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University signs new sports information director

| Sunday, Oct. 24, 2004

California University of Pennsylvania has a new sports information director.

University President Angelo Armenti Jr. recently announced the hiring of Tom Byrnes as SID in the Vulcans' athletic department. Byrnes replaces Dave Smith, who retired this summer after serving the university for 19 years, including the last seven years as SID.

Byrnes joins California University after working more than four years as the assistant executive director for media relations at the Patriot League, an NCAA Division I conference office in Center Valley, Lehigh County. Byrnes was responsible for coverage of 23 championship sports, but served as the primary contact for football, men's basketball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, golf and rowing.

"We are very pleased and excited to have Tom Byrnes as our new sports information director," said Tim Susick, interim vice president for student development and services. "A nationwide search was done and Tom clearly stood out in an impressive field of more than 60 applicants."

Originally from Lansdale, Montgomery County, Byrnes received his bachelor's degree in communications/journalism (1980) and his master's degree in organizational communications (1987) from Shippensburg University.

Byrnes was a sportswriter and columnist for the Public Opinion newspaper in Chambersburg, Franklin County, for 12 years and the SID at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster County for 12 years. He started his career that college as an intern and was promoted to assistant athletic director before leaving for the Patriot League.

"I'm very happy and grateful for the opportunity to return to a campus environment," Byrnes said. "California University of Pennsylvania has the defending national championship team in women's basketball, an undefeated football team and perennial challengers for PSAC titles and NCAA playoff berths in men's basketball, softball and other sports."

Smith moments

Always sincere and exuding spirit for the Vulcans athletic teams was Dave Smith, whose tenure as SID featured many memorable moments.

He actually took over the SID reigns in the spring of 1998 and did the radio play-by-play at the 1998 NCAA Division II National Softball Championships in Pensacola, Fla. The Vulcans won their second consecutive softball national title that spring under coach Rick Bertagnolli.

The 60-year-old Smith's busy SID career culminated with the Vulcans women's basketball team winning the coveted NCAA national title last March and the Vulcans baseball team winning the school's first baseball state championship last May.

Several of many post-season events California University hosted, with Smith handling a variety of functions, included: the 2003 and 2004 NCAA II women's basketball east regional tournaments; the 2002 and 2004 PSAC women's and 2003 men's basketball final four tourneys; the 2001 PSAC soccer championship game; the 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 PSAC softball championships; and the 2000 softball NCAA Regional.

He accompanied the Vulcans women's basketball team to consecutive NCAA "Elite Eight" trips to St. Joseph's, Mo., (2003 and 2004) as well as a trip to North Dakota in 2000 with the women's volleyball team which reached the NCAA semifinals. Smith was also at the 1999 NCAA Softball Nationals in Salem, Va., where California University placed fifth.

Along with graduate assistant Jason Greene, who now teaches and coaches at Uniontown High School, Smith managed to cover home baseball games at Falconi Field in North Strabane Township each of the past two years while the softball team kept its home games at the school's Roadman Park.

Smith's first official job at California University took place in the mid-1980s with auxiliary services, helping with the student center. He later became the student center director and director of student publications. He played an important role in the student center renovation that reached fruition in 1992 and is now called the Elmo Natali Student Center.

Originally from Washington, Pa., and a longtime resident of Hiller, Smith was the football team's public address announcer from 1991 through 2000 and both basketball team's public address announcer from 1985-86 through 1998-99.

Despite being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia three years ago, Smith's enthusiasm and work ethic never wavered. He has returned to his football public address duties this fall and is planning to announce the men's basketball games this winter.

"Dave's loyalty to our university and its sports teams is beyond reproach," Susick said. "Whether he was running the student center, the student newspaper or serving as the SID he gave everything he had. We wish him nothing but the best and we are fortunate that he is still around contributing. The guy bleeds Vulcans' red and black."

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