By Amisha Temal, Features Editor
Head track and field Coach Simon Hodnett sadly passed away on Friday, Nov. 10. His passing has overwhelmed the community with tremendous grief. With 15 seasons of coaching at Post, he was a true pioneer.
Hodnett was born on Mar. 13, 1967, and grew up in Virginia Beach, Va. He studied at Norfolk State University (NSU), where he received an undergraduate degree in Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management. He furthered his education at LIU Brooklyn, receiving a master’s degree in health sciences with a concentration in coaching and conditioning.
After completing his education, he started his career in collegiate athletics as an assistant coach at NSU for five years. Afterward, he worked at LIU Brooklyn as a volunteer volleyball coach.
Hodnett would stay at LIU Brooklyn, where he undertook his first teaching role as a professor. His last career destination was his role as the head coach for women’s and men’s track and field at both the Brooklyn and Post campuses.
His current and former student-athletes and colleagues describe him as a remarkable leader and dedicated coach.
Assistant Track and Field Coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University Kervin Joachim Morgan reflected on Simon Hodnett’s excellence. He was an athlete at LIU Brooklyn from 2012-2015, where he was a Blackbird.
“I met Coach Simon at the Penn Relays Carnival Track meet in 2012. The funny thing is that he was taking random photographs, like he always does, of people running at the meet and in the stands. We had a conversation about competing for LIU Brooklyn. The conversation was very convincing and on Jan. 3, 2013, I was entering the gates of LIU Brooklyn ready to give it my all. We had a great relationship with each other. I would always be in his office talking about life and singing to R&B which was one of his favorite genres,” Morgan said.
Hodnett was known for his astounding character. His kindness stood out amongst many other traits.
“Coach Simon was a very caring, loving, and thoughtful person who treated his athletes like family. Thanksgiving was one of his favorite holidays as he would cook for all of his athletes who couldn’t go home to their families for the Thanksgiving break. From the turkey to the pies and cakes all by himself. You won’t meet another head coach who would do something like that. There can only be one Simon. He was funny and loved to dance, sing, and joke around. Oh and the movies, he loved the movies. Coach Simon was the most stylish coach. He knew how to put clothes together and everyone would back me up on this,” Morgan continued expressing.
2013 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds alumni Kenneth C. Wallace Whitfield shared similar sentiments.
“As an international student, he helped to make student-athletes feel at home while living abroad. His office door was always open to us, and he would even open his home to us for special occasions like Thanksgiving,” Whitfield expressed.
Morgan explained how Hodnett helped him kickstart his career in athletics.
“Fresh out of college I was struggling to find a proper job within my degree. I called him in frustration one day and he told me that I should try getting into coaching. After giving it some thought I decided to apply to some coaching jobs and with his help, he helped me land my first college coaching job at St. Francis College Brooklyn, Morgan said. “Right before the men’s 4×4 finals at the 2021 NEC championships, he spoke with me and told me how to tell my athletes to run it which helped SFC beat LIU in the event. He put my team and I before himself just so I could get recognized and move on to a better school/job which I did.”
It is due to the help of Hodnett that Morgan was able to land a job coaching at Stony Brook University in 2022. Throughout his time at Post, he led his team to earning 10 Northeast Conference (NEC) titles. His teams have reached hallmark status under his leadership, many making record-breaking wins in the program’s history. One significant achievement was the 2019 Men’s indoor championship, where his athletes achieved a victorious finish. In addition, he has assisted exactly 500 student-athletes in performing exceptionally enough to be recognized as All-NEC athletes. He coached six athletes who ended up competing in D1 indoor and outdoor championships. Three of his athletes qualified to participate in Olympic events, two of whom earned gold and bronze medals. Brendon Rodney, former LIU Brooklyn student, was awarded as a bronze medalist in Canada in the 4×100 relay at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
At LIU Brooklyn, 104 honorary titles were bestowed on the women’s and men’s teams. These consisted of instances of students being recognized as Rookie of The Year, Most Outstanding Track Performer, Most Valuable Performer, and Athlete of the Year. The women’s team earned 65 of the titles listed, with the men’s team earning 39.
Along with getting the athletes he coached to obtain a plethora of awards and honorable recognition, he was named the Northeast Regional Coach twice. In 2018, Hodnett was dubbed U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Northeast Region Coach of the Year.
Whitfield is among those athletes, who had quite the journey coming to LIU from the Caribbean. A Bahamas native, Whitfield was granted an academic scholarship to compete at LIU Brooklyn. He spoke on his relationship with Hodnett and his experience being coached by him.
“Simon’s natural ability to coach transcended athletics. He was a life coach to many student-athletes like myself. He recognized the various components of a young person’s life and spoke on each part with clarity, understanding, firmness, and at times, humor. Until his passing, he and I remained in close contact. He always demonstrated genuine care and concern for the well-being of his athletes, friends, and their families.” Whitfield states.
DeAndre Smith interacted with Hodnett for only a short period but already grew fond of Hodnett’s compassionate nature. Smith was considering transferring to LIU Brooklyn, where he came across Hodnett.
“I knew Coach Simon from my freshman year at Post. He was at the Brooklyn campus. Although I never became a LIU Brooklyn student, he still treated me as one of his athletes. He was caring, genuine, and down to earth. He wanted all athletes to grow and be better regardless of their school affiliation. While it’s unfortunate and untimely, I just hope his spirit is at ease.” Smith said.
Hodnett’s viewing was held on Friday, Dec. 1, with his service being held the following day at Granby Chapel in his hometown of Norfolk, VA. Those who were close to him were able to celebrate his life together at the service.