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Namedroppers: Spring 2019

Why wait for March to celebrate the madness? IUP sure didn’t.

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IUP women’s basketball coach Tom McConnell with Lexi Griggs, Brittany Robinson, and Courtney Alexander at the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Columbus (Keith Boyer)

The Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex was the place to be when the IUP men’s and women’s basketball teams were on the court. The campus was basketball crazy from late fall through early spring as the Crimson Hawks made history: 

  • The two programs had the best combined winning percentage in the country (.895) by any university at any level of play.

  • Both teams won Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships, marking the first time one school claimed both titles since 1987. The women beat California, and the men topped Mercyhurst in the title games.

  • The women’s team (30-4) advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the second consecutive year.

  • For most of January, head coach Tom McConnell’s team was ranked No. 1 in the country, marking the first time in program history that IUP was atop the rankings.

  • McConnell became the program’s all-time winningest coach, with 148 victories in only his sixth season at IUP.

  • The IUP men (30-3) spent almost the entire season ranked in the top five of the national poll, including the last month at No. 2.

  • Head coach Joe Lombardi’s team also continued to dominate the PSAC West by winning its ninth division title in 10 years. 

  • Lombardi claimed his 300th career win, extending his own school record. 

  • Both teams were the top draws in the PSAC. The men’s team played in front of an average of more than 1,500 fans—856 more than any other school in the league. The IUP women also outdrew the competition, averaging nearly 800 fans per home game, more than double that of the next-highest program. 

A game-day slipup in February also put the IUP men’s team in the headlines. Upon its arrival at Edinboro, the team realized its uniforms were back at the Kovalchick Complex. Gracious host Edinboro allowed the Crimson Hawks to wear its team’s old uniforms, creating an odd sight for those in attendance.

The Crimson Hawks shrugged off the distraction and crushed the Fighting Scots, 87-59, giving Lombardi his 300th coaching victory. Video and photos of IUP in Edinboro uniforms went viral—all the way to ESPN’s SportsCenter.

But basketball wasn’t the only sport faring well this winter. 

IUP sent five swimmers to the NCAA Division II Championships and came home with a collective four All-America honors—three by Nicole Smith and one by Claire Mikesell. In indoor track and field, three members of the IUP men’s team advanced to the NCAA Championships, with DJ Horton and Christian Jones each claiming All-America honors.

Making Headlines

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IUP’s Christian Jones finished eighth in high jump at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in March. (David Dermer/IUP Sports Information)

When the Marion Center High School girls’ cross country team won the PIAA Class A team title in October, it became the first Indiana County high school team ever to win a state championship—in any sport. The Stingers were under the guidance of head coach Chris Peters ’94, ’01, assisted by IUP faculty member Nicole Dann-Payne M’09. The Indiana High School boys’ team also had a good showing at the state cross country meet, placing second in the Class AA competition under the coaching of Lisa Trotter Kinter ’78.

In September, the football stadium at Newark High School in Delaware will be named after Butch Simpson ’70, who coached there for 39 years before retiring in 2015. His teams won nine state championships, the most in Pennsylvania history, and he was named state coach of the year three times.

Mike Bires ’76, a longtime sports writer for the Beaver County Times, was inducted into the Penn State Beaver Athletics Hall of Fame in February. He was honored not just for his career as a reporter but also for his time as the PSU-Beaver women’s basketball coach.

The Mercer County Hall of Fame added its 2019 class of inductees in January, and one of the honorees was Marty Mattocks ’75, a two-sport star at Mercer High School. At IUP, he followed in the footsteps of his brother, Mont Mattocks ’70, by starring on the men’s basketball team from 1971 to 1975.

In January, former IUP assistant basketball coach Chris Fite earned his 100th career victory as the Shippensburg University men’s head coach. Fite was an assistant on Lombardi’s staff from 2006 to 2013.

Ashton Smith, who played at IUP from 2008 to 2012, was selected by the Edmonton Stingers in the inaugural Canadian Elite Basketball League entry draft. A native of Scarborough, Ontario, he is among the IUP career leaders in several categories, including games played, points, steals, and assists.

Former IUP coach Gary Edwards made history at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina, by leading the men’s basketball team to the NCAA Division II tournament for the second time. When Edwards took over the program in 2006, the Patriots had been to the tournament only once. Edwards was the IUP men’s head coach from 1996 to 2006, winning a then-record 206 games in 10 seasons.

For up-to-the-minute news on IUP sports, visit www.iupathletics.com. There you’ll find all the latest news Namedroppers can’t bring you because of deadline constraints.

Coaching Moves

A familiar face was among the many fans cheering on IUP at the women’s basketball Elite Eight in Columbus, Ohio. Cindy Martin, who coached the IUP women from 2005 to 2008, attended both their games. She didn’t have to travel far—Martin recently finished her first season as an assistant at Ohio Dominican University, the tournament’s host.

Jeff Dow, who succeeded Martin at IUP in 2008, was named head coach at San Antonio’s University of the Incarnate Word in April. Most recently, Dow was head coach at NCAA Division I Louisiana-Monroe.

Former IUP men’s basketball player Dominic Lombardi ’12 was promoted to assistant coach at Morehead State, a Division I school in Kentucky. Previously, he was the team’s director of basketball operations.

Former IUP women’s soccer player Riley Bartoo ’18 recently completed her first season as an assistant coach at the University of Rochester. The Yellowjackets finished 9-8-1 and qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament.

Several former IUP football players and assistants have updated their coaching résumés. In the NFL, Jim Hostler ’90 was hired as the Carolina Panthers’ wide receivers coach after holding the same post with the Green Bay Packers in 2018. Luke Getsy, who was on the IUP staff in 2011 and 2012, was named Hostler’s replacement in Green Bay after spending one season as offensive coordinator at NCAA Division I Mississippi State. Also making the jump from Mississippi State to the NFL was Anthony Piroli ’08, who was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head strength and conditioning coach after holding the same position with the Bulldogs.

In the college ranks, former IUP head coach Curt Cignetti was named head coach at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. After going 54-17 at IUP from 2011 to 2016, Cignetti spent two years turning around Elon University, taking the Phoenix to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.

Two coaches who spent the past two seasons as assistants at IUP recently accepted positions at NCAA Division I schools: Christian Bryan at the University of Dayton and Jameson Zacharias at Fordham University. 

Another recent staff member, Johnny Franco ’13, was hired as the defensive coordinator of Estra Guelfi, a professional team in the Italian Federation of American Football. His younger brother, Steve Franco ’17, is a player on the team, which began its season in March.

Former IUP quarterback Chase Haslett M’15 was hired as an assistant coach at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. After leaving IUP, Haslett was an assistant at Nebraska and then at Mississippi State.

IUP’s video coordinator during his undergraduate years, Reed Spangenberg ’17 was recently hired as an assistant coach at Delaware Valley University, an NCAA Division III school in Doylestown.