YSU's men's basketball coach John Robic expects attendance to improve.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
YOUNGSTOWN -- John Robic has laid down the gauntlet.
"All we've heard for two years," said the Youngstown State men's basketball coach, "is that our fans wanted us to play schools they were familiar with.
"Well, now we've done it. Now it's time for them to step up."
By that, Robic meant increased attendance at Beeghly Center. Games against Southern Utah, Missouri-Kansas City and Oral Roberts will be replaced by the likes of Cleveland State, Wright State and Butler.
Bring their fans: Those schools, members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, should not only mean more YSU fans, Robic hopes, but those schools, in close proximity to Youngstown, should result in more fans from those schools making one-day drives to Beeghly Center.
Coaches from Youngstown State who attended Thursday's attendance agreed basketball, particularly the men's program, would be the greatest beneficiary of the school's move to the Midwestern Collegiate.
"We'll play some great teams, and teams that we have a history with," said women's basketball coach Ed DiGregorio. "Wisconsin-Green Bay, Milwaukee and Cleveland State, all those schools used to be in the Mid-Con with us.
"It will be fun competing against some great coaches [in the Midwestern Collegiate]," continued DiGregorio. "Not that there wasn't some great coaches and great teams in the Mid-Con, but this is definitely a step up."
Shorter trips: DiGregorio said he'll enjoy the shorter road trips.
"It's a great fit for us, travel-wise," he remarked. "We won't be spending as much money or time on travel [and] the kids will be missing less days from school."
Robic used a football example to describe the move.
"It would be like a Division I-AA program making the move to Conference USA," he said.
"It elevates the status of our program ten-fold because we go from a conference that was 21st [in the RPI rankings] to one that was 11th.
"This is an exciting time, but there will be some growing pains," he continued. "I don't think people realize how big of a jump this is. We're really going to have to elevate ourselves to compete with those teams."
Recruiting help: Robic said one advantage his program will enjoy from the new affiliation is in recruiting.
"We've recruited mainly in the East because that's [the area] we knew," he said. "Back there, and even in Pennsylvania, when we'd talk to a recruit about the schools in our conference, they never heard of Valparaiso or Oral Roberts or Southern Utah.
"Now, we'll be able to recruit a much more high-caliber athlete, potentially," he added, "and this gives us a broader range of our [recruiting] base. We'll go into states like Indiana and Michigan. It'll make us limitless, geographically."