JOHN KOVACH | Colleges Hiram overhauls athletics with help from a local face

HIRAM -- Hiram College hopes changes in its intercollegiate athletic program will make the school more competitive -- and more attractive to recruits.
"It's being viewed as a fresh start for the athletic department," said Jason Tirotta, Hiram's new sports information director, who is as much a part of the new direction as anyone. "There is a lot of change going on. A lot of positive change."
Tirotta, 22, a Lowellville High and Baldwin-Wallace graduate who recently succeeded Tom Cammet as Hiram's SID, hopes to develop and expand Hiram's sports information office.
In a major change, the school hired a new football coach -- Mike Meyer from Ohio Northern -- to succeed nine-year veteran Bob Thomas, a native of Liberty, who was athletic director for four years.
Meyer became Hiram's 26th football coach on June 15, after spending the last 11 years as an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Ohio Northern.
Thomas compiled a 19-71 record in nine years as football coach. He now sells artificial turf.
Athletic director: Last year, Hiram named its first full-time athletic director -- Wendell Jack -- for the school's first year in the North Coast Athletic Conference. Hiram was in the Ohio Athletic Conference.
Jack previously served as California Institute of Technology associate director of intercollegiate athletics.
"The purpose of hiring a full-time athletic director is to develop the entire athletic program, including all the sports," said Tirotta. Hiram has 17 intercollegiate sports for men and women.
Tirotta said Hiram wants "to develop each sport, to maximize them and to bring in more students on campus." Other sports may be added, he said.
"There are a couple of sports in the NCAC, like field hockey and lacrosse, that Hiram doesn't have now which they may add in the distant future."
Catalysts: Coaches will be key in the development.
"We have a lot of new coaches, and a lot of them are young new blood," said Tirotta, who graduated from B-W in May with a bachelor's degree in broadcasting and political science.
"Previously a lot of the coaches were part-time," he said. "Now we are hiring full-time coaches. We are hoping that will bring stability. They won't be here a few years, then leave.
"Coaches will be out recruiting, bringing in more students," he said.
New coaches: Tirotta said Hiram also has hired Ellen Dempsey as volleyball coach. Dempsey come from the University of Maine, where she was assistant athletic director.
Prior to that, Dempsey enjoyed a successful stint as Ohio University volleyball coach, turning out the most wins in school history.
"We will have a new softball coach soon. They are in the process of interviewing now," said Tirotta, who served as a student assistant to SID Kevin Ruple at B-W, and was play-by-play radio sports commentator for WBWC-FM 88.3.
Tirotta also received the 2000 SMACO/Nev Chandler Memorial Scholarship Award.
While at Lowellville, he played football and basketball under coaches Rod Greenamyer and Dick Williams, respectively.
Facility planned: Hiram plans to build a new indoor athletic facility, which will complement Henry Field.
"We have a $12 million facility on the drawing boards now, and they are looking to have it completed in the next couple of years. My best guess is 2-3 years," said Tirotta. The facility will be for intercollegiate athletics, such as basketball and swimming, as well as student recreation, he said.
"It will replace Price Gymnasium and the adjacent Fleming field. They were built in the late 1950s," he said.
"A new tennis complex was built last year with six hard-courts and seating," he said.
Tirotta said he learned a lot working under Ruple at B-W, but has his own ideas for innovation.
Objective: "My biggest challenges my first year are to improve publications with a new football media guide, [and provide] just kind of a different look," Tirotta said.
"We will have a heavy web-site for the athletic department," he said. "My biggest job is to publicize our student athletes and get the media to know about them.
"We will be doing more hometown releases, features and photos. That [publicity] is a big aid in recruiting."
Tirotta would like to see Hiram sports broadcast on the radio.
"That's something that we are going to look into. They have done it sparingly in the past. I think it's a great asset," he said.

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