By Greg Gulas
Of all state funded universities in Ohio, only two, Ohio State and Youngstown State, depend solely on the fundraising efforts of their athletics department in order to raise money for scholarships.
In YSU’s case, $1.7 million prior to the start of each academic year must be in place in order to fulfill its commitment to more than 400 athletes competing in 18 men’s and women’s sports.
During a down economy, finding new sponsors is an absolute necessity.
Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly luncheon meeting at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center, YSU athletic personnel Rick Love, Tom Morella and Robb Schmidt covered the many challenges facing the Penguins.
“Despite a struggling local economy and challenging unemployment figures, companies and organizations have remained loyal with the sponsorships of our many programs,” Love said.
Love, associate athletic director in charge of the school’s athletic marketing, is a Hubbard native and YSU graduate who has been with the school for nearly 15 years.
He said his area operates in two business cycles.
“I’ll concentrate on corporate sponsorships and advertising with companies and businesses in the region that support YSU athletics,” Love said. “It’s really a 12-month process of publicizing, promoting and generating revenue for the department.”
When Love took over the marketing reigns, football and men’s and women’s basketball corporate sponsorships income hovered around the $200,000 mark.
That number the past two seasons has grown to more than $500,000.
Schmidt, also an assistant athletic director, is in his fourth year in the department and for the past nine seasons has been the voice of the Penguins’ men’s basketball team.
He works with corporate sales alongside Love and is involved with game-day management, helping to coordinate the broadcast or tape delay of more than 75 home events.
His association with both media entities has helped secure sponsorships in both areas.
“We’ve been able to bring some clients on board from my radio days at WRRO and those connections have helped cultivate new relationships for YSU,” Schmidt said.
Morella, also an assistant A.D., is completing his 18th year with the department. He oversees three sports and works closely with the Penguin Club and Football Alumni Membership Club.
“We’re trying to get our football alums more involved and want them to come back and take part in our many festivities,” he said.