Here is what the university is doing to distribute student tickets.
Starting today, you can go to Rhodes Arena and present your Zip Card. The attendant affixes a bright blue bracelet to your wrist. On gameday, you must be wearing your bracelet to receive a ticket, and you can't take the bracelet off until then, either.
I was sort of irritated when I heard about it, because I'm trying to run for office. I need to look professional when I'm campaigning, and a bright blue plastic wristband is not that. Two of my fellow classmates also complained because they have to appear in court every so often. A judge probably will not like the blue bracelet because it's not proper courtroom attire.
After we finished griping, it started to make sense. The university wants to use these bracelets as a marketing tool. It might become "cool" to wear this blue bracelet, and therefore "cool" to attend the football games. It also serves as a reminder to pick up tickets.
I spoke with Tom Wistrcill today. He seems like a genuine person, certainly passionate without being overly flashy.
He has been married for 16 years. He has two sons, ages 9 and 6. Wistrcill is an assistant coach for his oldest son's football team. He also likes to play golf in his spare time. He will start as Akron's athletic director on Sept. 10.
Here are parts of our conversation:
Mike Rasor: If a coach is graduating players and running a clean program, yet cannot field a winning team, does the coach deserve to be fired?
Tom Wistrcill: There are so many factors that go into evaluating a coach. (Tom mentioned community involvement, cohesiveness with the rest of the athletic department, and the athletes' social experience as other factors.) Certainly winning is an important one because this is Division I institution. We don't set upon a coach that you have to win national championships. But we should win MAC titles at Akron.
MR: What techniques in selling out Minnesota's stadium do you think would translate best to Akron?
TW: I don't know yet because I haven't been there. I have been successful in selling different things in different places. You have to have a knowledge of the environment. I will rely on the staff for that. Sales is hard. It is a hard job. There are some people who are cut out for sales. There are some who are not. The thing about sales is that you can have a great day, then start off the next day at zero. I am not going to come in there with any preconceived notions on how we are going to run things. That will be based upon once I get there and get a lay of the land.
MR: Are you inclined to bring in people who share your vision, or do you prefer to make it work with whoever is currently on the athletics staff?
TW: I told our senior staff that I assume they are the best at what they do. And we'll go from there. Obviously, things have worked pretty well there. Mack (Rhoades) and Mike (Thomas) before him did a good job setting things up for things to work there. I don't come in with any plan that some people are out the door. That is not how we are going to operate.
MR: What did you know about Akron before hearing about the job opportunity?
TW: What I did know about the MAC is that it's a great group of schools. (Former Miami AD) Joel (Maturi) loved his time at the MAC. What always attracted me about Akron is that it was in a city. Much like Akron, (at Minnesota) we're right up against Minneapolis. When you have a city that has its own culture and pulse, that gives you an opportunity -- as opposed to a small town, where you have to find a culture and corporate base. When I heard Mack was going to Houston, I said, "Here is a real opportunity." I called the search firm.
MR: What is your greatest weakness?
TW: Sometimes, it's hard for me to delegate because I'm a doer. I'm better at it now than I was five years ago and 10 years ago. I'm getting better at delegating, but that's being a type-A personality that I am. That is something that I constantly work on. When you get the right people in place, they should be better at their jobs than I am. When it happens, that's the perfect situation. I just set the guiding principles and let them chase it. That's what I'm anxious to get at the University of Akron. I spoke with everyone briefly. It seems like a good group.
MR: Do you plan to have Hunter Yurachek working under you?
TW: We had a brief conversation when I was there. It was a really nice conversation. Nothing was really decided in that meeting. We are going to talk again. I encouraged Hunter to stay. I know he's done good things here.
MR: What is your position on the Mid-American Conference? Can Akron do better? Is that something you will look into?
TW: It's important that we position ourselves to be ready if something happens. We need to raise more money. We need to win more titles. The conference landscape is going to change. Don't know when. Don't know how. We are very happy in the MAC, though. It's not something that is on my job duties.
(As we were wrapping up the interview...)
TW: I want to reach out to as many people as possible. I pride myself in a strong communication skill set. That's why I sent out that YouTube video. There are a lot of people who feel deeply about our program. We need to make them feel like they're part of it. ... I want to see people wearing Zips stuff everywhere in Akron.
Below is Wistrcill's welcome video from YouTube...
The PD's Elton Alexander picked Akron to win the MAC East. As he points out, the season-ending injury to Buffalo's star running back James Starks takes the Bulls out of the running.
