Business Community Supports Penguin Sports

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For Paul A. Lyden Sr., advertising with the Youngstown State University athletics department is just the beginning.

The executive vice president of Lyden Oil Co. believes quality education and athletics will produce quality employees and keep them in the Mahoning Valley.

“That’s one of the reasons why we support YSU athletics,” he says.

One former Lyden Oil Co. employee is Penguins head football coach Doug Phillips, who painted gas caps when he was a graduate assistant football coach under then-head coach Jim Tressel in the 1990s.

Phillips says companies like Lyden Oil support the school’s NCAA programs, something for which he and others in the YSU athletics department are grateful.

“We’ve got great resources,” he says. “Sometimes if I want to do something for our players, I have to go find the money. We’ve great people in Youngstown and Warren and in the Valley. Great support.

“They know if … it’s for the kids, they’re usually very helpful and making sure we have all the resources.”

Lyden says his company pairs with Jeffrey Chrystal Catering to support the football team with meals before home games.

“I remember one time [former YSU football] coach [Eric] Wolford wanted big, huge tractor tires so that the linemen could flip them as part of their workout program,” he says. “I called a guy. They got these big, huge tires and the coach loved it.”

Corporate sponsorship has surged this year, returning to pre-pandemic levels, says Rick Love, associate director of YSU athletics. The Penguin Club, the athletics booster group that supports the 21 varsity sports on campus, had its largest golf outing in June. And as of Aug. 9, there were 110 corporate sponsors supporting athletics at the university.

“In terms of corporate sponsorship, we’re easily on track to have one of the best three years that we’ve had in my 24 years here,” Love says. “It’s just the response of new sponsors and of old sponsors wanting to go above and beyond what they did back in 2019. It’s been incredible.”

Corporate sponsorships aren’t limited to football. There are also options for men and women’s basketball and all of the other sports, giving each advertiser the best fit possible. It may be a billboard in Stambaugh Stadium or one of the school’s other athletics venues, to sponsoring the football and basketball radio broadcasts or the coach’s shows on Mondays and Wednesdays during the season.

“It’s our job to try to tailor that and carve out stuff that works for the sponsors and obviously support our 21 sports and our more than 500 athletes,” Love says.

Lyden is enamored with the revitalization of the YSU campus under the watch of President Tressel, adding other businesses should support the campus in the city.

“I would rather have total community support instead of relying on the 1% or 2% to give everything,” he says. “I would always go for total support instead of being supported by one. One column, one pillar will not support a building. But if you have a hundred columns, a hundred pillars, you can support a mountain.”

The 35 loges inside Stambaugh Stadium have been sold out for the 2021-22 season, Love says. Some of the companies that have rented loges will host watch parties there when the football team is on the road or  use them to host other events such as employee interviews.

Most leases run three years and include all YSU and high school football games during the regular season and playoffs. The businesses have the keys and use the loges at their discretion, he adds. Loges range from $18,000 to $40,000 per year, Love says.

Advance ticket sales for the upcoming football season still have a while to go. The season opener is Sept. 2 against University of Incarnate Word. As of Aug. 5, individual ticket sales were 20% behind what they were in 2020 but Love emphasizes that’s a rough estimate.

Some fans elected to opt out of the abbreviated spring season and continue their season tickets this fall while others attended spring home games. Other fans are taking a wait-and-see approach to the fall season.

“There’s still a little hesitation with some of their underlying health conditions,” Love says. “I’ve talked to several of them that might not be comfortable in crowds of 12,000, 13,000, 14,000 people. It’s been a little bit of a struggle for various reasons. But hopefully at the end of the day,  with a couple wins and some warm weather, we can at least get them out on an individual game basis.”

Area corporate sponsorships the athletics department receives are “absolutely amazing,” Love says, adding that upward of three-quarters of the decision makers the YSU athletics department interacts with are graduates of the school.

“The support that we get from the local-based companies year in and year out, regardless of our win-loss record, has been amazing,” Love says.

William G. Lyden Jr., Paul’s father, was on the founding committee to build Stambaugh Stadium, which opened on Sept. 4, 1982. Lyden has funded construction of the Newman Center, the namesake Lyden House residence hall and many other facilities on campus, to support not only athletics but the entire campus community.

Paul Lyden says other area corporations should join the list of sponsors of the athletics department.

“Lyden Oil Company has been there and is supporting YSU,” he says. “How about you? Where are you supporting YSU?”

Pictured: Youngstown State University defenders look to block a field goal during a 2019 game at Stambaugh Stadium. In the background are many advertisers on display. PNC Bank, Northern Ohio Honda Dealers and CTW Development Corp., the latter of which operates the Courtyard by Marriott Youngstown Canfield, Kensington Golf Club and Grille and Waypoint 4180 banquet hall, are all official YSU corporate partners. PNC and Honda have been mainstays on YSU’s main Stambaugh Stadium scoreboard for years. The CTW Corp. has a field-level banner in the northern end zone for all games.