By Greg Gulas
Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches on Monday, Ron Strollo, Youngstown State’s athletic director for 17 years, said the late Harry Meshel was one of his trusted friends.
Meshel was a long-time state senator and YSU Board of Trustees member.
Strollo said Meshel, who died last week at age 93, was a man who made many things happen.
“Harry was a man who meant a lot to our university, our athletic department, every department at the university and the entire community,” Strollo said. “He was our No. 1 booster who remained passionate about his hometown and alma mater.
“He was a significant player in the construction of the WATTS [Watson and Tressel Training Site], helping us gain support from the school’s trustees, guiding us when we needed to take out bonds in order to pay for the project and even helped get us involved in fundraising,” Strollo said. “He meant a lot to YSU and the community.”
Strollo met once a month for lunch with Meshel, former YSU athletic director Joe Malmisur and past Seventh District Court of Appeals Judge Joseph Donofrio. He said they showed pride for YSU, the community and most of all their alma mater, East High School.
“They regaled me with their many stories about the East Side, East High School and the pride that they had for their hometown,” Strollo said. “I already miss those stories.”
A year ago, the Penguins finished runner-up to Oakland University in last year’s Horizon League’s annual McCafferty Trophy standings, winning the women’s division.
YSU also finished 17th nationally in the men’s Capitol One Cup standings, which was won by Ohio State.
“We had a great run last year in multiple sports and both our men’s and women’s teams are looking to duplicate those successes this year,” Strollo said, adding that the Penguins football team played in the FCS championship game on Jan. 7 and took Pittsburgh to overtime in the Sept. 2 opener at Heinz Field.
“Last year was our first intercollegiate season for bowling and head coach Chelsea Gilliam guided us to a 25th-place finish nationally,” he said.
He said winter sports already are creating a buzz.
“New men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun has definitely hit the ground running in his first season at the helm while women’s coach, John Barnes, who was hampered by so many injuries a season ago, has those players now healthy and back along with an excellent recruiting class,” Strollo said.
“Ryan Purdy is our new swimming coach, coming to us from the University of Minnesota where he served as assistant men’s and women’s head coach for a program considered Top 15 in the nation,” Strollo said.
Groundbreaking for the Don Constantini Multi-media Complex is set for Stambaugh Stadium’s East side upon conclusion of the football season.
“The facility will house communications classrooms as they continue to work closely with athletics, helping to produce our ESPN3 broadcasts for all sports,” Strollo said.
YSU’s 18 varsity programs also continue to excel academically.
“We’ve had multiple semesters with cumulative 3.00 grade point averages while our graduation rate is at 72 percent, the highest it has ever been,” Strollo said.
Strollo is preparing for upcoming renovations to locker rooms and offices in Beeghly Center, as well as the expansion of its basketball coaches court. Beer sales at basketball games last season and at this year’s football home opener against Robert Morris l have gone well.
The Curbstone Coaches presented Strollo with a $2,000 check for its scholarship endowment, which totals $40,000.