Here is my synopsis of the new depth chart...
Quarterback -- No suprise here. Chris Jacquemain starts. Matt Rodgers is the backup. The question is: How will J.D. Brookhart use Rodgers, as he has promised he will?
Offensive line -- We have known these starters since spring. It's nice to see four redshirt freshmen and three sophomores make the depth chart behind them.
Running back -- Alex Allen is the starter. Joe Tuzze is the backup. I like seeing Tuzze get some carries. It appears Brookhart will make Dale Martin, Norman Shuford and DeVoe Torrence earn their carries. If everything works out OK here, it would be fine to redshirt Shuford, in my opinion.
Wide receiver -- Andre Jones and Deryn Bowser are Nos. 1 and 2. No doubt about that. We will hear from Jeremy Bruce and Dashan Miller, who will split the third spot. Also, Jeremy LaFrance should get in there. I expected to see Curtis Brown, who is always active in practices. True freshman Anthony Meriwether is Bowser's backup, which is another surprise.
Tight end -- Let's see what the redshirt freshman, Rhyne Ladrach, can do. Any production is gravy. Why did Jose Cruz transfer?
Defensive line -- Almondo Sewell, Dan Marcoux and James Harvey are the starters. The three-deep, which includes Ryan Bain, is very strong.
Linebacker -- I'm surprised to see Sean Fobbs starting over Shawn Lemon, but Lemon is learning a new position. Redshirt freshman Jared Province has pushed Aaron Williams, and that position battle has not been decided. We knew Brian Wagner and Mike Thomas would start.
Secondary -- Manley Waller and Miguel Graham will start. If Emmanuel Lartey, Marvase Byrd and Diamond Weaver can improve, it will make for a young, athletic cornerback unit. The battle for the free safety spot is still up for grabs between Wayne Cobham and Jalil Carter. Tyler Campbell is the strong safety. Need more depth here.
Special teams -- Dashan Miller and Carter will return kicks. Bruce is the punt returner, with Weaver as his backup. True freshman Adam Steiner immediately takes the role he was born to play as the long snapper. Igor Iveljic and Branko Rogovic are still dueling for the place kicker job.
The Buchtelite's story about gameday regulations impressed me. It discusses the policies for road closures, parking and tailgating. It's definitely worth a read if you plan to attend a game.
I'm disappointed about the prohibition against coal grills, but I think the university is doing a great job to create a fan-friendly gameday experience.
Here are some issues to watch in the coming weeks:
Will Hunter Yurachek and his staff continue their diligent work in selling tickets?
What other, if any, members of the athletic department will leave the university when Tom Wistrcill arrives -- either by choice or by dismissals?
Will Wistrcill and the new administration make any immediate changes to the first season at InfoCision Stadium, considering his overwhelming success in opening Minnesota's stadium?
Will Yurachek surface as a candidate for Kent State's athletic director job, which becomes vacant on June 30, 2009? (Man, that would throw another twist into this rivalry!)
The next athletic director at the University of Akron is coming off a year where he helped to sell 50,000 tickets to the first game at the University of Minnesota's stadium.
It is this sort of achievement that pushed Tom Wistrcill over the hump for UA President Luis Proenza. The administration is greatly concerned with making InfoCision Stadium a success.
Before his interview with the president, Wistrcill investigated campus. He dropped by a soccer practice, a volleyball practice and the Rec Center. He called former Akron athletic director Mike Thomas to get a feel for the job.
While Proenza thought highly of the runner up Hunter Yurachek, he chose Wistrcill because of his marketing accomplishments and his energy.
You cannot argue with Proenza's choices for athletic director. Several schools coveted Thomas, before he moved on to Cincinnati. Mack Rhoades was a finalist for a few jobs before Houston selected him. Even the interim athletic directors, Yurachek and Mike Waddell, are future Division I athletic directors.
Zips fans should be very excited that Wistrcill brings a wealth of experience in marketing a similar -- albeit larger -- football program. He also shares Yurachek's track record of sterling references at all points in his career.
Wistrcill also has experience working for a former MAC athletic director. His boss at Minnesota was Joel Maturi, the former AD at Miami (Ohio).
The PD's Elton Alexander reported that some people within the athletic department are upset about the hiring. Some even believe that my previous report sabotaged Yurachek's chances.
