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For Something Greater

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Cover Story | Featured

For Something Greater

75 years of Baron Athletics

Autumn 2022 | Lisa Ferguson

In This Article

“At the College of Steubenville, we consider that [athletics] have but one justifiable purpose. We believe that, rationally conducted, they have an educational value.” Father Daniel Egan, TOR, first president of the College, wrote that in 1949 about the school’s fledgling three-sport intercollegiate and intramural Baron athletics program. Though Franciscan University now fields 20 men’s and women’s intercollegiate teams plus a robust array of intramural and recreational sports, the intervening decades have not changed that early focus on the educational value of athletics.

As the current Athletics Department mission statement puts it: “Our mission at Franciscan University is to educate, evangelize, and send forth joyful disciples. In athletics, we have a unique calling to accomplish this through sport.”

Baron athletics’ emphasis on mind, body, and soul has molded and continues to mold men and women of character, virtue, and faith whose formation owes much to the lessons learned in long practices and fierce competitions.

Franciscan’s newest All-American, cross country and track and field runner Liam Galligan ’21 MBA ’22, says it best: “Through injuries, disappointing races, and tight losses, our team’s motto of ‘For Something Greater’ allowed us to take every experience as a lesson in faith, hope, and charity. There is no other team or place where I could have learned these lessons and been formed into the person I am today.”

In honor of the 75th anniversary of Baron athletics and the many lessons learned through sport, we look back at historical highlights and milestones—and hear from our athletes past and present why it’s always been a great day to be a Baron!

Through the Years


Athletic teams established; men’s golf, baseball, and basketball become the first three sports.



Steubenville Herald-Star sportswriter John D. Kirker nicknames College of Steubenville teams “The Barons.”

John Lemal ’55, Frank Cortez Sr., and Paul Carapellotti Sr. raise $10,000 to start building a football team.


Men’s basketball earns the George Mikan Award for Most Improved Team in the Country, as the team registers its first winning season in program history.

Led by Coach Hank Kuzma, men’s basketball wins 29 games en route to an NAIA Elite Eight appearance.



Paul Brownlee ’56 named Helms Foundation NAIA All-American and becomes the first All-American in school history, going on to receive a second All-American ranking in 1956.



Jim Smith-Betsill ’58 earns first of two All-American rankings.



Men’s basketball goes 24-1, including a 22-game winning streak, and is named #1 Small School in the Nation by the United Press International Board of Coaches.



Diocese of Steubenville’s St. John Arena becomes the biggest basketball venue available to the Barons.


September: Baron club football team plays the Duquesne Dukes at Three Rivers Stadium.



Men’s 1972-73 basketball team holds opponents to 42.2 points per games, fewest in the nation amongst all small schools.



Men’s basketball opens the season by beating the Czech National Team.



June: With the passage of Title IX, Franciscan adds the first intercollegiate women’s sport—women’s basketball— for the 1977-78 season.



March: Women’s basketball team wins District 22 NAIA Championship in its fourth season of intercollegiate competition.

Summer: Intercollegiate athletics are terminated due to “financial circumstances” that were “simply too difficult to overcome.”

Fall: Intramural programs flourish with fraternities, sororities, households, and independent teams competing in flag football, basketball, volleyball, and Frisbee.



Vaccaro Field is dedicated.



Club intercollegiate athletic teams emerge and include baseball, men’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.


Fall: Finnegan Fieldhouse opens, named for Fr. Matthew Finnegan, TOR, an early athletic director and coach.



Winter: Club men’s basketball begins.



Fall: Men’s rugby begins.



Franciscan returns to NCAA Division III Athletics as a provisional member.



Fall: Franciscan joins the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference for the 2008-09 school year with men’s/ women’s soccer, men’s/women’s cross country, women’s volleyball, men’s/women’s basketball, baseball, softball, and men’s/women’s track* (*not in AMCC).

Women’s cross country wins the 2008 AMCC Championship, Franciscan’s first Conference Championship win as a NCAA Division III school.



Six new tennis courts at Belleview Park become home to the varsity men’s and women’s tennis programs.

