|Title:||Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics|
|Previous College:||Youngstown State, 1993|
Now in his 14th year as Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and 19th as a member of the athletic department, former Penguins student-athlete Ron Strollo has worked diligently to ensure that today's student-athletes have the support system in place to succeed not only at Youngstown State, but also in their future.
As evidenced by a league-best six Horizon League championships, a second-place finish for the McCafferty Trophy (the Horizon League’s all-sports award), opening of new facilities, school-record breaking performances, all-time high fundraising levels and numerous academic honors during the 2013-14 academic year, his vision for successful broad-based programs and providing student-athletes tools to succeed on and off the playing fields is coming to fruition.
Always a firm believer that state-of-the-art facilities attract quality coaches and student-athletes, Strollo spearheaded an effort to build on-campus soccer and softball and outdoor track and field facilities. He also signed off on a new high-definition videoboard and LED scoreboard at the Beeghly Center for the sports of volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball.
After he secured a $500,000 naming-rights gift from Farmers National Bank, construction of Farmers National Bank Field was complete and the soccer program played its inaugural season at the new on-campus venue in the fall of 2013. In the spring of 2014, the softball program played its inaugural season at the YSU Softball Field and the men’s and women’s track and field team hosted the 2014 Horizon League Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Academically, the Penguins continued a standard of excellence in the classroom, boasting an all-time high 3.17 grade-point average at the end of the spring semester. Out of 331 student-athletes, an all-time best 201 (61 percent) recorded a grade-point average higher than 3.0. The Penguins led the Horizon League with 34 Academic All-Horizon League selections on the year, had 136 conference Honor Roll picks and 24 of 53 student-athletes graduated with honors.
As Executive Director of the Penguin Club, Youngstown State athletics’ fundraising arm, Strollo led the development group to unprecedented growth in membership revenue and endowed scholarships.
Basketball Courtside Coaches Club membership revenues were up 13.63 percent from 2012-13 while Football Gridiron Club membership revenues increased 11.07 percent during the same time.
The number of endowed scholarships rose by 10.7 percent and the value of all endowed scholarships increased by more than 12 percent from 2012-13 to 2013-14.
On the fields of competition, the Penguins produced their best overall year of Strollo’s tenure.
The women’s cross country team began the Penguins’ string of titles by winning its first Horizon League championship since joining the league. The Penguins placed three runners in the top five with senior Anna Pompeo finishing second, Samantha Hamilton placing fourth and freshman McKinisie Klim was fifth to win by 22 points.
Junior Eric Rupe won the individual championship to pace the men’s cross country team to a runner up finish.
The football team went 8-4, winning the most games since 2006, and finished tied for second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) and 18th nationally in the final SportsNetwork poll. Quarterback Kurt Hess finished his career as the school-record holder for completions (706), attempts (1,135), yards (8,925), touchdowns (75), yards per game (198.4), 200-yard passing games (24), passer rating (144.96), touchdowns responsible for (87), total offense (9,459) and total offense per game (210.2).
Freshman tailback Martin Ruiz, the 2013 MVFC Newcomer and Freshman of the Year, set school freshmen records with 192 attempts, 1,094 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. His 1,094 yards were the second most by a freshman in a season in conference history.
The volleyball program continued to show improvement under Head Coach Mark Hardaway, posting back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1998-99. The Penguins went 16-15 in 2013 and made the Horizon League Tournament semifinals for the first time since 1999.
Senior Jenna Cavanaugh was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year while junior Alexis Egler joined her on the All-Horizon League team.
The Penguins won their second title of the year when the women’s track and field team won the Horizon League Indoor Track and Field Championship by 80 points at The Watson and Tressel Training Site (WATTS) in March.
Senior Bobby Grace finished third in the shot put at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships on March 15 in Albuquerque, N.M., to become the highest-finishing Penguin individual at a Division I national championship meet in any sport.
The women’s basketball team won 15 games and reached the Horizon League Tournament semifinals for the second straight season. The Penguins also swept the season series from perennial league favorite Green Bay for the first time in school history.
On the men’s side, senior Kendrick Perry, a Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America Second-Team selection, led YSU to 15 victories and became the program’s Division I leading scorer with 1,991 career points. The win total marks the third straight campaign with at least 15 victories in a season for the first time since the mid-1980’s.
The 2013-14 school year culminated with arguably the best spring season in athletics history. In a span of 30 days, April 25-May 24, the Penguins won four Horizon League championships in women’s tennis (April 27), men’s and women’s track and field (May 4) and baseball (May 24).
Along with the league championships, the baseball team won its first NCAA Regional Tournament game over Indiana State, 5-2, and nine track and field athletes qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Preliminaries. Bobby Grace and Connor Neu advanced to the track and field national championships and finished 14th and 15th in the shot put and hammer throw, respectively, to earn second-team All-America honors.
The softball program played its inaugural season at the new YSU Softball Field and posted just the second 30-win season in program history with an overall record of 30-24. Senior Casey Crozier was named the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year while sophomore Miranda Castiglione earned Co-Player-of-the-Year honors. Freshman Sarah Dowd was named the league Freshman of the Year.
The 2012-13 campaign featured outstanding team accomplishments while setting the table for a great two-year run. In the fall of 2012, the football program picked up the first win over a BCS opponent in school history; the soccer team set a school mark for most wins in a season and the volleyball program posted a 10-win improvement from the year before.
The men’s and women’s basketball program’s made postseason tournament in the same season for the first time in school history. The women’s team went 23-10 and qualified for the WNIT while the men’s program posted an 18-16 overall record and earned a berth in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
Swimmer Ashley Dow became the first Penguin to ever win two events at the Horizon League Championship meet.
