Nichols returns to HCC helm School's A.D. is familiar face

September 13, 1992|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

It sounds a little strange to call Jack Nichols the new athletic director at Harford Community College.

Athletic director? Yes. New? Not exactly.

"Latest in line," would seem more appropriate, since Nichols was in place as athletic director when the school opened in 1964, and he has filled a variety of capacities in the interim.

Actually, Nichols was the interim athletic director part of last year after his predecessor, Donald Dean, resigned. More recently, Nichols was asked to accept the permanent post to give some stability to a program that appears on the rise.

"Of our 10 sports [five for women, five for men], the women's field hockey team has achieved national recognition; men's soccer has had some success; and men's and women's lacrosse have seen a lot of growth and are possibly ready to jump out on the national scene," Nichols said.

A tightening of academic requirements has hurt the men's basketball program more than the others. There were years when recruits were better players than students, leading to unstable conditions. Now, there is more emphasis on getting the recruit who does well in both areas.

"Our requirements changed when we were not allowed to use students in developmental courses -- courses below college level -- in intercollegiate sports," Nichols said. "Other community colleges don't have this restriction, but we are now getting students who can take college-level work and pass the exams."

Nichols has been involved in athletics all his life.

A native of western Pennsylvania, he graduated from Colgate University and played five seasons in the mid-1950s with the old Syracuse Nationals of the National Basketball Association.

He moved over to neighboring Auburn (N.Y.) Community College as a coach and athletic director, and when one of the Auburn teachers, Al O'Connell, was named the first Harford CC president, he asked Nichols to join him as athletic director.

"This was a farm, with a couple of academic buildings. I was the athletic director for several years, then shifted over to be the department head for health and physical education," Nichols said.

This, along with several coach ing responsibilities, was his position through the athletic director tenures of Jack Call, John Haggerty and Dean.

Nichols keeps his hand in football coaching by assisting at C. Milton Wright High School.

By definition, the athletic director's job carries certain concerns, but these have almost run the gamut in nearly 30 years.

In the beginning, enrollment, a new physical education building and athletic fields were high priorities.

Now, budget problems are the top concern.

"The enrollment, up steadily in recent years, is closing in on 6,000, and at the same time the economy is worse," Nichols said. "The crunch the college feels is good enrollment/very bad budget. Our class size is being limited by the number of chairs and desks.

"We know we'll get hit again, and then it becomes a question of how much the county will come to our rescue. I hope it would respond positively, because [I believe] we have been such a positive influence in the county."

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