Oberlin Football Players Comment on Program Flaws


Courtesy of Amanda Phillips

The Oberlin football team and staff pose on Fred Shults Field.

It’s been 48 years since Oberlin’s football team had a winning season. In 1974 the team went 5–4 and hasn’t seen much success since. Now coined “America’s sport,” football is one of the most popular sports in the country, but for some reason the football team at Oberlin has not seen much support from other athletes or students on campus.

Fourth-year linebacker Hulan Edward attributes some of the team’s losses to its culture. He believes that the team has made strides toward changing this, but it’s something that still needs work.

“I think there are a variety of reasons that it’s been so long since we’ve had a winning season,” he said. “Really though, I think it comes down to establishing a strong culture within the program, something we’ve made progress on the last few years I’ve been here and continue to push to build.”

Since Edward joined Oberlin in 2019, the team has only won two games.

“My first year we beat [Hiram College], and in my third year — after the COVID year — we beat Hiram again,” he stated. “In both those games, the energy was high and there was a sense of playing together with a chip on our shoulder. We had something to prove, and we played like it in those games.”

Fourth-year starting quarterback Chris Allen Jr. was also on the team when it won both of those games. The win in his first year of college was one that he will remember and cherish for the rest of his life.

“The first win against Hiram was the first win of my collegiate career,” he said. “We won 7–0. It was a sloppy game, but I also threw my first college touchdown pass in that game. The second win we’ve had since my time here happened last year on the road, which we won 31–28. The game was back and forth, it came down to our last drive where [fifth-year] Brian Colarusso caught the game winning [touchdown] with just seconds on the clock. It was a special moment for that team and our program.”

Unlike Edward and Allen Jr., third-year wide receiver Jack Diskin has only been on the team for one win, but he remembers it fondly.

“I remember the celebration on the field with the team afterwards was great,” he said. “Never seen [the coaches] so happy before. It was a great feeling; it finally felt like all the work we put in came to fruition.”

Allen Jr. thinks one of the main contributing factors to the team’s losing record is the lack of player retention.

“I came in as a [first-year] with I think 15 or 16 guys,” he said. “As a [fourth-year], there’s only two of us now. This is in part because of concussions and injuries for some guys, which is understandable, but on the other hand we lose players because people couldn’t handle it.”

Allen Jr. believes that the players recruited to the program may not have had what it takes to be a part of a Division III football team.

“You have to want to play football,” he said. “Nothing is really guaranteed for you, only the love of the game and the fact that you’re doing something that you’ve been doing since you were a little kid.”

Additionally, Allen Jr. says that many of the players they lost from his original class were standout athletes, starters for the team, and leaders within the program.

“Everyone now is always talking about the numbers and how we don’t always have enough people to match up with other teams right now,” he said. “Sure, maybe that has some impact, but I think it’s less about that and more about if guys stayed through four years on the team, things would look a lot different.”

For better player retention, Edward thinks that the program needs to focus on bringing people into the team who will embrace what Oberlin has to offer as a whole.

“We need to focus on bringing in people from all areas that are going to lean into everything that makes Oberlin unique,” he said. “I hate to say it, but clearly we aren’t where we need to be yet, on and off the field. We want to be the best, but clearly our record doesn’t reflect that. Bringing in people at all levels with those values will help further the culture and identity of the team and lead to successes.”

To many of the players, ideally success means a winning season. But realistically, Diskin believes that success is a program with a strong foundation and a standard that the team is built on and upheld with everything they do.

“The most successful programs are the ones that are the most disciplined and play with great fundamentals,” he said. “That all comes back to what your team stands for and building on that every day. Too many guys do their own thing or don’t stay fundamentally sound, and it comes back to trusting what we’ve been taught up to this point.”

Allen Jr. agrees with Diskin’s sentiments — in order to be more successful and become the program that they want to be, the team’s members have to work as more of a unit.

“As a unit we all have to be in it and understand this,” he said. “Some people understand it, and some people believe it, but very few people have both.”

In the end, Allen Jr. believes the student population’s faith in the program and perseverance is what is most important.

“People just need to trust and understand that if you stick with it and if you grind and persevere, things could be really amazing,” he said. “It’s not always going to be easy, but if it was easy everybody would be doing it.”

Undoubtedly, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done so that Oberlin football can see a winning record again. Edward, Diskin, and Allen Jr. all know that one day, the players will get there.