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« Penguin Insider

Where does YSU go from here? (Updated)

By Joe Scalzo (Contact)


Published November 23, 2013

Untitled document

1. I got my first "Fire Wolford" email at halftime of Saturday's game and the emails/tweets didn't get any nicer over the next two quarters.

While I sympathize with the frustration of YSU's fans, I'm going to do my best to stick to the facts for now. And here's the biggest one: In 2010, Wolford signed a five-year contract for $250,000 a year.

That's $200,000 in base salary and $50,000 for "marketing compensation," which is just a fancy way of saying YSU pays him to go on radio/TV shows, appear in commercials, speak at local functions, etc.

When YSU bought out the last year of Jon Heacock's contract after the 2009 season, he was making $137,000 in salary and marketing income. That's not insignificant, but it's a lot less than a quarter-million.

I haven't talked to YSU athletic director Ron Strollo about this lately — he didn't respond to my interview request on Saturday — but when we informally talked about it earlier this year, he flat-out said there's no money in the budget to buy out contracts, Wolford's or anyone else's. Not with declining enrollment, declining state funding and the big price tags attached to things like the WATTS, the new softball field and the new soccer field.

2. Strollo is, by nature, a pretty patient man, so my guess is he'd give Wolford a fifth year even if he had the money, but he doesn't.

This isn't Florida, which could decide to buy out Will Muschamp after Saturday's loss to Georgia Southern. FCS football doesn't work that way, certainly not at YSU.

So, unless something shocking happens, I expect Wolford to return (unless he chooses to leave). I've heard nothing to convince me otherwise, although it's not like Strollo would ask for my opinion anyway. But if he did, I'd lean toward keeping Wolford, provided he's willing to coach on the last year of his contract. But as YSU radio analyst Chris Sammarone said in our Tuesday radio show, it's really tough to recruit that way. He's not sure he would have come to YSU under those circumstances.

3. Regardless, Strollo is in a really tough spot. Of course, the FCS playoff committee could shock the world and put YSU in the playoffs on Sunday. That would certainly change the conversation, at least for one week.

(UPDATE: YSU missed the playoffs.)

4. In last week's blog, I wrote that YSU was likely in the playoffs, win or lose. I thought the only way the Penguins would miss out is if they got blown out.

So, if Sunday's selection show goes the way I think it will, consider this my mea culpa. I was wrong. They're likely not in the playoffs.

5. Wolford admitted in Saturday's press conference that South Dakota State dominated the Penguins in the trenches, which is something that's happened all four years against the Jackrabbits.

For all of YSU's offensive success, the defense has ranged from mediocre to lousy under Wolford and it starts with the defensive line. Outside of the second half of the 2011 season (when Daniel Stewart, Aronde Stanton and Obinna Ekweremuba were playing well), the defensive line hasn't been playoff-caliber.

Obviously, the overall defensive talent isn't playoff-caliber but it's not like the scheme was tricking anyone, either. (If you listened to Sammarone on the radio this year, you know how he feels about playing a base defense with a four-man front.)

I'm not sure defensive coordinator Joe Tresey deserves to be back. Problem is, if Wolford doesn't get an extension, what defensive coordinator is going to want to come here for what might be a one-year stint?

6. Man, is this a depressing blog. I can't believe I'm writing about this in Wolford's fourth year. I really did think this was the year he'd put it together.

7. Considering the weather — and YSU's playoff drought — I'm not surprised only a few thousand fans showed up. (YSU distributed 8,973 tickets, which means there must have been 6,000 fans in the loges.)

By the fourth quarter, there were only about 150 people in the stands, which prompted me to tweet, "If you're still in the stands at Stambaugh Stadium, you're either dating a player or you gave birth to one."

UPDATE: After this blog posted on Saturday night, I got a great email from YSU's band director, Brandt Payne, reminding me that the band was still in the stands, too. (The guys even grew playoff beards. How great is that?)

