Tag Archives: Jerry Slocum

There Is No Cleveland State-Youngstown State Rivalry. And There May Never Be.

It’s almost like that scene in the movie “Mean Girls” where Regina George snaps at Gretchen Weiners tell her to stop trying to make the word fetch a thing.

Ever since Youngstown State entered the Horizon League in 2001, much to the consternation of literally every fan in the conference, there was always the hope that somehow, some way, the Penguins, perennial underachievers in basketball, would finally right the ship.

Meanwhile, Cleveland State, after toiling in sub-mediocrity, did turn things around during the height of the Gary Waters era.

Had YSU gotten its act together during the tenure of Jerry Slocum, the battle between the two schools would have been rife for a natural rivalry. It made sense. Cleveland and Youngstown’s geographic proximity could have made it a cinch.

But it never happened. That heated feud between the two schools has failed to present itself.

Now, Slocum and Waters, who consistently butted heads when they roamed their respective sidelines, are gone. And at least one of their replacements seems to be making a concerted effort to goad the other into action.

And still, no luck in getting a rivalry going.

YSU tabbed Division II runner-up coach Jerrod Calhoun as Slocum’s successor, while CSU opted for ex-Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton. Calhoun built a success at Fairmont State, while Felton opted to spend time with the San Antonio Spurs after his departure from Georgia, then returned to the college ranks as part of the Tulsa coaching staff.

Despite their resumes, Calhoun has a sizable advantage in terms of his connections to Northeast Ohio, particularly as a former Cleveland State player under Rollie Massimino. Theoretically, that should have given Calhoun an edge in the CSU coaching search.

Cleveland State athletic director Mike Thomas, however, seemed to think otherwise and hired Felton.

With Calhoun chosen to lead YSU, it seems that he has been focusing a great deal on what should be Cleveland State’s backyard.

And Thursday, Calhoun hit closer to CSU’s home than ever.

This time, it was Waters himself, along with noted Viking alum D’Aundray Brown, who came to the Youngstown State campus and speak with Calhoun’s players.

And it is in this instance that we may all now lay to rest any silly notion that a rivalry between Cleveland State and YSU exists or, more to the point, will ever exist.

Give Calhoun credit, of course, for trying the jumpstart things a little. But it’s clear that Felton isn’t biting.

But more than that, rivalry discussion can be dismissed by the mere reaction, or rather lack thereof, from the remaining CSU fans. If Youngstown State were such bitter rivals, conventional wisdom would tell you that the Viking faithful would be incensed.

No such reaction really came. For some, in fact, the entire event was dismissed outright, as if it was much ado about nothing.

Perhaps that indifference really speaks to the long-festering root of Cleveland State’s issues with apathy and complacency. And this massive problem may be the primary reason why this potential rivalry never really gotten off the ground.

That’s not to say that YSU has been just as apathetic over the years, as the long drag of subpar basketball has certainly a contributing factor. What’s been CSU’s excuse? And while Calhoun appears to have recognized the hills he will have to climb to sell his program, what will Felton come up with to address the same issue?

While it’s early to determine whether Calhoun’s sprint out the gate or Felton’s marathon-like pace will produce results on the court, off the court, the feud that should be clamored for has not really materialized.

And at this point, the prospects remain dim that it ever will.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Cleveland State-Youngstown State – The Blood Feud That Just Isn’t

Cleveland State travels to Youngstown State to face its in-state conference foes tonight. By all rights, given the close proximity of the two schools, this should be one of the biggest annual rivalries every single year, on par with Akron and Kent State or Toledo and Bowling Green.

However, the hype (or lack thereof) makes this match-up seem like just another game on the schedule.

It’s not for lack of trying. The CSU-YSU games have provided plenty of excitement over the years, including the 70-69 overtime win by the Vikings last year in which Anton Grady swatted a last-second by Penguin guard Kendrick Perry, easily the school’s best player in a generation not named Quin Humphrey, to preserve the win.