Men’s tennis added as an NCAA Division III program for the 2009-10 school year.



Women’s tennis added as a NCAA Division III program for the 2010-11 school year.

Softball field is built and sees its first varsity action in spring 2011.



May: Franciscan announces the addition of women’s swimming and diving as an NCAA Division III sport.

June: Franciscan Athletics earns full-time member status in NCAA Division III.

July: Henry J. Kuzma Court is unveiled in Finnegan Fieldhouse


May: Franciscan announces the addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse for the 2013 season.



Bill Jones ’13 becomes first Division III athlete to earn All-American status with a 6th-place finish in the 10K at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.



Leo Herrmann ’18 named All-American by United Soccer Coaches after a stellar senior season.



November: Grace Galligan ’19 becomes the first women’s All-American in Franciscan history with her 24th overall finish at the NCAA Cross Country National Championship.

June: Women’s golf is announced as the 20th varsity sport and begins NCAA competition with the 2019-20 season.



Franciscan joins the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.



Liam Galligan ’21 MBA ’22 becomes Franciscan’s first men’s cross country runner to be named an All-American with his 25th place finish at the NCAA National Championship.

Trinity Health System Field provides a turf playing field surrounded by an eight-lane track used by the soccer, lacrosse, and track and field teams.



February: Sean Hickey ’21 MBA ’22 passes Jim Garrigan ’74 and moves into 3rd all-time in men’s basketball scoring at Franciscan. Hickey joins two All-Americans, Paul Brownlee ’56 and Jim Smith-Betsill ’58, as the top three scorers in school history.

Two Time All-American – Jim Smith-Betsill

A leader on the court and in his community.

By Tom Sofio


Jim Smith-Betsill ’58 is known to generations of alumni as the driving force behind the 1958 Baron team that went 24-1 and was voted the number 1 small college basketball team in the nation by the United Press International Board of Coaches.

What’s less known is his work in the Civil Rights Movement and his fight for equality in Pittsburgh’s unions and communities.

First-year coach Hank Kuzma recruited Jim to the College of Steubenville in 1954 out of Homestead High School in Pittsburgh after a Pittsburgh college coach passed on Jim because he didn’t want black players on his team.

A 6’6” dominating presence at center, “Big Jim” amassed 2,334 rebounds over his Baron career, which is still the most in college basketball history across all levels. He also scored 2,048 points as a Baron and was a two-time All-American.

By his mere presence and stellar play, Jim helped break the color barrier in college basketball. On several occasions, Coach Kuzma pulled the entire team out of a hotel or restaurant that refused to serve Jim.

Teammate Paul Durbak ’56 remembers living with Jim at Alpha House, the College of Steubenville’s dormitory for out-of-town students located at the end of North Fifth Street. The two got in extra practice at an abandoned outdoor court nearby.

“Jim was an all-around nice guy and a great rebounder and was accepted in the community. He was a team player. He wasn’t a ball hog,” Paul said.

All told, the Barons chalked up 96 wins with just 19 losses over a four-year period with Jim.

In 1958, Jim was drafted in the second round by the Boston Celtics, but the Armed Forces draft was still in effect, and he was also drafted that year by the U.S. Army.

Knee injuries sustained during his two years in the military ended Jim’s hopes of a basketball career, but he went on to distinguish himself as a union organizer and community leader in the Civil Rights Movement in Pennsylvania.

Speaking to the Herald-Star at a ceremony on Kuzma Court last winter when Jim’s jersey was retired, his son J.P. Betsill recounted that while working in Pittsburgh for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, his father helped many black people obtain apprenticeships and was instrumental in breaking the color barrier of the Ironworkers and other big unions.

Jim was jailed multiple times while taking part in sit-ins and demonstrations, and he, his wife, and their four children received numerous death and bomb threats.

He also calmed emotions when riots broke out in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood district in 1969. Always the mediator, he once took a bullet to the face while trying to calm a drunk patron watching a Steelers game at a restaurant.

In 1972, he moved to Harrisburg to serve as western regional director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corrections/Education and help inmates gain degrees to improve their lives.

