Starting last spring, I had a strong feeling that this fall would be an intriguing time on campus.
The top three sports on campus had a fever pitch. Soccer had its best returning team and was expected to challenge for a national championship. Basketball returned all but one player from the MAC Championship team and added a top-40 recruit. Football was christening a $61.5 million stadium with a load of seniors.
It turned out to be a wild season for sure. No one could have predicted the soccer drama or football letdown. The next calendar year will determine the basketball team's fate.
Here are my top five moments from the entire year of 2009:
1) Akron soccer advances to the national championship -- A flawless penalty-kick session sent the Zips to the finals. It kept the team's season-long unbeaten streak alive.
2) Dambrot's Zips get over the hump, win their first MAC Championship -- After a first-round scare against Toledo, Akron played its best basketball of the year. The Zips finished off Buffalo to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
3) Two Zips earn individual national championships -- In 2009, Akron tripled its prior amount of national champions thanks to Jenna Compton (rifle) and Stevi Large (hammer throw).
4) Zips open InfoCision Stadium with blowout win -- The fanfare, the football, everything. It was a perfect way to begin an era of on-campus football at the University of Akron.
5) Caleb Porter shrugs off D.C. United, extends contract with Akron -- Zips fans saw the writing on the wall long ago that Porter would leave as soon as a job with better money or a job at his alma mater opened up. Porter shocked the soccer world by showing his commitment to Akron instead.
Conversely, here are the worst five moments of 2009:
1) Zips lose national championship to Virginia -- Blair Gavin's penalty kick sailed over the net, clinching the national championship for Virginia. With that, the Zips lost their first game of the year and a chance for the university's first team national championship.
2) Quarterback kicked off team -- Chris Jacquemain was dismissed from the team in the week following the win over Morgan State. The news sent the program into a tailspin. Sophomore Matt Rodgers received only a few days' notice before starting his first game versus Indiana in which he threw four interceptions.
3) Zips drop Homecoming game against Ohio -- With a chance to redeem themselves before a three-game road trip, Akron lost three fumbles and threw two interceptions in a loss to division rival Ohio. Rodgers tore his ACL, which meant true freshman Patrick Nicely was pressed into action.
4) Zakuani announces he will leave early -- Perhaps the most talented player in any sport in university history decided to leave college after his sophomore year to enter the MLS Draft. Can you imagine the 2009 Zips with Zakuani? If there is a silver lining, it was that the Seattle Sounders made Zakuani the No. 1 pick in the draft.
5) Brookhart fired after 3-9 season -- J.D. Brookhart's tenure at Akron ended when new athletic director Tom Wistrcill and Luis Proenza agreed to fire the coach with one year left on his contract.