SYCAMORE Sept. 19 had the potential to be a big game anyway for New Riegel volleyball coach Cindy Walerius.
That's the day Mohawk rolls into town for what is sure to be a battle of top Midland Athletic League foes.
But rivalry aside, Walerius is glad to see that the general for Mohawk will be none other than the coach who has coached against her for the last nine years: Eric Hoover.
"I am a competitor, just like Eric, and I want to play a team when they're at their best," she said. "And honestly, without him on the sidelines, Mohawk would not be at their best. I can tell you that right now."
The embattled Mohawk coach was approved by a 4-1 vote Thursday night at a Mohawk Board of Education special meeting to return as the volleyball coach. The vote reversed a decision from 10 days earlier when the coach was non-renewed for the role by a 3-2 margin.
"To have the respect of those people means a lot," Hoover said of the dozens of area coaches who turned out to support him. "You go and compete against them. You might not always get along at those times or agree with things that they do. It doesn't matter because when it comes down to it, they had my back and were ready to come support me and that means a lot."
Walerius, as well as many other of her coaching colleagues from area schools turned out in support of Hoover.
"Coach Hoover is a great guy and a great coach. We've been friends in the nine years that we've coached against each other and he's been nothing but class. In victory or defeat, he shows so much class," Walerius said. "I have the utmost respect for him and I've seen this happen to coaches and I didn't want to see it happen again. This would be so unfair to these kids in Mohawk."
Walerius said the packed performing arts center at Mohawk was unbelievable.
"This turnout, I don't know if I've seen anything like this. I've been to some other board meetings where people have been supporting other coaches and no I've never seen anything like this," Walerius said. "They take a lot of pride in this school and it showed tonight."
Tim Baumberger, a longtime Wynford volleyball coach, turned out and was going to speak on behalf of the coaches in the area in defense of Hoover. As it turned out, he never got his chance since the board came out of executive session and voted immediately, without calling on anyone in the audience.
"I want to applaud the Mohawk community for what they did for Eric and the Hoover family. Because no matter what that board had decided tonight, the message this community sent to the Hoovers would have been a lifetime memory," Baumberger said. "Eric would have gone on (to another coaching job) because he's a man in demand. But this was his 'Captain, my captain' moment. This is amazing that they did this for the coach."
He said the community has ample reason to back its coach.
"As a representative of the district coaches, we all know the success he's brought onto the court. His teams are better prepared than any team. They play with more discipline. Most of us have lost to him a lot more than what we've beat him. We don't need to talk about that level of success," Baumberger said. "But the reason the coaching community was here was to support him for the person he is, for the character he brings, for the way he treats the other coaches and their programs. He treated every opponent with respect. He never made an excuse in defeat and never gloated in victory. There's a lot of people with the same kind of record as Eric that we wouldn't have moved to support. But because of the person Eric is, he earned our support tonight."
Upper Sandusky volleyball coach Matthew McConnaughey said he turned out to support his rival coach.
"I think that (last week's decision) was a gross miscarriage of justice, regardless of what I think of Eric as a person. And I think he's one of the classiest coaches, most knowledgeable coaches in Ohio," McConnaughey said. "But as a teacher and a coach (myself), and any coach will tell you this, there's an epidemic in our country of parents not being objective about the talent level of their kids. Everyone can see the success that he's had with his program and clearly he had the right personnel on the floor. To let a personal decision affect somebody's career is unforgivable as far as I'm concerned."
Mark Adelsperger and Joe Parker spearheaded a community group to come together through petitions and encouraging people to turn out. Mark is the father of the Adelsperger triplets: juniors Kasey, Julie and Clara.
Kasey Adelsperger admits she cried when her dad delivered the news last week that Hoover had not been rehired. She was thrilled the board reversed the decision.
"It was a great feeling and you see it in the reaction of the crowd, how blessed we were to have him back as the coach," Kasey said.
When roll call happened on the vote and the motion passed, the crowd sat momentarily in silence. Then a few claps could be heard before a thunderous standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute in support of the decision.
Hoover was still in his baseball uniform at the meeting, fresh off a victory against Kenton.
"I'm just glad to be back where I belong: running the program," Hoover said. "That was my goal tonight and that's where we are."
Hoover said it's been a sleepless journey.
"It's been a long 10 days. The initial shock, having no idea why or for what reason and never being given a reason, never a reason that made any sense," Hoover said. "The first day, all the support and texts and e-mails I was getting was overwhelming. It's so weird to go from a blindsided, depressed sick feeling to back to the complete opposite makes you feel pretty good. The rest of the time though has been (rough) not knowing what was going to happen. I know I didn't sleep very well for about 10 days. The gamut of emotions was overwhelming at times."
Hoover met with one of the board members who voted against him originally and cleared the air with him.
"I think it went well. Things were cleared up," Hoover said. "I wanted to meet with all of them. I don't know a better way to resolve things than that. But that didn't happen."
Hoover said there was no question he was going to come back if offered the opportunity to do so.
"People asked me, 'How can you even walk into that building? Why would you want to work there?,'" Hoover said. "The fact of the matter is I don't work for them. I don't do what I do for the three people who voted no (last week). I do what I do for the kids and the community and they wanted me. They supported me. This place was full. Why would I leave that, regardless of what a few people think?"
Mohawk athletic director Erik Baker said the turnout for his volleyball coach was no surprise.
"It's gratifying. Eric earns it. He does an awful lot of good things. Whatever shortcomings he may or may not have, the good he does has not gone unnoticed," Baker said. "He has a tremendous loyalty from his former players, both volleyball and baseball both and former JV basketball players. He's always shown himself to be a good and decent person and all parts of his life."
Baker said the enthusiasm for Mohawk can now be pointed in other directions.
"From a different standpoint, it was good to see that much energy and focus on one goal. I'd like to see that directed into passing a levy so we can see that energy moving forward on some other things as well."