By Brad Fauber
The Shenandoah University athletic department looks a little different than it did a year ago.
With the appointment of a new athletic director, a switch to a new athletic conference and the firing and hiring of several coaches, much has changed in the world of Hornets athletics over the last eight months.
"I think it's been a good year," said Shenandoah Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Doug Zipp, who took over the position last July after the retirement of Wayne Edwards. "It's been exciting, it's been challenging and it's been a lot of fun."
The shifting of the SU sports landscape began as Zipp officially took over the athletics director position on July 16 of last year, as his hiring came just as the university was about to begin its first season as a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
The transition was - and continues to be - an exciting moment for Shenandoah, but the school's ODAC debut has been a rather lackluster one, with many sports struggling to stay competitive in the conference during the fall and winter seasons. Despite the struggles on the field, Zipp said the move has been a positive one for the school.
"I think it worked out really well. Overall, it's been very good for us," Zipp said. "We're competitive in some sports ... and we're taking our lumps in some sports.
"We're learning new things. We're learning that there are no easy wins in any given week."
Zipp noted that being a member of the ODAC - which he calls one of the toughest Division III conferences in the country - has already made a positive impact on recruiting. Zipp also said that Shenandoah's early experiences as a part of the conference has shown him that the school's athletic programs need to "get better players ... and get in the weight room" if the Hornets are to become consistently competitive.
"We need to be in the top half of the conference in every sport ... and make it to the NCAA tournament in all sports," Zipp said.
Zipp said he has also placed an emphasis on improving morale within the department as he pushes for a more unified athletics program.
Zipp has already overseen the hiring of three head coaches within the athletics department, and he has been adamant about selecting only coaches who are a proper fit with the university.
Since Zipp's appointment as athletic director, C.K. Calhoun (women's basketball), Scott Yoder (football) and Ashley Smeltzer (women's field hockey) have all been named to new head coaching positions at Shenandoah.
"What we've been able to do is bring in young, enthusiastic and ambitious coaches," Zipp said. "It's really exciting."
While Zipp has certainly made a splash in the head coaching ranks of several of the school's programs, he said he's cautious about any changes he makes and tries to avoid making "spur of the moment decisions."
Zipp has instead chosen to step back and observe the various goings on in the athletic department, respecting the past by keeping what does work in place while attempting to fix what doesn't.
"I think I spent my year focused on listening," Zipp said. "I've sat back and listened to everything that everybody is doing. I've spent my time developing relationships with the people at the university and in the Winchester community."
Zipp praised the support that he has received from the school and the Winchester community, and he said all of that support is important as Shenandoah continues to push forward in its new athletic conference.
"It's going to take some time. We're going to push in the right direction and continue to get better," Zipp said.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com