A day in the life of Youngstown State football.
Destination: St. Louis, for Gateway Football Conference Media Day.
U6:20 a.m. -- Coach Jon Heacock, senior quarterback Jeff Ryan, senior safety Bruce Hightower and sports information director Trevor Parks pile into the van of associate executive director of athletics Pauline Saternow. The van departs from Stambaugh Stadium en route to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
U6:23 -- Road meal includes Egg McMuffins, orange juice, coffee and water.
U8:40 -- Group boards the Continental Express Jet. Ryan and Hightower notice the tight confines of the cabin but are happy about its comfortable seats.
U9:15 -- Plane departs. Soon thereafter, Ryan and Hightower are asleep; Heacock reads an NCAA publication; Saternow reviews athletics material; and Parks edits the Youngstown State volleyball media guide.
U10:38 -- Express Jet emerges out of the clouds and lands in St. Louis.
U11:22 -- After arriving at the Renaissance Hotel, Ryan and Hightower discover they have been named to the 2001 Gateway preseason team. The Penguins are picked to finish second behind newcomer Western Kentucky.
U11:30 -- Ryan and Hightower discuss the upcoming season with this reporter, with Ryan calling last season's playoff loss to Richmond "haunting." The quarterback threw an interception late in the game that led to Richmond's game-winning points. Meanwhile, Parks mingles with other sports information directors; Heacock and Saternow continue with Gateway meetings.
UNoon -- Hightower and other players take the stand in front of media members. Hightower is asked to discuss the differences between former Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel and Heacock. "Coach Heacock and Coach Tressel are like the same coach," Hightower says. "Coach Heacock believes the same philosophies, but he was the defensive coordinator. So, he brings a stronger defensive mentality to our team."
U12:25 p.m. -- Ryan and other players take the stand in front of media members. The quarterback is asked whether defenses play key roles from week to week or if "shootouts" are the norm in the Gateway. "Defense wins championships," Ryan says. "As you saw last year, Western Illinois had a good defense. Anyone who has ever won the Gateway has had good defenses." Ryan is also asked how he will handle a new head coach whose trade is defense. "It's a lot different," Ryan says. "It's great for the defense, but it will take the offense a while to get used to on game day."
U12:50. -- Gateway commissioner Patty Viverito addresses the group, welcoming Western Kentucky and praising the conference's television contract with FOX Sports Net, which will televise six games this season.
U2:15 -- Heacock and other coaches take the stand. He is asked whether Youngstown State's decision to join the Horizon League will have an effect on the football program's future in the Gateway. "If I have anything to say about it, we will play Gateway football because I think it's the best," he said. Heacock is also asked about his changes in the program. "I'm going to coach the defense and let the guys on offense call the plays," he said.
U3:50 -- A shuttle takes the group back to the St. Louis airport where it boards a TWA flight.
U4:55 -- Plane departs. Soon thereafter, Ryan, Hightower and Parks are asleep; Heacock returns to his NCAA publication; and Saternow reads.
U6:03 -- Plane arrives in Cleveland, and the group takes Saternow's van back to Youngstown.
U7:38 -- Group arrives in Youngstown.
UNext up -- 2001 season and the Jon Heacock era.
XBrian Richesson is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at email@example.com.