The goals of PennWest athletics


Cal U men’s soccer team defeated Slippery Rock 2-0 at the Phillipsburg Soccer Facility, California, Pa., Oct. 27, 2021. (Jeff Helsel/Cal Times)

Brent Zavislak, Contributor

Pennsylvania Western University is a system of western Pennsylvania colleges that will join together in the summer of 2022 to create one of two joint-effort schools within the state. California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University, and Edinboro University are the three state-level colleges involved in the merger.

The combination of three colleges has raised questions regarding issues under both academic and athletic aspects of the schools.

On an official level, the NCAA, and more specifically the PSAC has the final say in how the athletic programs will be managed. Leonard Cullo, senior executive for athletics for PennWest, spoke further about the NCAA’s stance on the merger, said that while the NCAA had not yet officially approved the remaining separate of the school’s teams.

“We fully intend to continue athletics as it has been – separate programs,” said Cullo.

Steve Murray, the commissioner of the PSAC, spoke on the NCAA and PSAC’s view on the subject, said that the organizations are supportive of the three individual colleges involved in the merger retaining their separate identity for the sake of athletics.

“They are very comfortable now with the models of the three schools,” said Murray.

In addition, Murray said that the school’s sports teams would go so far as to keep their current names.

“If this was all kept secret, I don’t think anyone would notice a difference in athletics in comparison to the past few years,” said Murray.

The increased opportunity arose as a talking point from faculty and administration handling the issue. In addition to the possibility of maintaining its identity, Cal U’s athletic director Karen Hjerpe sees the merger as an opportunity to grow sports programs on campus.

For example, she said that men’s soccer, a program that neither of the two schools joining Cal U have, could be brought to the other campuses.

Murray also spoke of increased opportunity for the universities post-merger.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if campuses, schools could very likely see more [sports] teams added because of this merger because it puts people in more seats in classrooms.”

Another topic brought into the light by these administrators involved transfers. When asked about the idea of athletes transferring to whichever of the three schools within Penn West had the better team for their sport at the time, Hjerpe answered uniformly with the others.

“They [athletes] still have to follow all NCAA transfer procedures as if the schools were separate, to begin with,” said Murray, with Hjerpe giving a similar response.

This stance prevents athletes from diminishing or overwhelming one program or another within the Penn West system based on the success of the teams with any sort of ease. The goal of this is to ensure that campus experience can be shared and integrated to the best of its ability while enabling the sports teams to remain separate yet fair.

The Penn West merger is set to take effect in June of 2022, with the classes of each school involved who graduate in the spring of 2022 being the last to graduate under their individual school’s name.