A mega-blog on YSU's new coaches, FBS scheduling and the Lite-Brite scoreboard
by Joe Scalzo - "A blog about YSU Penguin athletics, not the insides of penguins." | 155 entries
Like telemarketers and McDonald's burger-flippers, football coaches tend to switch jobs a lot. It's the nature of the profession, a byproduct of ridiculous expectations colliding with ridiculous ambition.
Florida State, for instance, had to replace seven (!) assistant coaches this offseason, including defensive coordinator Mark Stoops who was hired as Kentucky's head coach. And that's after the Seminoles went 12-2.
So I expected to see some turnover with Youngstown State's coaching staff following last year's 7-4 season.
But four coaches? I wasn't expecting that.
Here's the breakdown.
1. Special teams/running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Louis Matsakis. He's now director of personnel at Kansas, where he previously coached from 2004-05 and 2007-09.
2. Inside linebackers coach Frank Buffano. He's now director of football operations at Kentucky with fellow Cardinal Mooney graduate Stoops.
3. Wide receivers coach Andre Coleman. He's now wide receivers coach at his alma mater, Kansas State.
4. Tight ends coach Mauro Monz. His departure this week was a bit of a surprise. Not sure where he'll land.
1. Special teams/assistant linebackers coach Jamie Bryant. He spent the last two seasons at Houston after coaching secondary for nine years at Vanderbilt.
2. Running backs coach Eric Gallon. He played with Eric Wolford at Kansas State and was most recently the head coach at George Jenkins High in Lakeland, Fla.
3. Wide receivers coach Kurt Beathard. He was offensive coordinator at Gardner-Webb last season and coached with Wolford at Illinois.
4. Tight ends coach/assistant head coach/recruiting coordinator Mark Mangino. The New Castle native brings both a big reputation and, famously, a big body to his alma mater.
Here's my (very preliminary) thoughts on the coaching hires:
1. I wasn't surprised by Matsakis and Buffano leaving. I like both guys (no one was more entertaining to watch on game days than Buffano, who I once saw throw a chair in the press box) but the special teams have been poor throughout Wolford's tenure and the linebackers didn't develop the way everyone hoped they would last season. It was probably time for a change.
2. Coleman's departure was a promotion, plain and simple. He's done a nice job in his first coaching stint and he was rewarded with a chance to move up the coaching ladder.
3. I was a little surprised to see Monz go, but I'm told he was commuting from Pittsburgh the past two years, so maybe that played a role. I thought he did a nice job with the tight ends the past two years.
4. I don't know much about Bryant or Gallon, but you have to think they were brought in as much for their familiarity with recruiting the south as their coaching ability. Beathard's father, Bobby, was the GM for the Redskins and Chargers and he's a football lifer. Mangino, obviously, is well known both in the Mahoning Valley and across the country.
5. Wolford believes Ohio is over-recruited and has tried to expand his scope nationally, targeting states like Florida, the Carolinas and California. These new hires will help him keep expanding.
Of course, at some point, he has to make the playoffs, or we'll see an even bigger turnover in a couple years. With quarterback Kurt Hess and Wolford both entering their fourth seasons, there's a lot riding on this year's record.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez made headlines recently by claiming that Big Ten schools will stop scheduling FCS teams. Since then, no one from the Big Ten has verified that claim and there are whispers that the conference will merely cut back on FCS schools rather than stop scheduling them altogether. (Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel recently wrote about this here.
Outside of Pitt (which may not want to play YSU again anytime soon), every FBS school YSU has scheduled in recent years has been from the Big Ten. The Penguins will play Michigan State this fall and Illinois in 2014, both Big Ten schools.
That said, if the Big Ten does cut back on FCS schools, look for the Penguins to try to schedule big-time FCS schools such as Appalachian State or Montana on two-year deals, with one game at YSU and the other on the road.
Youngstown State would love to schedule Mid-American Conference schools such as Akron or Kent State, but the problem is those schools aren't willing to come to Stambaugh Stadium, which is a deal-breaker for YSU.
The Penguins try to recruit on an equal level as MAC schools (specifically Akron and Kent, which recruits Youngstown aggressively) and YSU's administrators believe they'd be undercutting their coaches by only playing road games against MAC teams. They also think that as a school with a bigger fan base and a better all-time record against both Akron and Kent, there's little reason to budge.
Akron and Kent, meanwhile, believe they have little to gain from playing Youngstown State on the road, especially since there's a pretty good chance they'll lose.
I agree with YSU on this one, and my personal feeling is the Penguins should schedule more non-conference games against teams in tropical locations.
YSU came close to replacing the Beeghly Center scoreboard last summer but opted instead to use that money on locker rooms for the golf, tennis and track teams. There are about 130 athletes in those three sports at YSU.
"They didn't have a place to change, let alone shower," athletic director Ron Strollo told me. "We've been methodically renovating offices and locker rooms here and I felt like I had to get to that project first. Some of our golfers were changing their clothes in their cars."
Strollo said the school will "reevaluate" the scoreboard project this summer. A source told me a few weeks ago that the scoreboard they were looking at last summer cost around $130,000.
One thing is certain — the scoreboard (which looks like a giant Lite-Brite and is about as technologically advanced) isn't going to last much longer. It's so outdated that YSU can't buy replacement parts. During Thursday's women's game, the scoreboard was on the fritz at least half the game. That can't continue.
"It's going to die at some point," said Strollo. "It's just not going to turn on."