By Edward P. Noga
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – We live in times when sports at every level seem to expand and seasons overlap. In days past, particular months on the calendar were equated with various sports, their playoffs and championships.
The overlap has transferred to sports bars. It shows regular seasons and post-seasons have blurred to the point where more TVs need to be added to their walls. (Are you kidding? I can’t keep track now.)
The few who dare to bring up shorter seasons and eliminating some of the overlap are booed out of the room (or stadium). That might be the subject sometimes. But if the topic makes the agenda, it’s usually at the end and then gets moved to next time because the meeting time has expired.
I begin my commentary this way, because, like most of life, evolution is inevitable. Back in 1985, when our beloved Youngstown State University was looking for a new football coach, things were simpler.
In the annals of our local Curbstone Coaches gatherings, former YSU athletics director Joe Malmisur said that part of his job was to find a new coach following the years of Bill Narduzzi. Back then, he added, search committees were not as prevalent.
He had found three very qualified candidates and, for various reasons, submitted James Patrick Tressel as his choice.
We now look back and many of us know the chapters that Tressel, his staff and teams wrote on the field when he was head coach. Four of those chapters are in big numbers on the YSU scoreboard at the northern end of Stambaugh Stadium: 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997.
I use these opening paragraphs above for the four quarters part of my commentary title.
We know that Tressel moved on to Ohio State University. During that tenure, his contacts and influence in the Mahoning Valley continued. His wife, Ellen, and her family also remained committed to the Valley. We also know that the University of Akron benefited from Tressel’s talents for two years
Now the next few paragraphs discuss the “overtime” mentioned in the commentary title.
On May 9, 2014, Tressel was named the ninth president of YSU. His finely tuned public persona stepped adroitly into his new position.
His teamwork approach that we saw so many times when he was running the football program continued. Working with the YSU Board of Trustees, university leadership and his many community contacts, the ninth president ushered in a new era of expansion.
Today, we have a well planned and welcoming urban campus built on the teamwork of previous university leaders and community supporters.
As we listened to Tressel’s retirement announcement, I am sure many wondered out loud, “Why now?”
He carefully gave his reasons and showed a great amount of gratitude for the opportunity he had when he coached football here and later returned to lead the university as its president.
Many tell us that you know when it’s time to pass the gavel. That time and that sort of “know’ is different for all of us. In the end, however, when we look back, we usually see where the writing was on the wall.
All colleges and universities have struggled with many challenges, including fewer college-age students, economic downturns and a worldwide pandemic. Higher education has had to deal with a lot, as we all have.
In the history of states, regions and communities, we look at and admire successes resulting from assembling the many pieces of the puzzle. The connectedness of linking positive energy for the common good is important at all levels.
Thanks, President Tressel, for inspiring us and showing what can be done when people work together. Our coach definitely has brought a win for the Mahoning Valley.