coach wouldn't have it any other way.
"The last month has been unbelievable. To think about a month ago where I was professionally and now to be here is fantastic," Yoder said. "I came on campus [Wednesday] night and I told Doug [Zipp] I'm going to wake up tomorrow and probably pinch myself.
"We've got a lot of work to do but we've hit the ground running and off we go."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org