By Greg Gulas
For the past 22 years, associate athletic director Rick Love has been a mainstay in the Youngstown State athletics marketing department.
Love, who has won multiple awards for his his game-day football program, told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center that YSU will celebrate its storied sports history this year by honoring three teams that will mark milestone anniversaries.
“This year isn’t over and we’re already preparing for next year,” Love said. “We have three very special teams to honor during the 2019-20 school year. It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1979 YSU football team, the first team to advance to the national title game, and the 25th anniversary of our 1994 Division I-AA national championship team.
“It’s also the 20th anniversary of head coach Ed DiGregorio’s women’s basketball team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, so it will be a very special year.”
Love’s primary responsibility is to oversee external relations of the athletic department, including sponsorships, marketing, promotions, tickets and sports information.
His concentration is building partnerships with local, regional and national companies as part of the department’s corporate partner program.
“We work with our partners on game program and scoreboard advertising, the Penguin radio network, game-day giveaways as well as promotions, tickets, tailgating, loges and Penguin Club events,” he said. “I’m a Hubbard native, still live there and consider myself fortunate to be able to live in my hometown and work at my alma mater. That doesn’t happen very often in college or professional athletics.”
Love has two very distinctive seasons, devoting six months each to game execution and preparation.
“From September through February I work with football, and men’s and women’s basketball game operations,” Love said. “From March to August we meet with all corporate partners and put everything back together for the coming year. In some cases, we work over a year in advance with major sponsors.”
The YSU campus is currently undergoing multiple physical changes with the soon-to-be-completed Don Constantini Multimedia Center at Stambaugh Stadium at the center of the plans.
“The East end of the stands will be the new home to our press box, radio-TV booths, videoboard, public address and instant replay,” Love said. “All game operations will now be housed there, also serving as a classroom for telecommunication students during the week. It will also house our sports information department.”
Construction to the East stands will allow the department to convert its original press box and radio booths into four additional loges.
In the works is a new M-82 parking lot.
“Our new M-82 parking lot will be built where the former tennis courts were located [behind the East stands] and a new 350-car lot will serve the campus community during the week,” Love said. “It will serve as a premium tailgate lot on game days, also enhancing our parking options for basketball and events at the WATTS [Watson and Tressel Training Site].
“We’ll continue to utilize the M-70 lot on Fifth Avenue for game-day tailgating, as well as the M-63 lot across from the Barnes & Noble bookstore for corporate hospitality tents.”
Construction began last week on the new Cafaro Field, of which both YSU and Ursuline High School will use and is courtesy of the Cafaro Family. The Penguins will use the field for its new lacrosse program, soccer, summer camps, intramurals and recreation while UHS will use the field for football, soccer and baseball-softball practices.
Tennis courts will now be housed on the West side of Fifth Avenue and become a part of the Covelli Sports Complex area.
“The new indoor tennis facility will break ground later this year and be the new home to men’s and women’s tennis,” Love said. “It affords both teams the opportunity to play and practice year around and like our other facilities, we plan on hosting high school matches and tournaments.”
YSU and Samford kick off the 150th Anniversary of college football when they meet in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff Classic on Aug. 24 in Montgomery, Ala. It’s part of the NCAA’s Week Zero contest and will air on ESPN.
The YSU men’s basketball team will host national power West Virginia at Covelli Centre on Dec. 21.
“Our football team will play in front of a national audience on ESPN and men’s basketball head coach Jerrod Calhoun’s team will play a Power Five school in downtown Youngstown,” Love said. “Eric Ryan and his staff at the Covelli Centre have been instrumental in making this game happen.”
Next Monday, current college basketball and former NBA official Joe DeRosa, a Lowellville native, will serve as guest speaker.