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2014-02-01 Hodge reaches career milestone, wins No. 700
2014 Ralph Hodge (2)

Head Coach Ralph Hodge recorded his 700th career victory on Saturday, Feb. 1

Hodge reaches career milestone, wins No. 700

Author: Nick Birkey
Posted: Monday, February 03, 2014 at 10:18 AM

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — NAIA men’s basketball has its newest member of the 700-win club. Olivet Nazarene University’s Ralph Hodge, head coach, joins only five other active NAIA coaches who have reached this career achievement. Hodge accomplished the mark with a win over Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference opponent Purdue University-Calumet (Ind.) on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 1. The Tigers defeated the Peregrines 92-82 on the road to move into a tie for first place in the CCAC South Division.  

Coach Hodge commented on his 700th career win: “Great win today by a determined, hard-working group of guys, just like it has been throughout all the rest.”

For the past 35 seasons, Ralph Hodge has manned the sidelines as the head coach of the Olivet Nazarene University men’s basketball team. Throughout 1,131 games (700-431, .619) as the Tigers’ lead man, Hodge has many accomplishments, including his induction as a member of the 2013-14 NAIA Hall of Fame class. He, alongside alumnus Ben Zobrist, is the first from Olivet to be inducted.  

Coach Hodge has achieved much since 1979, making a name by winning both on and off the court. He has led 16 teams to national tournament appearances, the most by any team from Illinois. On 11 different occasions, he led his team to CCAC regular season championships and to five CCAC Tournament titles. Prior to membership in the CCAC, Hodge and the Tigers won four Northern Illinois Intercollegiate Conference (NIIC) championships and also won four NAIA District 20 titles.  

In order to make it to 700, wins by a coach's team have to come in hordes. Hodge's teams have done so, winning 20-plus games 25 times and averaging more than 20 wins per year in his career. He did it 15 straight seasons from 1989 through 2003, which included the Tigers' only NAIA Final Four appearance (2000) and two NAIA Elite Eight finishes (2002 and 2003). The Tigers reached another Elite Eight in 2006.  

Throughout his career, Hodge has coached some of the best players who played in the CCAC and NAIA. He has coached a total of 84 All-CCAC players (since voting started in 1987) and six CCAC Player of the Year winners. Along with the program’s leading scorer, Zach Freeman — a NAIA First Team All-American in 2002 and second team selection in 2001 — Hodge has coached six other all-Americans, three of whom were multiple year honorees. There have also been eight Tigers named NAIA Honorable Mention All-Americans.  In addition to his own retired number, Hodge has coached the other three Tigers with retired numbers: Jeff Prather, Corey Zink and Zach Freeman.  

Coach Hodge’s teams have also achieved off the court. All but one of his four-year players has graduated. His outstanding leadership also points to his team’s focus on their academic pursuits. Since 2000, the men’s basketball team has had 25 named as NAIA Scholar-Athletes.  

Throughout his 35-year coaching career, Ralph Hodge has been recognized for his achievements, the ways he has impacted his program and the game of basketball. He is a nine-time CCAC Coach of the Year recipient and won the award for NAIA District 20 in 1989. He was inducted into the CCAC Hall of Fame (2002) and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame (2004); awarded the NAIA’s Charles A. Kriegel Award for Sportsmanship (2002); named the IBCA-NAIA Co-Coach of the Year (2010 and 2011), and The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) Sports Citizen of the Year (2008); and was NAIA national rater for CCAC Division I for 15 years. 

From Gary Newsome,  ONU director of athletics : 

“It’s very rare in today’s coaching world to see someone who has dedicated his life to the coaching profession for 30-plus years. I have been fortunate to observe Coach Hodge's practices and games. He demands perfection and, in turn, gets perfection in every drill, every rep. He knows what it takes to win today. He believes in his young men and gets the most out of them, thus, 700 wins. I’m proud to be associated with Coach Hodge, proud to be his friend and colleague. Waiting for number 800.”

From Nick Birkey, ONU men’s basketball assistant coach:  

“Throughout my ten years with Coach Hodge, I have been a part of numerous victories and witnessed many accomplishments, but his winning 700 games speaks to his model of consistency as a leader and mentor. He has never missed an opportunity to teach a player or coach because he believes thoroughly in development, preparation and helping individuals reach their potential; and honestly, he is the best I’ve seen at doing so.” 

“It has been a true honor and privilege to work alongside him and learn from a coach who truly cares about family, his players, coaches, the University, and respects the game of basketball. Not to forget, he has done it the right way, leading as a man of faith in all he does. Congratulations, Coach, you deserve it!” 

From Antonio Marshall,  ONU men’s basketball alumnus and assistant coach : 

“700 wins! Such an amazing accomplishment. As a player, I was blessed to have a coach who pushed me day in and day out. The lessons I learned on the basketball court have and will continue to help me in life. Coach Hodge's passion and determination for the game of basketball, his players and coaches elevated my college basketball experience and, more importantly, changed my life.  

“As a coach I'm honored to be a part of such an amazing feat. I'm blessed to help coach with, be shaped by and be mentored by Coach Hodge. Congratulations, Coach.”