Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Former Club Sports Chief McCullough Passes

Vance McCullough, Penn State's director of club sports from 1978 until 1997, a pillar of the Icers family, and a charter inductee into the PSU Hockey Hall of Fame upon its 1991 establishment, passed away on Monday according to Joe Battista.

McCullough was a driving force in creating a club sports department supporting many programs that were organizationally on par with NCAA teams, but for the recognition and the existence of scholarships. His legacy included not only the Icers and later the Lady Icers, but continues today through the success of the Ice Lions and Women's Ice Hockey Club, as well as Penn State's nationally-recognized men's and women's rugby teams. Penn State's club teams for field hockey, men’s lacrosse, women’s rugby, baseball, men’s track and field, and women’s cross-country all won national championships during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Although involved in non-varsity sports, McCullough profoundly affected three current PSU varsity teams. His 1987 hiring of Battista to coach the Icers and its eventual impact on men's and women's hockey needs no explanation. Additionally, he was responsible for bringing on Pat Farmer, who led Penn State's women's soccer team for its first seven seasons after it elevated to varsity status in 1994. In 1998, the Nittany Lions won a first Big Ten title - and they've won every one since as well, 15 in all.

The following biography is adapted from the 1996-1997 Icers program:

McCullough first came to Penn State in 1961 as an undergraduate. He received a bachelor of science degree in physical education teaching and coaching and a U.S. Army commission in the infantry. He then commanded an advisor team in the central highlands in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969 before leaving the Army in 1970 as a captain and returning to Penn State.

During the next few years, he earned a master's degree in sports psychology, was an instructor in the required physical education program and an assistant director of intramural sports. In 1978, McCullough became the director of club sports. He was involved in a wide range of recreational and non-varsity activities and was both an advisor and facilitator to recreational groups. For competitive teams, like the Icers, he provided administrative insight, direction and support.

McCullough has said that back in the old days, he drove teams, advised people, substituted as a coach at times, worked in concession stands, raised funds and helped put the program together, overseeing many of the activities that later became the responsibilities of Hockey Management Association. McCullough was an avid fly fisherman and taught a well-known and popular course in the sport at PSU.

He was married to Ruth Hussey, a long-time academic advisor to the Icers. The couple had five children, all of whom graduated from Penn State.

"I've certainly enjoyed working with the large club sports program," McCullough said near the end of his time as director. "With [many] teams and clubs, it is always important to acknowledge the tremendous contribution of the volunteers who are dedicated to their own specific activities and devote a lot of time, effort and funding to support these activities. It is those people who made what may look like an impossible task possible to do."

Former Icers and Nittany Lions broadcaster Steve Penstone marked the tragic news by posting a video of a 2010 interview he conducted, in which McCullough reminisces about his time as club sports director and his efforts to grow the Icers program beginning with a period when the team had no rink, quite the contrast to where we are today.

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