OUE athletics saturated with success
By BUBBA KAPRAL
Executive Sports Editor
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Small in quantity, rich in quality.
Ohio University Eastern offers just four athletic programs. That quartet, however, is steeped in a rich winning tradition.
OUE athletics are under the direction of E.J. Schodzinski. The former Weirton Madonna and Wheeling Jesuit University basketball star is the school’s director of external affairs. He also served previously as the school’s head women’s basketball coach, enjoying great success in that post.
In addition to women’s basketball, OUE offers men’s basketball, women’s volleyball and golf — each of which has enjoyed its impressive share of winning.
OUE began offering athletics in 1975. The student body picked the nickname of “Panthers” in a campus vote. Men’s basketball was the first sport offered. Michael A. Mormanis, associate professor of physical education, was the team’s first coach.
The women’s basketball and golf programs were launched in 1985 while volleyball was established in 1997 in conjunction with the completion of the Health and Physical Education Center.
Former St. Clairsville Red Devils’ coach Joanne Hess was the first women’s hoop mentor.
According to Barry K. Hess, who was director of student services at the time, the most challenging part of the job was finding a place to practice.
“We did not have a gym on campus and we struggled to find a place to use on a regular basis from time to time,” he said. “Some of our practice gyms included the School of Hope, old Dillonvale High School and Barnesville Junior High.”
Ohio University Eastern Campus legendary professor Mike McTeague started the golf team.
“Looking back on the athletic department as a whole, it really is amazing all of the quality athletes, teams and coaches that have been a part of our tradition,” Schodzinski said. “We are like the little engine that could when compared to the larger schools from metropolitan areas that our teams compete against.
“The majority of these schools have student bodies two to three times our size, which gives them a big advantage when it comes to fielding competitive teams,” he continued. “With that being said, the work ethic and determination that is a natural part of the Ohio Valley has enabled us to compete quite well and win our fair share of conference and state championships over the years.”
The Panthers’ volleyball program is currently being directed by Savannah Burke. She is a former three-sport star at Beallsville High before continuing her athletic and academic careers at OUE.
The Green-and-White spikers laid claim to the state regional campus state championship in 2013. Burke’s charges are in the midst of another sparkling campaign.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams are gearing up for the start of their respective new seasons, both of which commence Nov. 12, at home, against Ohio University Lancaster.
Both squads are undergoing change as Jordan Barbina (men’s) and Adam Perzanowski (women’s) recently stepped down from their respective head coaching posts due to new employment opportunities. Barbina is one of the finest performers ever to play at Union Local while Perzanowski was a standout guard at St. Clairsville.
The OUE men’s basketball team owns one regional campus conference crown (2010) as well as two state championships (2001 and 2006).
The women’s program has scripted an illustrious success story on the hardwood.
The Lady Panthers have pocketed a half-dozen regional campus championships, the last coming in 2013. OUE also won regional titles in 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
State championships have become commonplace for the Lady Panthers. They have captured an amazing eight state titles — 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2011 and 2012.
Golf, meanwhile, is a blossoming program at OUE.
The Panther linksters have experienced much success in recent years. Steve Luckhardt — a former athletic star at Shadyside High — is the team’s head coach.
OUE has captured regional campus championships in 2015 and 2016. The Panthers also pocketed the state crown in 2015.
Luckhardt’s squad will tee up a new campaign on April 7.
The centerpiece of Ohio University Eastern athletics is the school’s state-of-the-art Health and Physical Education Center.
It includes a gymnasium which can easily seat up to 5,000 patrons. It annually plays host to the OVAC boys’ and girls’ basketball championships as well as many sectional and district hoop tournaments.
The basketball arena is on par with many Division I gyms. The OUE facility also houses a popular fitness club.
“The great thing about our situation is that our philosophy, which we make clear from day one, is that academics come first, followed in many cases by work, and then athletics. So, I firmly believe that we have the right perspective,” Schodzinski said. “Our students participate because it is fun and it is fun because we keep it in the proper perspective. Winning is not the most important thing, but it seems to naturally fall into place with our programs.
“The Health and Physical Education Center has also certainly played a role in our success,” he added. “We are most fortunate to have the best facility in our conference which helps us with area recruiting.”
Ohio University Eastern is joined in the Ohio Regional Campus Conference by Ohio University Chillicothe, Ohio University Lancaster, Ohio University Zanesville, Ohio State Lima, Ohio State Mansfield, Ohio State Middletown and Akron Wayne.