By Steve Svetovich
Dunmore’s Jeff Mallas and Penn State Scranton have gone hand in hand for the past 42 years.
Mallas, a 1971 Dunmore High graduate who lettered in track and football,, has been a major part of the athletic department at the Scranton Penn State campus, located on Ridgeview Drive, Dunmore, since 1979.
He has served as athletic director since 2000. In 2018, Mallas received the prestigious Robert J. Scannell Roll of Honor Award at University Park. The honor is bestowed upon an athletics administrator, coach, faculty or staff member who has served Penn State Commonwealth Campus athletics, intramurals and recreation programs with distinction.
Below is an excerpt from Mallas’ nomination, submitted by athletic department staff at Scranton:
“If there is one person at Penn State Scranton who truly ‘Bleeds Blue and White’ it’s Athletic Director, Jeff Mallas. As a 1975 graduate of Penn State University, Jeff has been a strong supporter of Penn State and athletics, serving the university through non-profit work, coaching, teaching, and administration.”
He was the assistant athletic director under Joe Simoncelli from 1980 through 1999. “I learned a lot under Joe Simoncelli,” he said. “You learn from good people. He was my cross country coach and advisor when I attended Penn State Scranton as a freshman.”
Mallas is married 35 years to the former Karen Phillips. The couple has a son, Doug, a 2012 Penn State graduate who teaches biology at North Pocono High School.
Mallas is credited with starting the baseball program at Penn State Scranton in 1981. He coached baseball at the Dunmore campus for 25 years.
He named Dunmore graduate Dave Rubino, Dwayne Broad of Mid Valley and Kevin Yanul and Jerry Calpin of Scranton Tech as a few of his key players on the first Penn State Scranton baseball team in 1981.
“Our home games were initially played at Schautz Stadium in Dunmore,” he said. “We used to practice at Weston Field.
“In 1982 and 1983 I helped put our baseball field together at the school. Herb Rogers, the Penn State Scranton maintenance foreman at the time, did most of the work. He was the expert. I helped put the infield in. The Army Corps of Engineers did the landscaping.
“Of course our baseball field was totally renovated a few years ago and was named after Matt McGloin.
“Gino Tempesta of Dunmore, who still coaches baseball at North Pocono, helped me coach baseball for many years. He was great with the kids and a huge asset.”
Mallas, always enthusiastic and an optimist when it comes to Penn State, also coached soccer for 20 years at the Dunmore campus. He ran a soccer camp at the local college for kids ages 7-13 for 16 years. He credits Dunmore’s Joe Baltrusaitis, who currently coaches soccer at the local campus, for his assistance helping him with the soccer program.
Penn State Scranton won a soccer championship in 1990 with Mallas at the helm.
Mallas has been involved with the Greater Scranton Penn State Alumni Chapter for the past 35 years. He has served as president for seven years, including the past five years.
“We raise scholarships for students,” he said. “We invite speakers from the State College main campus and had Joe Paterno five times for the event.”
Mallas played football under coach Lou Costanzo at Dunmore. “He made boys into men. He was tough, but a real gentleman off the field. He played football at Michigan State and was a great running back at Dunmore. What an honor to play for him. Our 1970 team went 7-2 and had some tremendous players.”
Mallas also ran track at Dunmore and played Legion baseball. Dunmore won the Lackawanna League track title in his senior year.
He graduated from Penn State with a bachelor of science degree. in education in 1975 and went on to receive an M.Ed in Health and Physical Education from East Stroudsburg University in 1984.
Mallas began coaching tennis and soccer at Penn State Scranton in 1979 and started a lengthy career teaching the physical education activity classes which he continues to do to this day. “I have been teaching activity classes at Penn State for 42 years.”
Well-rounded in all sports, Mallas coached the Penn State Scranton bowling team, leading it to many championships.
As athletic director, Mallas is responsible for 11 men and women’s sports, including baseball, basketball, cross country, softball, soccer, golf and volleyball. He praised every single coach in all of the programs.
“You are only as good as your coaches and the people who surround you,” he said. “And we have great people. We have the best.”
He is credited with bringing women’s basketball back to the Dunmore campus in 2002.
“We try to get as many kids as possible involved in our sports programs,” he said. “We make sure they have a positive experience and graduate. We try to retain every kid.”
There are a little more than 1,000 students in the local college and 162 are active in sports. “That’s a better than 12 percent rate and that’s pretty good,” he said.
Vito Ruggiero, Dunmore borough manager, was recently named the new baseball coach at Penn State Scranton.
Mallas said the local campus is looking to add tennis as a future sport.
The sports teams at the Dunmore campus participate in the Penn State University Athletic Conference, with championships played at University Park at State College. Title teams then go on to participate in the United States Athletic Conference playoffs.
Mallas credits Dr. Marwan Waffa, the school chancellor, for doing great things at the local campus. “I cannot say enough for what he has done and is doing,” he said. “He does so much for this community here.”
Well-versed, Mallas has also been a PIAA basketball and soccer official since the early 1990’s.
He is assisted in his athletic director duties by Sara Rinkunas who coaches men and women’s cross country and serves as sports information director at the local college.
“My life basically has been Penn State,” Mallas said. “And I love it.”