The reporter for the Southern California College campus newspaper had an unusual question for basketball player Paul Hohmann--a trivia question, and a good one:
Which SCC player was on the court for both the first and the 100th victories of Coach Bill Reynolds' collegiate career?
Hohmann didn't have to think very hard or look very far for the answer.
"It's gotta be me," was his quick response.
And Hohmann's gotta be right. The 6-foot 7-inch center was on the Vanguard roster when Reynolds began coaching in 1981 and was still in uniform two weeks ago when Reynolds logged victory No. 100 against West Coast Christian.
It's a neat little fact, a quirk that both Reynolds and Hohmann can smile about. But to leave it at that is an injustice.
Simple mathematics tell us that this is Reynolds' fifth season at SCC, that 20 victories a year are entirely possible and that a college player--given a redshirt year--can remain eligible for five seasons. So, what's so special about Hohmann?
Well . . .
--He was a junior when Reynolds recorded that first victory.
--He's now 25 years old, playing with teammates who were in junior high when Hohmann was a freshman and for assistant coaches who were college teammates when Hohmann broke in at SCC in 1979.
--In between those two victories, Nos. 1 and 100, Hohmann has been a tight end for Orange Coast College's football team, an orderly at Hoag Hospital, a high school basketball coach in Michigan and a student buried in his books, taking on and passing 24 units in one semester.
Is this any way to get a degree?
"People kid you," Hohmann says. "They say, 'Oh, I see you're on the seven-year plan.' On the court, every once in a while, you get, 'Can't keep up with the kids anymore.'
"But that's OK. . . . I guess my personality is pretty spontaneous. I'll get an idea and say, 'Let's do this.' I've done a lot of things where I look back and say, 'No way I did that.' I thought it was funny at the time."
In a way, Paul Hohmann is the personification of the NAIA athletic experience. At an NAIA school, education is firmly established as top priority. Athletics are simply one vehicle by which to obtain that education.
And because of the NAIA's unique eligibility requirements, such a vehicle can travel strange routes. Unlike the NCAA, which limits an athlete's eligibility to five consecutive years, (including a redshirt year), the NAIA allows an athlete to compete for four years-- any four years, regardless of the time frame.
Thus, the history of the NAIA is rich with stories of athletes in their 30s, of athletes with wives and children, of athletes trying to recapture the spark after burning out at NCAA institutions.
The NAIA sports program stands for second chances.
Or, in the case of Paul Hohmann, third chances.
This is Hohmann's third go-round at SCC. He left, came back, left again and came back again.
A quick look at the travels of Hohmann:
1979-80: An all-state center at Stevenson High in Michigan, Hohmann is recruited by SCC out West and Lake Superior State back home. Tired of snow plows and plunging temperatures, Hohmann opts for SCC, where he starts for the Vanguards his entire freshman season.
1980-81: Hohmann leaves SCC for choice No. 2 and enrolls at Lake Superior State. He barely lasts half a season after quitting in protest of what he calls "massive team dissension."
1981-82: Hohmann returns to SCC for Reynolds' first season as the Vanguards' coach. Hohmann, in a supporting role off the bench, helps SCC reach the finals of its district playoffs.
1982-83: Out of money and disinterested in his classes, Hohmann drops out of SCC. On a whim, he plays a season of football at Orange Coast College. "It was just something I wanted to do," he says. "I played a little of it in high school. I figured it would help if I ever wanted to get a job in coaching."
1983-84: After working six months as a nurses aide at Hoag Hospital, Hohmann decides to go back home. There, he is hired on by his old high school as junior varsity basketball coach.
1984-85: Hohmann decides he wants to get back to the business of getting his degree. He returns for Round 3 at SCC, but is confronted with $3,000 in unpaid fees. In order to qualify for financial aid and a partial athletic scholarship, Hohmann has to play basketball again.
Easier said than done. First, Hohmann had to shake off three years worth of rust and simply make the team. Second, he had to take a brutal course load of 24 units in one semester in order to make himself eligible for basketball.
"Everybody said I was crazy," Hohmann said. "Twenty-four units is a load-and-a-half. I wouldn't wish 24 units on anybody.
"But everything hinged on those 24 units. To get the financial aid and the scholarship money, I had to pass those classes. If I didn't get the aid, I wouldn't get my degree."
Most students at SCC are restricted to a maximum study load of 16 units per semester. Hohmann had to receive special permission to bulk up to 24.