Jim last visited campus in 1992 when he received the Father Matthew Finnegan Alumni Award. He died of leukemia in 2002 at age 67.

J.P. said his father’s favorite quote was “Be all you can be. Education is key.”


Tom Sofio, who recently retired from Franciscan University’s Marketing and Communication Office after 24 years of service, writes from Steubenville, Ohio. May God bless and reward you, Tom, for the blessing you have been to all of us at Franciscan!

My Baron Story

“I pitched and played outfield on the very first Baron baseball teams as well as being on the first golf teams. Bob Kloska ’58 coached baseball, and Paul Durbak ’56 coached golf. Our batting practice consisted of 10 swings at the Kloska fastball, which wasn’t that fast. Golf was fun as we got to play some great courses such as Oakmont. A thrill for me was getting to pitch against Duquesne twice. The teamwork made the whole experience fun.”

– Bob Madden ’65


“I believe this occurred just prior to Christmas vacation in December 1966. The Barons were having a good year, but Central State was a nemesis we had trouble beating. They came to town very highly rated, possibly number 1 in Division III. St. John Arena was full, rocking, and loud. The two teams played a hard and physical game, but in the end, the Barons won!

“It was an incredible night that was only to get better. The students returned to campus by bus and by car, but no one wanted to go to the dorms. We congregated in the courtyard between Marian and Trinity Halls singing Baron fight songs, laughing, clapping, and screaming.

“It was one of the highlights of my senior year. My friends, classmates, and fraternity brothers, all there, delirious in the moment! I may be off on some of the particulars (it was a long time ago), but the crux of the story stands, and I’ll never forget that night!”

– Ray Challis ’67, Tau Kappa Epsilon


“The 1972-73 Baron basketball team went 22-7, led the nation in defense, and played in the NCAA Division II national tournament. After getting through the sectional round, we defeated the number 1 seed to get to the regional championship. Unfortunately, we lost to Akron on a last-second shot.

“First-year coach Ed Sparling brought a new philosophy of basketball to the team that had gone 14-12 the year before. We all bought in to our roles, and our record showed it. Players included me, Jim Garrigan ’74, Tim Hirten ’75, Dave Clarke ’75, Will Adams, Bob Reichert ’73, Jim Foster, Dennis Mulligan, and Stan Wilkerson, among others. This was the first Baron team to get to the regional championship. I remember the local newspaper had an editorial about our defense prior to a home game that said we froze the ball a lot.

“Coach came into the locker room with the article and was furious. After his pep talk, which can’t be printed here, we went out, and the half-time score was 58-8. I remember the center for Central State coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey man, we’re not going to call any timeouts. We just want to get out of here.’ Needless to say, there were no more articles.

“I totally enjoyed my time as a member of the basketball and baseball teams as well as my TKE fraternity brothers while on campus. It was a family atmosphere that led to life-long relationships. May God bless the next 75 years.”

– Ron Spozio ’74


“While I was never an ‘official’ athlete, Franciscan athletics will always hold a special place in my heart. My time working in the Baron Backroom was one of the best experiences of my time at Franciscan. When I applied for a job as a sports photographer my freshman year, I had no idea what an integral part of my college life the job would become. I gained so much more than just experience as both a photographer and graphic designer—from incredible bosses who became friends and various design-related shenanigans to playoff road trips with different teams and spending nights in Finnegan Fieldhouse to meet deadlines, Franciscan athletics truly shaped my growth as a designer, photographer, and individual. It is, and always will be, a great day to be a Baron.”

– Elizabeth (Feudo ’17) Stroka


“My favorite Baron athletics memory was from the AMCC Swim and Dive Championships in 2019. I was swimming the first leg of our 400-medley relay, and during the prelims session, we had placed second in the race. We had broken the Franciscan records both in the relay and in my lead-off individual backstroke leg. However, due to a technicality complaint by a coach, all the relay teams were required to re-swim the event the next day, and our times were no longer valid!

