Football Continues to Undergo Major Program Changes

In the past few years, numerous teams within the Athletics department such as tennis, softball, and swimming and diving have undergone major program changes and introduced new head or assistant coaches. Recently, the football team hired a new head coach and defensive coordinator, John Pont and Ben Hammer, respectively. Pont previously served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2017–2020 at the University of Chicago and then spent the 2021–2022 season as an offensive analyst and football athletic performance assistant at Indiana University, Bloomington. Due to his work in athletic performance, Pont is certified in strength and conditioning and is allowed to help with the off-season workouts per NCAA regulations.

“This has afforded me great opportunity to show our team who I am and that I care about them more than just being football players,” Pont said. “Also, we have an open-door policy and our team has been great about stopping by and spending time getting to know each other.”

Hammer is a former Northwestern University defensive graduate assistant, a team that, like Pont’s old team, was in the Big 10 conference. He will be working with the Yeomen in the upcoming fall season.

“Coach Hammer is a tireless worker who has tremendous attention to detail,” Pont said. “He is highly intelligent and is always searching for the most efficient and effective way to do whatever we are doing. He fully exemplifies our team values of love, care, respect, and faith every day.

Fourth-year captain Hulan Edward gave his input on what he believes the coaches will contribute.

“With a new staff comes a new energy to the program,” Edward wrote in an email to the Review. “Coach Pont is very clearly committed to giving his all to this program. … His background lends directly to creating a culture of future success here at Oberlin and I’m excited to see what he does with the program. As for Coach Hammer, I haven’t really gotten to interact with him much. But from what I’ve heard, nobody brings more energy and enthusiasm to practice. I really think this new energy and direction has potential to drastically change Oberlin football for the better.”

First-year offensive lineman Jacob Bennett spoke on how he believes both Hammer and Pont will aid the team in the upcoming season.

“I believe that they will provide a new sense to the game that for the better we didn’t get from the previous year, I can feel the difference already with new coaching and it is a change for the better,” Bennett said. “They will provide us with a new way to play the game.”

During the 2022–2023 season, the football team ended with a 0–10 losing record, but the implementation of a new coaching staff has given the team high hopes to not repeat this past outcome. “Last season we were plagued by attrition by injury and by players leaving in the offseason,” Edward wrote. “I think that finding ways to retain players and keep them healthy, especially given the fact that we do have a smaller roster, should be one of the top priorities for next season. Everything else can be built from there. I think that the team goals are pretty simple: be better than last year.”

Coach Pont also has specific aims for the upcoming season, including constructing firm and positive beliefs within the program. “Our goals are to build a tightly- knit team who believes in each other and our program, to connect with and positively impact our College and community, to prepare physically and mentally to give our all on and off the field; and to be the best people we can be,” Pont said. “If we work daily toward those goals, the wins will take care of themselves — and we all want to win.”

While the previous season did not go as planned, the Yeomen remain hopeful for the upcoming fall season. Bennett says the team goal is to win some games this year. Through hard work and dedication from the coaches and players, they will be ready to put their best foot forward.