By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- As the search continued, Ron Strollo had no worries. He was confident that he had done enough.
"You hope you spent the last five years here doing the best you can," Strollo said, "and you kind of let those cards play out. You never know what other people are thinking. I'm just grateful they chose me."
Talk Tuesday centered around the future of Youngstown State athletics -- of new faces, new roles and a new era.
Strollo was named the 11th athletics director in the history of the university and introduced in the DeBartolo Club at Stambaugh Stadium.
After nearly a six-month search, the Penguins decided on the Mahoning Valley man who grew up in Austintown and was nurtured at Youngstown State.
"People tend to be very committed to the town, especially the people who have grown up here," said Daryl Mincey, member of the search committee. "A lot of times, you'll see people go away and then come back.
"Ron is certainly in that mold. He's totally committed to this institution and this town; that's a real plus for him."
Strollo, 31, plans to use that to his advantage as he takes over for Jim Tressel and interim athletics director Pauline Saternow.
Short-term list: On Strollo's short-term agenda is an increase in Penguin Club memberships -- a key source of income -- and season tickets for football.
"It's going to be very important that Jon Heacock and our football program continues to win games," Strollo said. "We have to do what we can to make sure his first season is successful.
"We need to make sure we get our two basketball programs into a competitive situation resource-wise," Strollo added. "We've been very successful over quite a few years in women's basketball, and we've had a couple of great spurts in men's basketball that we just need to continue."
Also on Strollo's short-term priority list is to ensure Youngstown State a smooth transition from the Mid-Continent Conference to the Horizon League, which takes place this fall.
"In the past four or five months, I've spent a lot of time thinking about this position, and the one recurring theme to me was responsibility," Strollo said. "The most important responsibility is to our student-athletes and their parents.
"These parents give us their children for four or five critical years of their lives," he said. "We have a huge responsibility to provide the support and resources to make sure they reach their full potential."
The future of Youngstown State athletics is one of sound financial structure and planning, Strollo envisions, which will help student-athletes succeed in the classroom and on the playing field.
"Ron is one of those people that when he says something, you know it's honest and sincere," said Mincey, who has been at the university for 22 years. "From that point, you can only go up."
Tressel influence: Strollo said Tressel was most influential in his development. Strollo played football under Tressel for four years before becoming business manager in 1996 and executive associate athletics director in 2000.
"Ron Strollo was an extraordinary choice for athletic director at Youngstown State," Tressel said. "I had the pleasure of working with him and know how talented he is. Ron is a Youngstown man all the way, and he will lead the school into an exciting era."
Strollo was the top selection of four candidates, who also included: Timothy Gleason, commissioner of the Ohio Athletic Conference; Michael Moore, athletics director at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis; and Ronald Zwierlein, senior associate vice president at Bowling Green State University.
"All three were very experienced and outstanding in terms of their own careers," Youngstown State president David Sweet said. "It's a compliment to Ron that he emerged as the leading candidate."
Sweet said there was no pressure to promote from within. The decision was made this week because some staff members had been on vacation.
"We were fortunate to have on campus an individual that had the business background and an individual who has an understanding of the rich traditions and excellence of our student-athletes," Sweet said.
Details of Strollo's contract are still being worked out, Sweet said.
"I'm here to promise you that every day we're going to work to make a difference in these student-athletes' lives, a difference in this community and a difference on this campus," Strollo said.