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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Geno Ford's departure a big loss for Kent State basketball

By Marla Published: March 28, 2011

A week ago, Kent State basketball coach Geno Ford was taking the Golden Flashes to Colorado as part of their amazing three-game, cross-country excursion in the NIT.

This afternoon he's being introduced as the head coach at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. At a press conference that is being held on the court at the Renaissance Coliseum and is open to the public, no less.

That's how important Bradley officials regard the hiring of Ford, who was 68-37 in three years at Kent State and was voted the Mid-American Conference coach of the year the past two seasons.

It could also be why Ford took a position that looks like a lateral move to a Missouri Valley Conference school. An athletic department spokesperson said Bradley's undergraduate enrollment is about 5,000 students. Ford's statement posted on Bradley's web site included what may have been a telling two sentences.

"I am excited about the support for our program and the resources we have to achieve at the highest levels,'' Ford said.  "The investments made in our program will give us a chance to achieve our maximum potential."

Kent State cannot be faulted for trying to raise the status of its football program with the hiring of former Ohio State assistant head coach Darrell Hazell. KSU offered Hazell a much larger salary than predecessor Doug Martin received and also upped the salaries of the assistant coaches.

But one wonders if Kent State administrators have come to the conclusion that they cannot support their marquee program -- basketball -- and upgrade football at the same time. Kent State went 25-12 in 2010-11 and was tied for sixth in the nation with 11 20-win seasons in the past 12 years, which was tied with Kentucky. The programs above the Golden Flashes were some of the nation's elite -- Kansas, Duke, Syracuse, Gonzaga and Florida.

Ford, 36, became the first men's basketball coach to lead his team to consecutive, outright MAC regular-season titles in 48 years. This year he did it with only three returning players. Losing only one senior, Kent State could receive consideration for the preseason Top 25 in 2011-12.

Kent State is holding a 1 p.m. press conference to discuss Ford's departure. That's the same time his introductory ceremony will be streaming live on Bradley's web site.

A crowd of 350 attended, prompting Ford to comment, "Having this many people show up at a press conference, I'm deeply touched.''

Bradley president Joanne Glasser presented Ford's wife Traci with red roses along with a gift bag, which she also gave to Ford's sons Darin and David.

Ford did not mention Kent State during his opening comments or during the question and answer session.

Ford said he first became aware of the tremendous fan support at Bradley when he was an assistant coach at Ohio U. in 1999. The Bobcats played in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii and he said Bradley had the best fan support of the eight participating teams.

"As I sat there I thought, 'I can't believe a school would have this many people follow their team,''' Ford said.

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