By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- In 1991, when Ron Strollo was a captain of Youngstown State's first national championship football team, he was excited just to be a part of the Penguins' athletic program.
Ten years later, Strollo wants the opportunity to run that program as the school's executive director of intercollegiate athletics.
Strollo, who is currently the associate A.D., was the second of four candidates interviewed for the opening created by Jim Tressel's move to Ohio State.
Michael Moore, athletic director at IUPUI, was interviewed Tuesday. Two more candidates will be interviewed next week before the final selection is made.
Austintown native: The 31-year old Strollo is native of Austintown and came to YSU in 1988 as a student-athlete, graduating in 1993.
He's been a part of the athletic department since 1996 when he was named business manager. He was promoted to associated A.D. in 2000.
Strollo said his experience in the YSU athletic department gives him an advantage over other candidates.
"I've dealt with the problems in this department over the last five years, plus I have good relationships with the people in this department and on campus," he said.
Keeping the football program on track and getting the rest of the teams ready for the Horizon League would be Strollo's immediate tasks.
"We're entering a new era at Youngstown State," he said. "We are entering a stage where we need to see where we can compete in this new Horizon League. We're excited about our past history in football and believe our next goal is to get there in basketball.
"I really feel that each university gives different prospective whether it's the reporting structure or how they are funded and the sports you sponsor," he added, "and I feel that my five years that I spent here is a lot more valuable than time spent at another institution. Here, I've dealt with different issues and different challenges."
Learned from Tressel: Strollo said he learned a great deal from Tressel.
"The thing I learned most about Coach Tressel is to keep working hard and try to do the right things and good things will happen," he said. "I think that you always have to remember that you are in this for the student-athletes. That's why were here and that's what is important."
Strollo said he's concerned about the university's decrease in enrollment.
"I know [YSU President Dr. David Sweet] has said that the enrollment is everyone's concern and we in the athletic department have to keep projecting a positive image of Youngstown State University, as we have been, and possibly helping that enrollment which will help financially and in turn help us."
Strollo was asked about how an emphasis on the football program and what is in line for the other sports.
"I agree that there has been a football perception here and a lot of that has to do with wins and losses. We have invested quite a lot with new locker rooms and video equipment for our basketball team to try and give them some more resources, especially now as they enter this new Horizon League," he said.
"I really feel like were on the right track here. Coach Tressel, [former A.D.] Joe Malmisur and [interim A.D.] Pauline Saternow have got us on the right track," he continued. "We've still got a long road to haul, but I'm really proud of some of the things we've done here academically as well as on the field.
"I've dealt with the challenges here and I've been a student-athlete here and I know many of the teachers here and have had a long relationships with a lot of people on this campus which all hopefully will be assets for me here."
Local ties: Strollo said his role in the YSU program is important because of his local ties.
"This department means a lot to this university and this community. This community has gone through a lot of tough times and our football program has been like a bright light to it. That's what important to me, this community, because I've lived in it all my life."
Strollo added he would feel very comfortable taking the job.
"The one thing that Coach Tressel has always done here is to develop people. He did that with Coach [Jon] Heacock and I feel that he's done the same thing with me. I feel that I'm ready for this move."