Decision Soon on YSU Nonconference Games

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown State University football team is under a time crunch. The Penguins need to fit three nonconference games into the fall schedule after the Missouri Valley Football Conference decided to split the season into two halves. 

The Penguins, who are a part of the MVFC in football, will play their conference schedule in the spring. But the current issue is finding active nonconference opponents.

The University of Akron, who YSU was scheduled to play in the season opener, is part of the Mid-American Conference, which postponed its season to the spring. Ron Strollo, YSU’s executive director for Intercollegiate Athletics, said the Penguins’ game against Duquesne University on Sept. 12 is also canceled, leaving Eastern Kentucky University as YSU’s only opponent as of Friday.

Strollo said the NCAA is developing practice protocols for teams depending on whether they are playing or have postponed. By the end of next week, YSU might have to make a decision on their fall football season. 

“At some point in the next week or so we’re going to have to make some decisions,” Strollo said Friday. “Are we at least going to schedule games in the fall? That doesn’t mean they’re going to happen for sure, but I would think that in the next week or 10 days that we’re going to have to make those decisions.”

Strollo has reached out to teams from around the region to fill the void, assuming the Penguins can get off the ground.

YSU has “talked to a lot of schools,” Strollo said. Two opponents that could potentially be in the running are the University of Pittsburgh, a common Power Five opponent for YSU and the only FBS team the Penguins have defeated in its history, and the University of Cincinnati.

Strollo said travel is a limiting factor for the Penguins. YSU needs to travel by bus and Strollo said he doesn’t want the players to stay in a hotel, so even schools as far aways as Cincinnati are pushing the limit.

YSU wanted to see how the first week of practice went before moving forward. Now, the decision makers will convene to determine the next steps for football.

“We’re going to revisit with our student-athletes and make sure they still feel comfortable and still want to compete a little bit this fall,” Strollo said. “And then we’ll revisit our president and our board, making sure that they feel comfortable with the plan that we have, and potentially move forward with a three-game nonconference schedule, here, this fall.”

Additionally, Strollo said Horizon League, which includes all of YSU’s programs except for football, women’s bowling and women’s lacrosse, is preparing to discuss the viability of winter sports.

On Thursday, the Horizon League postponed fall sports and will determine if they can be played in the spring. This means YSU men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, soccer and volleyball will not compete until 2021 at the earliest.

“We all recognized the next thing to talk about is what do the winter sports look like?” Strollo said. “What’s basketball look like? What’s swimming look like? What’s indoor track look like?”

The Horizon League might have to make a decision quickly. Swimming and diving is traditionally the first winter sport to compete, starting in the beginning of October. Men’s and women’s basketball usually starts in early November.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.