FRISCO, Texas (WKBN) – Ron Strollo won four straight playoff games in 1991 as a member of Youngstown State University’s first-ever National Championship team.
Now the YSU Athletic Director, Strollo’s Penguins are trying to put together a fifth straight playoff win Saturday to clinch their fifth National Championship in program history.
WKBN’s Dave Sess talked one-on-one with Strollo on Thursday in Frisco, Texas as the title game against James Madison looms closer:
Sess: What do you think about this momentum that the team has right now?
Strollo: “When we played for coach [Jim] Tressel in the 90s, you had to be playing your best football at the end of the year. Clearly this team is, and that’s what these tournaments are about. They are playing their best football, and I am excited about what can happen on Saturday.”
Sess: Let’s talk about the financial aspect. You are sporting new Under Armour gear. What has Under Armour done for you through this playoff run?
Strollo: “They have been really supportive — especially our trip to Eastern Washington. They sent us some warm gear, and the Under Armour contract itself allows us for a $5,000 credit once we made the playoffs. And if we win the National Championship, that goes to $20,000. So Under Armour has been a great supporter of ours.”
Sess: Talk about the football budget and where it stands. It’s a costly sport. A lot of schools lose money with football. Where does YSU stand?
Strollo: “We are very fortunate. The FBS Schools that go to the bowl games, it can cost their institution several hundred-thousand dollars. Fortunately for us, we have gotten about 7-8 weeks of national exposure out of this playoffs. It’s gonna cost us some money, but nowhere near the amount of money an FBS bowl game would cost.”
Sess: Does this playoff run solidify that YSU is where it should be on the FCS level?
Strollo: “It sure is where we expect to be and those expectations never change. It feels like 10 years of frustration of how close we were to making the playoffs. This is where we expect to be and to stay.”
Sess: But also with the FBS-FCS comparisons, people say, ‘Oh we should go to the MAC.’ Does this solidify that you are on the right level?
Strollo: “I have always believed we are on the right level and, obviously, you have to keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunities. That next level is costing so much money to institutions and I have always felt that this is a great level of football for us — and we have an opportunity to play for a national championship, have an opportunity to play week after week on national TV and have that kind of exposure. I think it’s the right place for our institution.”
Saturday’s kickoff is slated for noon at Toyota Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
WKBN will be airing a live pregame show, “YSU Drive for Five,” on Friday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. on WKBN Channel 27 and WKBN.com.