Here's his email:

"The marching band is always there, even on days like today, playing, cheering and supporting until the very end. Whether we are up 30 or down like we were today covered in snow we are always there.

I have the opportunity to work with an exceptional group of YSU students and wanted to point out their efforts as a bright spot in the midst of what was otherwise a very difficult day. I actually left campus beaming with pride for my students tonight, albeit a pride that was a tad frosty.

On a side note many band members likely went to their part time job this evening or went straight to the books so they can work all day tomorrow as our band me members receive no scholarship or stipend for playing in the Marching Pride."

8. Looking for something positive in this blog? Yeah, me too.

How about this: the snow was pretty. And hey, YSU's men's basketball team is 6-1.


Comments

1AtownAugie(697 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Mr Scalzo: your article shows much needed diplomacy, self-control and balance. Much needed? To give some time for the open wound of losing three straight to heal a bit -- so that any decisions are rooted in reason and not emotion. Thank you for that.

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2GoPens(397 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Yet another year out. Shameful.

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3pwhite1027(106 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Nice comments, Joe. However if a change is needed, and it is, it must be made regardless of the contract. Sometimes you have to swallow your medicine. What good is it to keep Coach one more year if YSU is going to get rid of him anyway? I don't buy that they don't have the money to swallow his contract. It was silly to sign him to a five year deal anyway. Too long a deal for an unproven coach, however that's water over the damn. That salary can be made up very quickly through higher attendance, solid recruiting, and more championships. A lame duck coach is likely to just go through the motions and try to find his next job at YSU's expense.

Pull the plug, AD Strollo, what is their to lose? Does Tressel have any itch to return to the sidelines? Is it not worth a meeting to find out? Wouldn't it be something if he came back to YSU to end his awesome career? Stranger things have happened. He loves Ytown and vise versa.

Tressel took a job at Akron, a school similar to YSU in size and market. My first phone call tomorrow if I was AD would a 911 call to Tressel. Something tells me he is not done as a coach. He's a Ohio boy true and blue and he was well on his way to building YSU into a D1 school if the Buckeyes hadn't come calling with an offer he simply couldn't refuse. Didn't take the powers at OSU long to see what they had in Tressel. His ability to recruit is very, very strong and what he brought to YSU was much more than championships. He put YSU on the map and what he was really worth to YSU can't be fully measured. Millions and millions, that's for sure. And his LARGE donations to YSU upon his exit speak for themselves. He is a man with great integrity and made everyone around him better. Remember, he served as AD as well as coach for many years. And I think he might thrive on the challenge of putting YSU on top again, he doesn't necessarily need the money, maybe he'd be open to the challenge.

Readers may think that would be a step down for Tressel and he wouldn't consider it. I'm not so sure of that. Call it a gut feeling. At this point in his life it might be just what he's looking for. Certainly it's worth a phone call, isn't it, Mr. Strollo? You played for him, you know better than most what he's all about. Could you please call him and give it a shot?

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4franc004(71 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Joe's right. I don't see how on earth the university can justify buying out Wolford's contract when they've been laying off mid-level employees to balance the budget. Seems to me YSU has invested plenty over the last three years in the program--12 mil for indoor practice field, new weight room, new locker rooms, so I don't see how they can, or whether they should, throw more money at the program right now. As far as Tressel goes, word is he's being groomed for a very big job at Akron, so don't hold your breath.

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5pjarvis(3 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Jim Tressel is never coming back to YSU to coach football and Eric Wolford is never going to make the post-season.

With that said, what are you going to do Ron Strollo?

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6papa1(661 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

if I remember right, tressel is not allowed to coach a d-1 team for five years after his fiasco at osu. so forget it. I say cut bait, get rid of wolford, he thinks he's steve spurrier coaching in the sec, get rid of him and give the job to mangino who has won at a high level. period. it'll be the same thing with wolford next year. no hope. no attendance. no playoffs.

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