In the spring, the women’s tennis team went 15-10 in 2012-13 after winning 12 matches combined over the previous three seasons.
After qualifying for the Horizon League tournament on the final day of the regular season, the softball program made an exciting run to the Horizon League championship game before being eliminated.
Women’s golfer Allison Mitzel won the conference title by seven strokes and the team posted a runner-up finish.
Besides facility improvements, Strollo has also concentrated his priorities on full compliance of NCAA regulations; fiscal management and budgetary maintenance; streamlining department organization; increasing visibility and fundraising efforts; and enhancing the overall experience and competitiveness of student-athletes and programs.
During his tenure, Strollo has placed a priority on the construction and enhancements of athletic venues. The WATTS, a $12.3 million indoor athletic practice facility, was completed in the summer of 2011. The WATTS includes a state-of-the-art 300-meter indoor track, a full-length football practice field, baseball and softball batting cages, netting and a chipping and putting green for golf, and locker rooms and office space.
During the summer of 2011, Beede Field at Stambaugh Stadium underwent a new turf installation. Other recent improvements to Stambaugh Stadium have included: renovations to assistant football coaches offices, new softball and soccer locker rooms, north-stadium scoreboard enhancements with new signage, lighting, and advanced safety precautions for videographers.
Within the auxiliary gyms in Stambaugh, 18 new glass blackboards were mounted, and the courts were refinished. Three full-length courts were created during the process providing the basketball and volleyball programs with additional practice and workout space.
Within the past six years in Stambaugh Stadium, office space in the athletic marketing and ticket offices and football suite received an enhancement, the football locker room, weight room and athletic training areas were renovated, and upgrades were made to the baseball locker room. Other upgrades include chair-back seats (2009), a south-stadium scoreboard (2009), a concourse-level elevator.
The Beeghly Center has undergone major renovations in the past six years as well. The main lobby was refurbished in the summer of 2014 with new flooring, murals and ticket and merchandise booths. During the spring of 2013, a new weight room was constructed while installation of a new videoboard and film room was completed for the 2013-14 school year. Youngstown State has acquired in the arena the 2009 Men's Final Four basketball hoops, installed new strobe lighting, refurbished the volleyball, swimming and diving, and men's and women’s basketball locker rooms and renovated the men’s and women’s basketball office suite. A new Dom Rosselli Court was installed in 2008.
For the baseball program, Strollo has maintained a long-time relationship with Eastwood Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians' Class-A affiliate, and Cene Park.
His solid reputation has landed him on prominent regional and national committees. He is currently on the Horizon League men’s basketball committee. He served on the NCAA Division I Football Championship Selection Committee; was on the NCAA Division I Football Issues Committee; served as the Central Region Chair of the NCAA Regional Advisory Committee and as the president of the FCS Athletic Directors Association. He also served a two-year term as the Chair of the Horizon League Executive Committee and spent four years on the NCAA Championship and Competition Cabinet.
Thanks to the benevolence of the Andrews Trust and the priority Strollo places on academics, the academic counseling center underwent a significant renovation and expansion and continues to receive technology upgrades.
In the past 11 years, the department, which has been recognized as a national leader for its graduation rates, has had many successes on and off the playing field.
Under his leadership, Youngstown State earned full NCAA certification in 2007. This review of governance and commitment to rules, academic integrity, and equity and student-athlete well-being showed YSU athletics operates in substantial conformity with the operating principles adopted by the NCAA Division I membership.
As of late, Youngstown State student-athletes posted a record-setting semester in the classroom. In the 2013-14 academic year, the Penguins set all-time program highs for combined cumulative grade-point average (spring semester) and number of athletes with a cumulative GPA above 3.0 (fall and spring semester) while a record 61 percent had a semester GPA above 3.00.
In eight of the nine semesters since January 2010, YSU student-athletes have maintained a 3.00-GPA or better.
On average, half of the 300-plus student-athletes maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. Of the 18 sports programs, 75 percent boast an overall GPA of at least 3.0. YSU's Academic Progress Rate is well above the national average for public institutions, and its 93 percent graduation rate is at an all-time high.
Sixteen student-athletes have captured 18 CoSIDA Academic All-America accolades while a total of 65 have been named to Academic All-District teams.
YSU has won 20 Horizon League titles while winning consecutive Gateway Football Conference (now the Missouri Valley Football Conference) championships in 2005 and 2006.
In Strollo's role as the Executive Director of the Penguin Club, the organization has increased athletic endowed scholarship contributions annually. Annual events keep improving every year, and the growth of the Football Alumni Club has had a positive impact on the department.
Strollo returned to his alma mater in 1996 as athletic business manager. In March 2000, he was named the school's Associate Executive Director of Athletics. In his short time in that capacity, he helped spearhead the transition into the Horizon League.
He has strong ties to the local community and to the athletic department. He grew up in nearby Austintown and attended Fitch High School. He played football for YSU from 1988 through 1991 for Coach Jim Tressel and was named captain of the first National Championship team in 1991. He earned his bachelor's degree in accounting from Youngstown State in June, 1993. He worked for three years at Hill Barth & King in Youngstown where he became a CPA.
Ron and his wife, Nicole, reside in Austintown with their two children, Ryan and Rachel. Nicole, a former YSU student-athlete who competed in track and cross country from 1989 through 1993, is an assistant cross country/track and field coach for the Penguins. She is also a nurse practitioner and faculty member in YSU’s Department of Nursing.