Youngstown State Penguins

Youngstown State Penguins
University Youngstown State University
Conference Horizon League
Missouri Valley Football Conference
NCAA Division I
Athletic director Ron Strollo
Location Youngstown, Ohio
Varsity teams 16
Football stadium Stambaugh Stadium
Basketball arena Beeghly Center
Baseball stadium Eastwood Field
Mascot Pete and Penny
Nickname Penguins
Fight song Red and White
Colors Red and White[1]

The Youngstown State Penguins are the athletic teams of Youngstown State University of Youngstown, Ohio. The university is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Division I, and the Penguins compete in football as members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.[2] All other sports as members of the Horizon League[3]


Youngstown University sponsors teams in eight men's and ten women's NCAA sanctioned sports:[4]


YSU is the only Division I program in the country to have the mascot Penguins for its athletic teams. YSU's mascots are Pete and Penny, two penguins dressed in scarfs and stocking caps. There are two accounts of how the "Penguins" nickname came to be. Both stories come from the same cold evening on Jan. 30, 1933, when the men's basketball team was playing at West Liberty State.

The first account is that a spectator said the team looked like Penguins as they stomped the floor and swung their arms. Without the team having an official nickname, fans took a liking to the word. A second account states that, on the way to West Liberty State with up to two feet of snow on the roads, passengers in Bennett Kunicki's car were discussing possible nicknames. "Penguins" was brought up and was well received by everyone in the car. The nickname was mentioned to members of the team at the gym that evening, and they thought it was perfect.

The nickname was unanimously accepted by the student body that year without a formal poll. The nickname was formally introduced in The Jambar, the campus newspaper, on Dec. 15, 1933.[5]

Informally, YSU is often called Guins for short as a rallying cry (e.g. "Go Guins!"), which is also used for hashtag purposes on its various social media accounts.


YSU has been particularly successful in, and is most recognized for, football. The program started in the 1930s and is one of the leading programs in NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA), YSU has won four I-AA National Championships, second only to Georgia Southern (6), with all of them coming under former head coach Jim Tressel. Tressel, who left the university following the 2000 season to coach at Ohio State, helped the Penguins claim titles in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997, as well as runner-up titles in 1992 and 1999. His successor, Jon Heacock, did not win a national championship, but still delivered consistent seasons and took them to a national semifinal appearance in 2006 (losing to eventual national champion Appalachian State) prior to resigning following the 2009 season. Eric Wolford, a Youngstown native who has been labeled a top recruiter at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level, was named the sixth head coach in school history on Dec. 15, 2009; a highlight of Wolford's second season was a 2011 victory over eventual National Champion North Dakota State. Youngstown native Bo Pelini was announced as the seventh head coach in school history on Dec. 16, 2014. Overall, YSU has made 11 playoff appearances since Division I FCS (then Division I-AA) was formed in 1978.

Historically, YSU is associated with longtime coach Dwight "Dike" Beede, who, after noticing on-field confusion due to officials using whistles to signal a penalty, invented the penalty flag during a game in 1941 against now-NAIA member Oklahoma City.[6] The flag is now standard at all football games.

YSU plays its home games at Stambaugh Stadium, nicknamed "The Ice Castle", which has an official capacity of 20,630,[7] one of the largest in Division I FCS. The Penguins have sent over 20 players to the NFL. Brandian Ross spent the 2014 season with the Oakland Raiders, and Donald Jones, who played three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, was forced to retire in 2013 due to non-football related health reasons. The most notable Youngstown State alumni to play in the NFL are Jeff Wilkins, Ron Jaworski, Paul McFadden, and Cliff Stoudt.

Men's basketball

The Youngstown State men's basketball team began with the 1927–28 season. The team has competed in the NAIA from 1946–47 until joining NCAA Division II competition in 1960–61. The Penguins joined Division I competition in 1981–82, which was also the last season the team was coached by long-time coach Dom Rosselli. Over 38 seasons, Rosselli compiled a record of 589–388 (.603). Upon joining Division I competition, the Penguins competed in the Ohio Valley Conference until the 1988–89 season. After four seasons as an independent, the Penguins competed in the Mid-Continent Conference from 1992–93 until joining the Horizon League in the 2001–02 season. Although the team has competed in NCAA Division I and has been a member of three separate conferences, the men's basketball team has yet to win a conference championship in either the regular season or conference tournament. Since joining the Horizon League in the 2001–02 season, the men's basketball team has never finished higher than a tie for fourth. The program had its first back-to-back winning seasons in 29 years in 2011-12 and 2012–13 and was invited to the 2013 Postseason Tournament. The program is coached by Jerry Slocum, who will enter the 2015-16 season with 699 career victories. He is in a select group of college men's basketball coaches with 600 wins. Kendrick Perry, who played at Youngstown State from 2010-11 through 2013-14, currently plays in the NBA Development League.

Women's basketball

The Youngstown State women’s basketball team began competing as an official member of the athletic department in the 1975-76 season under Head Coach Joyce Ramsey. Ramsey coached the Penguins for seven seasons and retired with a .694 winning percentage (93-41), the best of the program’s seven coaches.

Ed DiGregorio was hired as head coach prior to the 1983-84 season and remained in the same position for 20 years. He led the Penguins to 320 wins, six 20-win seasons and three NCAA Tournaments – in 1996, 1998 and 2000. The 1998 team finished with a 28-3 record and beat Memphis in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament for the program’s first postseason victory.

Following the 1999-2000 season, the fifth consecutive season with at least 20 wins, Youngstown State went 12 straight seasons without a winning record. It was the only winless team in college basketball during the 2009–10 season. Behind Horizon League Coach of the Year Bob Boldon and Honorable Mention All-American Brandi Brown, YSU had a 23-10 record in 2013 and was selected to the 2013 WNIT. Current head coach John Barnes led the program back to the WNIT and a 21-11 record in 2014-15.

Other sports

The Track and Field and Cross Country teams are consistently strong contenders in the Horizon League. The women's team won the triple crown (cross country, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field) in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. The 2015 Horizon League Outdoor Track and Field Championship was Head Coach Brian Gorby's 25th title.

Also notable are the baseball and softball teams. In 2004, despite having a losing record, the baseball team won the Horizon League tournament and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The baseball team repeated this feat in 2014 by winning four consecutive games in the Horizon League tournament after winning just six conference contests during the regular season. They went on to defeat the 2-seed at the Bloomington Regional, Indiana State, for their first NCAA Tournament win in program history. In 2006, the softball team earned its first Horizon League championship by winning four consecutive games as the fifth seed in the conference tournament and qualified for the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament.

In addition to the aforementioned sports, YSU also has a men's ice hockey club, which is a member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, playing in the College Hockey Mid-America conference. The hockey club isn't considered an NCAA-eligible program due to Title IX-based reasons.[8]

The Penguins will add a women's bowling team in 2015-16.

The Penguins' primary athletic facilities are Stambaugh Stadium (football) and the Beeghly Center (basketball, swimming, and volleyball). Indoor track and field events are held at the Watson and Tressel Training Site ("The WATTS") located next to Stambaugh Stadium, with outdoor track and field events and soccer matches being held at Farmers National Bank Field on the opposite side of Stambaugh Stadium. The Lady Penguins softball team competes at the YSU Softball Complex, with the baseball team hosting their games at the off-campus Eastwood Field.


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