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YSU’s Strollo speaks to Curbstone Coaches

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — Like the many other universities and colleges nationwide, Youngstown State University’s athletics programs were also shut down and took a huge hit when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March.

They were asked to cut $2 million in expenses and lost 22 departmental positions by early summer. Several employees either retired or took furloughs, while others took salary reductions — all to help the department ease challenges presented by the pandemic.

Ron Strollo, now in his 20th season as Penguins’ executive director of intercollegiate athletics and 24h overall at YSU, spoke to the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s initial meeting of the new season at Avion Banquet Center. He told the group everyone is seeking their new normal athletically.

“We were excited looking ahead to our spring sports seasons because we had a legitimate shot at winning the Horizon League’s McCafferty Trophy, which is awarded annually to the league’s all-sports champion,” Strollo said. “In March, right about the time the league was set to host the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the world was shut down.

“It was spring break. We needed to get teams home and our student-athletes, who were spread out all over the country, back to their homes as well — some of which were overseas.”

Over the past seven years, YSU has finished second twice (2016-17 and 2013-14) and third once (2014-15) in the race for the McCafferty Trophy, while only once (2017-18) during that time were they outside the top-four finishers.

When school ultimately resumed in the spring, Strollo said the athletics department finished with the greatest semester academically during his reign.

“Our student-athletes posted a 3.26 overall grade point average, which is the very best during my years as athletic director,” he added. “We had 76 percent of our student-athletes achieve a 3.00 GPA last spring while 73 percent maintained a 3.00 or better cumulative GPA. Our women’s basketball team, which finished second in the country a year ago, posted a 3.73 GPA, while our men’s golf team achieved a 3.53 overall GPA

“We also had 104 student-athletes post a perfect 4.00 GPA in the spring, which is truly an amazing accomplishment.”

This fall, with more than 500 participants competed in its 21 intercollegiate sports. YSU fields nine men’s and 12 women’s teams. YSU is second to The Ohio State University in both categories.

The athletic department’s big news through the summer months was opening a new tennis facility, adding two new sports (men’s swimming & diving and women’s lacrosse) and doubling the size of its men’s and women’s cross country rosters.

“Our tennis facility will house both our men’s and women’s teams with naming rights still being sought,” Strollo said. “In my 24 years at YSU, we’ve now added six sports with women’s lacrosse and men’s swimming joining women’s bowling, swimming, soccer and golf over the last quarter century.”

As part of the women’s lacrosse and men’s swimming program expansion, construction was also completed on new offices for baseball, lacrosse, and men’s and women’s swimming while locker rooms were either renovated or constructed for lacrosse, baseball and women’s swimming.

“We also re-did the lighting in Beeghly Center for our basketball and volleyball teams and replaced the astro-turf on Beede Field,” Strollo said. “We’re in a holding pattern, however, as we await our spring football schedule from the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

“We’re looking at an eight-game, league-only schedule with play set to begin late-February. Our first couple games will be played on the road at the league’s Southernmost schools or those with a dome with our first home game slated for mid-March. Also, we expect to hear from the NCAA this week when we can start basketball, bracing for the likelihood that all 21 of our teams will be practicing and competing this spring.”

Next Monday, YSU football coach Doug Phillips is the guest speaker.

If interested in attending and the anticipation of a head count, call Avion Banquet Center at 330-758-4140 or 330-550-1131 prior to Sept. 19.

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