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Namedroppers: Summer 2020

After the cancellation in March of the Atlantic Region men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that IUP was set to host, the Kovalchick Complex’s Ed Fry Arena remained dark for much of the spring.

After the cancellation in March of the Atlantic Region men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that IUP was set to host, the Kovalchick Complex’s Ed Fry Arena remained dark for much of the spring. (Courtesy of Andrew Thompson)

For the first time since World War II, some 75 years ago, the athletic fields and courts at IUP are quiet.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the US last winter, the NCAA canceled winter championships and, soon after, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference wiped out the entire spring sports season. That meant IUP’s baseball, softball, track and field, and lacrosse teams did not compete, and its men’s golf and women’s tennis teams did not complete the seasons they had started in the fall.

Conferences and schools at all levels of NCAA competition began making plans for a return to normalcy in the fall. But then came summer. 

As the virus continued to spread, conferences began pushing back fall schedules, and the PSAC announced in mid-July that it, too, would be without sports this fall for the first time since the peak of wartime in 1944 and ’45.

IUP President Michael Driscoll, a member of the PSAC’s board of directors, acknowledged the difficulty of the decision. “Athletics add a great deal to university life and to the life of our community,” he said. “But, this is the right decision to make to keep our students, our coaches, and our prospective spectators safe and healthy.”

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.

If the spread of the virus slows, the PSAC may hold some, if not all, fall sports in the spring. 

Before March, IUP sports teams were having quite a year. 

In the fall, the men’s golf team won its 29th PSAC championship, and the football team advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the third time in four years, ending the season ranked No. 21 in the country. Sam Lenze represented IUP at the men’s NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships, Paige Wess earned all-region honors for the women’s cross country team, and tennis players Katya Minchenkova (all-district) and Joanna Stralka (Atlantic Region Rookie of the Year) earned honors.

The success continued in the winter. In basketball, IUP was the center of the NCAA Division II universe, with the men’s and women’s teams combining for an overall record of 56-5. Both were set to host the Atlantic Region tournament when the season was canceled. Also, women’s swimmer Paige Mikesell had earned a spot at the national championships, and Dre Carr was headed to the indoor track and field national championships when the season was halted.

Reports in the spring also showed that IUP had the best combined winning percentage (.904) in football and men’s and women’s basketball among all 653 NCAA schools at all levels.

Field House Facelift

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Memorial Field House’s main hallway now showcases standout student-athletes from the recent past. (Brian Henry)

Until recently, Memorial Field House looked pretty much the same as when it opened in 1966. But thanks to a recent facelift, it has been rejuvenated.

“We have reimagined the space, and we’re telling the history, the accolades, and the stories of our teams and our student-athletes,” said Todd Garzarelli, IUP’s athletics director.

Lining many spots on the walls are large murals of former IUP athletes and teams, along with mention of their accomplishments. Outside the football offices, a wall decal shows every member of the IUP football family who has spent time with an NFL team as a player, a scout, a coach, or an executive. Along the back (west) wall is a display of IUP All-Americans in every sport.

What used to be the ticketing office is now a fueling station for student-athletes to get quick nutrition. The downstairs auxiliary gym has been resurfaced with artificial turf and is available to all teams for indoor workouts, and one of the racquetball courts in the basement has been converted to a golf lab, where players can work on their game when the weather doesn’t allow it.

On the South Campus, Owen J. Dougherty Field and Ruth Podbielski Field, the homes of IUP’s baseball and softball teams, respectively, are also improved. Both fields now have artificial turf on their infields and warning tracks and in their bullpens. The outfields will remain grass.

Last fall, IUP honored its Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2019.

Last fall, IUP honored its Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2019. Seated, from left: Rob Allen ’85 (track and field), James “Skip” Ashton ’64 (football), Lisa Bonaccorsi Lucas ’88 (cross country/track and field), David Cessna ’67 (football), Pawel “Paul” Glowiak ’09 (swimming), Ed Hartman ’86 (baseball), and Amy Hood ’05, M’08 (lacrosse). Standing: Todd Garzarelli, IUP athletics director; Jahzinga Tracey ’09 (basketball); C. J. Spadafora, who accepted the honorary Bell Ringer Award for his late father, Chuck Spadafora; Barry Threats (football); Jodie Swavely-Brown ’06 (softball); and Michael Driscoll, IUP president. (Keith Boyer)

In Memoriam

  • Jeff Ditch, IUP’s baseball coach from 2006 to 2016, died March 15. In his time with the Crimson Hawks, he won more games (253) than any previous coach.

  • A 2015 inductee into the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame, Bob Green ’54 died May 2. A four-year starter at IUP, he went on to be a successful coach, winning more than 250 games in 35 seasons at Hollidaysburg High School.

  • Sam Kelly, longtime head coach of the IUP men’s ice hockey club team, died March 17. He was at the forefront of hockey in the Indiana area, coaching youth, high school, and college teams. At IUP, he had a 406-227-51 record, and his teams won 11 regular-season conference championships.

  • Regis Laughlin ’58, a member of the IUP men’s basketball team from 1953 to 1957, died April 20. Laughlin still holds a school record after going 16-for-16 from the free-throw line against Juniata in 1956.

  • The first IUP player to be selected in the NFL draft, Dave Smith ’70, died May 16. The Pittsburgh Steelers chose Smith in the eighth round of the 1970 draft. He played four seasons in the NFL, with Pittsburgh, Houston, and Kansas City. He was inducted into the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.

Making Headlines

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A transformed racquetball court in the field house now serves as a golf lab. Jeremy Eckenrode practiced in January. (Brian Henry)

In his sixth season as coach of the Polish national men’s basketball team, Mike Taylor ’95 led his squad to an eighth-place finish at the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup.

Based on his success as a high school and college soccer coach, Adel Heder was inducted into the PA West Yough Soccer Hall of Fame in January. He has coached the IUP women’s team since 2001 and owns a program-record 212 wins and 14 PSAC playoff berths. He coached high school soccer for 15 years before coming to IUP.

For their contributions to local athletics, Lou Idzojtic ’73 and Tony Coccagna were inducted into the Indiana County Sports Hall of Fame. Idzojtic is a longtime high school basketball official, and Coccagna has been the Indiana Gazette’s sports editor since 1993.

In his first season at James Madison University, former IUP football coach Curt Cignetti (2011-16) led the Dukes to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game, in which they lost to North Dakota State. 

Coaching Moves

Former men’s basketball manager Matt Howerton ’14 was recently hired as an assistant coach at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Among the many NFL coaches with IUP ties, four alumni landed new jobs as assistant coaches heading into the 2020 season: Chase Haslett M’15 as quality control coach for Dallas, Jim Haslett ’91 as linebackers coach for Tennessee, Jim Hostler ’90 as wide receivers coach for Washington, and Ben McAdoo ’00 as quarterbacks coach for Jacksonville.

In the college football ranks, Frank Cignetti Jr. ’89 was hired as offensive coordinator at Boston College.