“There were so many emotions. I remember one of my teammates crying, another laughing; we were all in shock, not to mention completely exhausted. But the next day, we still showed, said a ton of prayers, and re-swam the race. By the grace of God, we finished solidly in second place again. Not just that, but we also re-broke both records by swimming even faster than the day before!

“It was overall just an energizing moment for the team and a reminder of the perseverance necessary for our sport. We could have given up or complained, but we committed ourselves to the race and represented our team well. That dedication, as well as our trust in God, helped us to swim the race the best we could and offer up our victories for his glory.”

– Colleen Farabaugh ’21


“Soccer has always been a huge part of who I am. When I came to Franciscan, I was amazed by the leadership of my teammates, the kindness of the coaching staff, and most of all, the feeling that Franciscan women’s soccer was radically different than anything I had ever experienced.

“Throughout my time on the team, I learned what it meant to be a servant leader to my teammates, how to persevere through injuries, conditioning, and hard losses, and finally, what it meant to ‘play for an audience of one’ and for the greater glory of God. I was extremely blessed to play at Franciscan for five years and lead my team as a captain for two of those seasons. I met some of my best friends, made some of my favorite memories, and became a better person because of Franciscan women’s soccer.”

– Kaitrin (O’Leary ’21) Neu


“Being a Baron student-athlete has been easily one of the most instrumental parts of my development as an adult. I will be forever thankful for the many lessons learned, challenges faced, lifelong friends made, as well as the memories made with the men and women of this wonderful athletic program.

“For five years at the University, you could see our team getting our miles in around campus (especially on the beautiful home cross country course—it’s not a golf course!) or around the city. While we did that every day, each time was meaningful for me.

“The simple action of running allowed me to spend time with my brothers and sisters in community. We were blessed as a men’s team to win four straight AMCC/PAC Conference championships (2018-2022), be the highest regionally ranked NCAA team in 2021 (Men-6th in the D-III Great Lakes Region), and add two NCAA All-Americans for the University. …Through injuries, disappointing races, and tight losses, our team’s motto, ‘For Something Greater,’ allowed us to take every experience as a lesson in faith, hope, and charity. There is no other team or place where I could have learned these lessons and been formed into the person I am today.

“For that, I have to thank many people such as my co-captain Mark Borek ’20 MBA ’22, five-year teammate Easton Syvertson ’22, coaches Dr. Daniel Kuebler, Vince Oliver, and Carlo Fabian ’18 MBA ’19, and our team chaplains Father Zack Burns, TOR, and Father Gregory Plow, TOR, MSA ’11. “Some of my favorite memories with this team center around the love and support we have for one another. I am ever so thankful for the time they have taken to be the light of Christ to those around them!”

– Liam Galligan ’21 MBA ’22, Franciscan’s First Men’s Cross Country and Track and Field All-American

Baron Hall of Fame

Standout players, coaches, and contributors from across the decades.


Jim Smith-Betsill ’58



Paul R. Brownlee,

Dr. John L. Mantica ’50,

John R, Mosblack



John M. Clark ’59, Starvaggi Family and Starvaggi Industries



Paul Carapellotti,

Fr. Matthew Finnegan, TOR,

John Hummell II ’66,

John Kirker



Bill Chesson,

Bob Kloska ’58,

Hank Kuzma,

Gary Vogelsberger ’65



1958 Men’s Basketball Team


John J. Blanda ’60,

Paul R. Carapellotti Sr.,

Frank J. Cortez Sr.,

John F. Lemal ’55,

Rev. Dr. Daniel M. Rogich ’79,

1980-81 Saints Women’s Basketball Team



Randolph J. Greene ’66,

Steubenville Herald-Star,

Joseph L. Nolan ’67,

Dr. Daniel J. Wilson ’70



Allyn Curry ’67,

Robert D’Anniballe Sr.,

John Holley ’73,

Walt Osborne ’67,

Paul Rue



Jim Garrigan ’74,

Fr. Tim Hirten ’75,

Vince Lamatrice,

Jeremy Treece ’05,

Charles Zerger ’63



Paul Carapellotti,

Paul Kearns ’57,

Paul Nigro ’69, Naill O’Mahoney,

Frank Sapienza ’57

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