Horizon League Basketball

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 bob [dot] mcdonald [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

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Bob has written sports, ranging from high school to college, for many years, and is the Senior Editor for basketball at Campus Pressbox. The former Cleveland State columnist at More Than a Fan: Cleveland, he co-hosts the Horizone Roundtable podcast on Fourlights.fm with Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com and co-hosted Slow Thumbs Up, a podcast that talks about the reality show Big Brother, with his wife, Jessica. He has also published a novella, Dilemma, and two novels, Flagrant Foul and The Gray Summer, which was released in April 2017.

Notable Replies

  1. So, if you've followed the breadcrumbs from Twitter, then you've arrived at the SportsHax forum. And you're interested in talking more about my most recent Campus Pressbox column about how there isn't really a Cleveland State-Youngstown State rivalry, in spite of a lot of evidence that it could be a pretty good one.

    One of the biggest things I left out of the column is basically the one thing I've been jumping all over for months, maybe years. No rivalry can come to fruition if absolutely nobody cares. And guess what? Even though YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun is trying his damnedest to pick a fight, there's not a ripple from CSU. Not players. Not coaches. Not students. Nobody, really.

    The lack of a rivalry with Youngstown State is a symptom over the overriding ailment of apathy that has bedeviled Cleveland State for years. And you know I've openly wondered if anybody at CSU is paying attention on this front. And I'm still waiting for an answer, after all this time.

  2. So, the remaining question is the same: how to get people at Cleveland State to care about a potential rivalry then how to get them to care about sports in general the university. Solve that and you're a million-dollar man.

Continue the discussion forum.sportshax.com

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