By Brian Yauger
The face of Youngstown State University football over the past five years has moved on to a new career. Former head coach Bo Pelini accepted the role of defensive coordinator for Louisiana State University.
“The past five years have been terrific,” Pelini said in a press release. “I can’t thank President Jim Tressel and [athletic director] Ron Strollo enough for the opportunity here and support along the way. For all of the people, honestly too many to name, who were part of my YSU experience, I also want to extend a heartfelt thank you.”
Pelini started his career at YSU after being hired from the University of Nebraska. In his time at YSU, he led the Penguins to a national championship in 2016. While at YSU, he posted a record of 33-28, and he secured his 100th career collegiate win as a head coach this season.
Pelini takes over an LSU team fresh off a national title. The Tigers had the 31st ranked defense last season and could improve drastically considering Pelini’s prior success in the defensive coordinator role.
“The opportunity to return to LSU is truly unique,” Pelini said. “Culturally, with my prior experience at LSU, I know it is a great fit for me. The chance to work with coach Orgeron, the ability to take charge of the Tigers’ defense. All of that in a place that both my family and I immensely enjoyed when we were there before is very exciting for us. We are very honored and are looking forward to this next chapter.”
Holding the job at YSU was special for Pelini, a Youngstown native and Cardinal Mooney High School graduate.
“The experience for me professionally to coach my hometown university and to appear in a championship game is something I will always treasure,” Pelini said. “For Mary Pat and I, Youngstown will always hold an element of home for us with our children graduating from Cardinal Mooney High School and so many of our family members residing here. My YSU days will always be special for the entire Pelini family.”
Going forward, Pelini sees a bright future for his hometown team and is excited to see what they can accomplish.
“And trust me, I will be checking in every week in the fall to follow the Penguins as they continue to build on our successes, and I know they have great days ahead.”
In a statement from Ron Strollo, executive director of intercollegiate athletics, he thanked Pelini for returning home and for the passion he brought to the football program. He also said the university will work tirelessly to find a replacement coach to build on the foundation Pelini established.
The loss of a coach can be hard for players in any program, especially when that coach is responsible for the players being in their current position. Defensive end James Jackson said he anticipated Pelini leaving YSU after hearing rumors about the move, but he is excited for Pelini despite him being the coach who personally recruited him.
“I was just proud of him,” Jackson said. “He was one of the big reasons I came [to YSU]. He instilled a lot of hard work and dedication into to me.”
According to linebacker Jaylen Hewlett, he doesn’t blame Pelini for leaving because of the opportunity to win another national championship.
“He [made] the best decision for his family,” Hewlett said. “I just want the best for [Pelini]. If [Pelini] going to LSU was the best for him to make his career even better, I’m glad for him.”
When there’s a change in direction in any program, there is a guaranteed change in the program dynamic. With a new coach, in most cases, comes a different playing style and defensive and offensive scheme, among many other changes. But neither Hewlett nor Jackson don’t anticipate a drastic change.
“I think nothing’s going to really change. You’re still going to work hard [and] make sure everything is done the right way to the YSU standard,” Hewlett said.
Jackson also said there will be a few little tweaks, but the team should still be the same.
At the time of publication, a replacement head coach has not been named.