And there’s plenty of tension between the head coaches, Gary Waters and Jerry Slocum, though most of the fire and brimstone comes from Slocum’s end. What also should play into that is the fact that Slocum lost out on Youngstown area recruit and son of a YSU player D’Aundray Brown in 2007 to CSU.

There’s likely more than one reason that the two games scheduled annually between these two schools since Youngstown State joined the Horizon League in 2001 hasn’t raised much of an eyebrow. You could certainly point to the always-present lack of interest from students and alumni on either campus, but another reason seems to be much more obvious.

The Penguins are just awful at basketball.

It’s always interesting that an institution has this chronic problem, especially given its long and proud history as a FCS football powerhouse. After all, Youngstown State’s president is its former head football coach Jim Tressel.

But perhaps that’s the problem. It appears that for all the success the Penguins have had on the gridiron, it hasn’t trickled down to the hardwood at all since moving from Division II in the early 1980s to Division I. And since the move to the Horizon League, Youngstown State has only finished above .500 twice, the peak being an 18-15 campaign in 2012-13 that resulted in an invitation to the third-tier CollegeInsiders.com Tournament.

During this same time, Cleveland State turned itself around to become a perennial conference contender under Waters with multiple post-season appearances. Even with some bumps in the road (read: this season’s non-conference slate), the Vikings have played every Horizon League team tough.

That brings us to this upcoming contest between the Vikings and the Penguins. Cleveland State is 4-1 in the conference and at the top of the standings, thanks to an Oakland upset of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Youngstown State, on the other hand, is floundering at the bottom of the standings once again, winless in its first five conference standings.

How can you have a legitimate rivalry with a team like the Penguins who apparently think that mediocrity would be considered progress?

Yes, we get it. You like your football team so much more than your basketball team. There’s nothing wrong with that. But your basketball team drags down the rest of the conference almost as much as Illinois-Chicago does. Get it together already.

I’m not saying that a Cleveland State-Youngstown State blood feud could get to the levels of, say, North Carolina-Duke or Ohio State-Michigan. But a couple of burning river jokes hurled in CSU fans’ direction or an insult related to Youngstown being run by the Mafia sent to YSU fans wouldn’t be the worst thing on the planet.

Live by the Free Throw, Die by the Free Throw

Despite the fact that Cleveland State ranks in the upper half of the Horizon League (fourth) in free throw shooting, its 70.1 percent average so far seems far below what it has shot in the past. Of course, that’s likely because last year’s team fared much better, shooting 75 percent, one of the best in the conference.

And this down season for foul shooting reared its ugly head at the worst possible time in Saturday’s loss at Valparaiso, where it seemed as the entire team couldn’t the broad side of a barn. And because of that, what could have been a pretty big win on the road against a top conference team turned into an extremely frustrating 58-56 loss.

But, as it seems, turnabout is fair play, and the free throw woes that bedeviled the Vikings in their loss hit another team, which, ironically, worked to Cleveland State’s favor.

That team was Wright State. While it didn’t help that the Viking defense completely shut down the Raider offense, holding them to zero field goals in the final seven minutes, WSU still was able to get to the line.

However, that didn’t seem to help, either, as multiple one-and-one opportunities for Wright State fell short, allowing Cleveland State to take advantage and, thanks to, among other things, a clutch three-pointer by Andre Yates, take the win.

The Road Is a Bad Place for Horizon League Teams

With the win at the Nutter Center against the Raiders, the Vikings have more road wins than any other conference team this season. In fact, only three teams, (CSU, Detroit, Green Bay) have won on the road at all. Given how Cleveland State started on the road this season, it’s rather ironic that it stands alone in the category, albeit early on in the conference slate.

That should lead to the question of why is it that nobody seems to be able to win on the road in-conference this year. Is it because of the wacky scheduling that resulted from the Horizon League doing away with travel partners this year? How else could you explain CSU playing Milwaukee at home on a Friday, traveling to UIC on Sunday, then doubling back home to play Oakland the next Thursday, only to have to head to Valpo on Saturday?

But again, for whatever reason, the Vikings have been the only team so far to make it work. And again, if not for some timely free throw misses, Cleveland State would be undefeated on the road.