College Joining New Conference; Some to Gain Four-Year Eligibility

Published 02.13.2004


A new league and new opportunities in athletics are creating excitement at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

This fall, Penn College, a special mission affiliate of Penn State, will join Penn State's Commonwealth Campus Athletic Conference and athletes competing on Wildcat men's basketball and women's volleyball teams gain four-year eligibility.

Michael J. Stanzione, coordinator of athletics, said the four-year eligibility was a major factor in joining the new league. Approximately one-third of all Penn College students are enrolled in one of the College's 26 bachelor's degree majors.

"We want to go with four-year options when they are available and to give our students a chance to participate in a Penn State league," he explained. "We're getting in on the ground floor. This will be the first year that it is happening in the conference."

In the future, he said, other sports in the conference also may move from two-year to four-year eligibility.

"This may be the tip of the iceberg," Stanzione said. "It all depends on the CCAC and where it is heading."

He added that championship games for all sports will be played on the University Park campus, with men's basketball finals taking place at the Bryce Jordan Center.

"To be accepted into it right when things are getting exciting in the CCAC is fantastic for us, fantastic for the students and fantastic for the College," Stanzione said.

For the Fall 2004 and Spring 2005 seasons, men's basketball and women's volleyball teams will compete in the CCAC's West Division, while baseball, softball, cross country, golf, soccer and tennis teams will compete in the East Division. The archery team, which competes in the National Archery Association Division I, is not affected.

Commonwealth Conference West Division schools include Penn State-Fayette, Penn State-Beaver County, Penn State-McKeesport, Penn State-New Kensington and Penn State-DuBois.

CCAC East Division schools are Penn State-York, Penn State-Worthington/Scranton, Penn State-Wilkes-Barre, Penn State-Schuylkill, Penn State-Mont Alto, Penn State-Hazleton, Penn State-Delaware County and Penn State-Abington.

The Wildcat men's basketball and women's volleyball teams will compete only in the CCAC, while Penn College will continue its affiliation in the Eastern Pennsylvania College Conference and Pennsylvania Collegiate Athletic Association for all other sports. Other Commonwealth Campus Athletic Conference schools also participate EPCC and PCAA, according to Stanzione. The new league will require one more play date for teams that reach a championship, which should not cause scheduling problems, he said.

"It's really exciting. I can't wait to get in this and see how it all works. And when the kids can go to Penn State University for the championship and play in Bryce Jordan Center after a Big Ten game you can't get a better venue than that," Stanzione said.

"I think it's a 'win' situation for everyone," noted John Fritz, director of the CCAC. We feel the conference is only as strong as each member, so adding Penn College is just a natural for us."

Both Wildcat men's basketball Coach Gene Bruno and women's volleyball Coach Bambi Hawkins are optimistic about the changes.

"We are excited. It is already an asset due to the fact that Amber Geckle (a sophomore from Indian Valley), who has been our setter and the team captain for the past two years, will be eligible to play again for the next two years," Hawkins said. "Other girls who have used up their two years of eligibility now are asking if they can play again and we're saying, 'Absolutely!' It give us an opportunity to keep them on the team longer."

Bruno, now in his seventh year as men's basketball coach, said "Another big asset is that it's going to help with recruiting because I'll have the opportunity to bring kids in for four years. If things work out, it could put the program on the map. The kids are excited about it and I am excited about it."

Penn College president, Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, joined in the enthusiasm. "As a true Wildcat fan, I look forward to seeing our teams compete in the new league. Our student-athletes are a special breed. They are not in it for scholarships, because we have no athletic scholarships. They play because they love it. Their reward is the joy of competition and the chance to have a very well-rounded college experience that includes the pursuit of excellence in and out of the classroom."

The College's first venture in intercollegiate athletics came in 1966 when its forerunner, Williamsport Area Community College joined the Eastern Pennsylvania Community College Athletic Conference. It remained in the EPCCAC, which evolved into the Eastern Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference of the Pennsylvania Collegiate Athletic Association, until the end of the 1984-85 seasons, when the College temporarily suspended intercollegiate athletics. It rejoined that league in 1992.

Many College teams achieved great success over the years. The wrestling team (which existed from 1969-83) won championships in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981. The golf team a state champion this fall also won championships in 1994, 1995 and 1998. Men's cross country won titles in 1982, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2003 and women's cross country won in 1996, 1997 and 2001. The men's soccer team was the 2000 champion and women's soccer won titles in 2001 and 2002. The tennis team won championships in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The baseball team won championships in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. In archery, the Wildcats were national champions in the men's compound division in 1998 and in the indoor compound division in 1999; 13 Wildcat archers have earned All-American status since 1997.