It takes a lot of effort from a lot of people to win a championship, and one of the many who had a hand in the University of Virginia’s run to the NCAA baseball crown has roots at IUP.
Kevin McMullan ’90, a member of the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame, is the associate head coach at Virginia, and he played a key role in the Cavaliers’ improbable national championship last spring.
“I was caught up in it,” said McMullan, who was a two-sport star at IUP. “It was so fun to be part of it.”
Kevin McMullan has been a coach with the national champion Virginia Cavaliers since 2003. Credit: University of Virginia Athletics
And McMullan is certain he wouldn’t have been a part of Virginia’s title run if it weren’t for his education at IUP. “All the fundamentals I learned at IUP I use to this day,” he said. “It’s part of my fiber. I’m just paying it forward in my business.”
That Virginia won the College World Series title might not be as much of a surprise as the fact the Cavaliers were even in the tournament. They were sub-.500 for most of the season and had to use many young players who hadn’t quite ripened into productive batters and pitchers.
“But we felt that if we got some guys healthy and if we got to the tournament, we’d have a shot,” McMullan said.
That’s exactly what happened. The Cavaliers were struggling at the midpoint of their regular season, but they caught fire at the right time and won 12 of their final 17 games to get to the point where they needed to sweep North Carolina in the final series of the season just to get to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Three games and three wins later, Virginia was playoff bound. After that, the Cavaliers were on a mission, and McMullan could feel it.
“There was a lot of pressure on us because we had been successful the year before,” he said. “But this pressure was way different. We just enjoyed the moment and went for a ride.”
Despite going only 1-3 in the ACC tournament, the Cavaliers earned a spot in the NCAA bracket. They won the regional and super regional crowns to earn one of the eight spots in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s when things really got interesting. First, Virginia knocked out Arkansas. Then the Cavaliers sent Florida packing to set up a best-of-three finale against Vanderbilt, one of the premier programs in the land.
Virginia dropped the opener, 5-1, but stormed back to win the final two games, 3-0 and 4-2, to claim the championship.
“We just got hot at the right time,” McMullan said. “It felt like when you least expect something, you get it. It just really validates what we do as a program.”
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It was quite an achievement for the Cavaliers, and for McMullan, who has made a name for himself in baseball since graduating from IUP. He played professionally in the New York Yankees organization for a couple years and became the coach at his alma mater in 1994.
He left IUP two seasons later to become an assistant at St. John’s, and after a few years, he took a job as an assistant at East Carolina, which eventually led to a coaching job in the Atlanta Braves’ minor league organization. In 2003, he landed at Virginia, where he has been a mainstay in the Cavaliers’ dugout.
That’s quite a journey from his days at IUP, when McMullan was a standout on the Indians’ football and baseball teams.
“At IUP, I got the opportunity to further my education,” McMullan said. “It was the right fit for me. Some of the people I met there are some of the finest people I know, and I still have relationships with them today. They’re lifelong friends. I was surrounded by great men—guys like George Chaump and Mark Kaczanowicz at first, and then Coach [Frank] Cignetti [’60, M’65] took over, and then guys like Tom Rogish [’73] and Frank Condino were all tremendous influences on me.”
The journey from IUP to Charlottesville took some odd twists and turns. But it led McMullan to an NCAA crown, something he still enjoys thinking about, when he’s not looking at the road ahead.
“We’re on to the next chapter,” McMullan said. “But it’s still nice to hear those words: national champions.”
Hall of Fame
IUP Athletic Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2015 on September 12 before the Crimson Hawks’ season-opening football game against Kutztown.
The inductees were Jason Bullock ’96 and Wes Layton ’02 (men’s basketball), Sarah Zdesar McKinney ’05, M’10 (women’s basketball), Robert Green ’54, Barry Lippencott ’67, Darren Cottrill ’88, Stan Celich ’90, Scott Woods ’94, and Jeff Turnage ’95, M’96 (football), Ryan Sikora ’01 (
golf), Angela Hileman ’02 (softball), Julie Bober Moore ’01 (women’s swimming), David Medvetz ’86 (men’s track and field), and Lacey George Gibson ’05 (volleyball). Longtime volunteer assistant football coach Gene Bicego M’73 was given the honorary Bell Ringer Award.
With IUP President Michael Driscoll, back left, are the 2015 Athletic Hall of Fame inductees. Front row, from left: Ryan Sikora, Julie Bober Moore, Gene Bicego, Angela Hileman Blevins, Bob Green, and Wes Layton. Back row: Dave Medvetz, Darren Cottrill, Lacey George Gibson, Stan Celich, Scott Woods, Jeff Turnage, Jason Bullock, Sarah Zdesar McKinney, and Barry Lippencott. Photo: Keith Boyer
The new class brings the total to 230 former athletes, coaches, and administrators who have been honored with enshrinement for their contributions to IUP athletics.
Several new coaches were hired recently to help mentor IUP teams.
Scott Pennewill was tabbed to take over the women’s volleyball program as head coach, while Adam Stoner was hired as an assistant men’s and women’s
In football, head coach Curt Cignetti added four assistants to his staff: Marty Higgins, Luke Barker, Dale Boston ’09, and John Pettina ’87. And in men’s basketball, Joey Cantens and Chuck Harris have joined coach Joe Lombardi’s staff as assistants.
Former standout football player Tobias Robinson was recently named head coach at Bandon High School in Oregon.
Soon after earning his master’s degree from IUP, Nick Patton M’15 was hired as the men’s and women’s cross country coach at Penn College in Williamsport.
A former assistant soccer coach at IUP, Adam Matter ’10 spent six months as a sports performance intern with the US women’s national field hockey team. Soon after, he was hired as an assistant soccer coach at the University of Virginia.
Brent Baird M’08 was hired in September as the director of athletics at Penn State Altoona. His appointment came after he held the position on an interim basis for a year.
After spending two seasons as an assistant men’s basketball coach at IUP, Jimmy Langhurst was hired for a similar position at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.
In April, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association recognized Herb Moore ’67 for 50 years of service as a PIAA basketball official. A plaque with his name is displayed at the PIAA Officials’ Hall of Honor and Recognition in Mechanicsburg. A former basketball player at IUP, Moore retired from Shade Central City High School in Cairnbrook after 37 years of teaching and coaching.
After 46 years of coaching track and field, Paul Hadzor ’69 has retired. He started his career as a teacher and coach at General Wayne Middle School in Malvern and reached legendary status as head of Great Valley High School’s program. He was also an assistant for five years at West Chester University.
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