By Joe Scalzo
Dick Hartzell figured he was too old to change, which is why Youngstown State decided to make a change.
Hartzell, an ex-YSU kicker and prep football coach known for his blunt opinions and obsession with hang time on kicks, will not return as the color analyst for radio broadcasts of YSU football games.
Associate athletic director Rick Love, who informed Hartzell of the decision more than a month ago, said the department wanted a “new perspective in the broadcast booth.”
“We sit down each year as an athletic staff and evaluate all aspects of the department, including radio, TV, internet, promotions, tickets, etc.” he wrote in an e-mail. “We felt with a new football coaching staff in place, it was time to make some changes in several areas related to the football program.”
Hartzell, who had teamed with Bob Hannon on radio broadcasts the past five years, had become a bit of a polarizing figure in the community. His backers loved his honesty. His detractors, some of them parents of players, felt he shouldn’t have singled out individual athletes and that there were more tactful ways to issue criticism.
“They told me I berated players — that was the exact quote given,” said Hartzell, who had been asked on a couple occasions to change his style. “My feeling is, if it’s stupid football, that’s what I’m going to call it.
“If that’s not what they want, they shouldn’t put a coach on the broadcast. If you want a sweetheart broadcast, I’m not your guy.”
Hartzell has been a fixture on YSU and high school radio and TV broadcasts for decades, most often with WKBN’s Jim Campbell. One of his quirks — which was either endearing or annoying, depending on who you asked — was his obsession with a punter’s hang time, which he timed in the booth.
“Maybe we’ll keep a watch in the booth in honor of Dick,” joked Hannon, who has worked with five analysts in his 21 years and had no say in the decision. “He has a very honest, candid style. Whether you agreed with him or not, you knew who he was.
“That’s what made him effective.”
Hartzell is best known as the founder of Jump Stretch, Inc., which features his FlexBand exercise equipment. He was a record-setting kicker for the Penguins in the early 1960s.
“I have no animosity whatsoever,” Hartzell said. “Am I disappointed in the decision? Yes. But I’m proud to live in Youngstown and have my diploma from Youngstown University.
“I’ve lectured at Harvard, MIT, UCLA, Ohio State, Michigan, you name it. I’ve gone as far as South Africa. All with a diploma from Youngstown University. I’ll always cheer for them.”
Hannon will work Saturday’s spring game with WKBN’s Dave Sess and Chad Krispinsky. The Penguins haven’t yet named a permanent replacement. Former YSU quarterbacks Tom Zetts and Jeff Ryan are among those in the mix.
“We respect and appreciate everything Coach Hartzell has done over the years with radio, TV and his Jump Stretch conditioning of our student-athletes,” Love wrote. “We look forward to having Coach Hartzell continue his association with our team through Jump Stretch.”