I'm not sure how that's possible. Maybe the administration was leaning toward Yurachek, but I have a hard time believing fans' comments persuaded Proenza to go with Wistrcill. The administration knew that a majority of fans wanted a fresh face weeks ago. It's nothing new.
Click here to read Tom Gaffney's story, which includes quotes from Wistrcill. I plan to speak with Wistrcill in the near future, as well.
Akron received its ninth commitment for 2010 on Monday, according to ScoutingOhio.com.
Lawrence Smith, wide receiver/safety, Painesville, Ohio Offers: Akron and Ohio Height: 6-foot-0 Weight: 190 Speed: 4.45 Notes: ScoutingOhio.com ranks Smith as the No. 141 prospect in Ohio. Rivals.com calls Smith an impressive athlete. Akron recruited him as a safety, while Ohio put the generalized "athlete" tag on him.
Click here for the cumulative list of offers and commitments.
According to the ABJ's Tom Gaffney, the university has chosen Tom Wistrcill from the University of Minnesota as its next athletic director.
Wistrcill is a senior associate athletic director at Minnesota. He also spent time at the University of Wisconsin. He played four years of basketball at Saint Mary's University in Winona, Minn.
Seven MAC bloggers, including me, answered 10 questions about how they believe the conference will shape up this year.
Click here for the first installment of the MAC Roundtable.
The ABJ's Tom Gaffney wrote about the Zips' scrimmage on Saturday. Very nice recap.
I received word from an upper-level administrator that my previous report is premature, at best.
The university is now looking at an early September timeline for announcing the athletic director. Hunter Yurachek remains in "serious consideration."
I sincerely apologize for the confusion. Since Friday, I worked diligently to confirm or deny the rumor that I heard from a reliable, yet unofficial, source. One hindrance was that the search committee is sworn to confidentiality about the proceedings.
I struggled with whether to post the source's information. In the end, I felt it would better serve the readers to know everything I know, with the caveat that the information comes from an anonymous source.
My anonymous source heard this information second-hand. The administrator suggested that my source was merely speculating. I do, however, think it is appropriate to assume there is some fire behind this smoke.
I am working to validate the story I posted below.
I went back and forth about publishing it without more than a source whom I cannot name. Because this is a blog, I went with it. I'm about 90 percent confident that it's true. This is mostly because there is no incentive for this source to lie. On a newspaper article, you want to be 100 percent certain that the source is correct, however.
It might take some time to find out if this story is true because the search committee is conducted behind closed doors, and the members are sworn to secrecy. I will write more when I know something.
A source tells me that the university plans to remove the "interim" tag from Hunter Yurachek's title, making him the permanent athletic director within the next week.
Yurachek was the favorite for the job after Mack Rhoades left for Houston. When the university decided to hire a search firm, it appeared President Luis Proenza wanted to go in a different direction. After all, there is no use in paying a search firm to find someone within your own walls.
It is likely, however, that Yurachek stacked up with the candidates from other schools. Plus, he has the familiarity with the program.
No one has doubted Yurachek's background. But fans have questioned whether he brings the fresh approach to marketing that it takes to advance the program within Northeast Ohio. Since the national search began, however, we saw several advances in marketing for football. As a result, ticket sales have gained momentum.
Yurachek was believed to be Rhoades' heir apparent from the day he was hired away from the University of Virginia. This source of this story is anonymous, but I'm working to verify it. Stay tuned.
Here is Yurachek's background from GoZips.com:
Coach J.D. Brookhart watched an agonizingly poor performance at practice last week.
The team practiced at 2 p.m., rather than 9:30 a.m. It was the day the players moved out of the dorms. And it showed.
Brookhart wisely made a mental connection: This sort of thing happens all the time during the season. The team might practice at a different time because of a conflict. More commonly, the Zips (and most MAC teams) play an unusual amount of weekday games.
He thought, if a break from routine is what knocks my team off its game, then we need to fix that habit. As a result, the Zips practiced indoors today at Stile Field House, rather than on Summa Field. Unlike last week's 2 p.m. practice, this one was "pretty good," Brookhart said.
Six players who signed with Akron in February are not on the current roster. Two others are on the roster, but they are probably not eligible for 2009.
Head coach J.D. Brookhart and linebackers coach Vince Okruch heaved praise at freshman linebacker Brian Wagner, who earned the starting middle linebacker position. He takes over for Kevin Grant.
Tom Gaffney wrote a great feature on Wagner. It will excite you about the Zips' young linebacking crew.
I will attend practice tomorrow and report back in the mid-afternoon.
In what has become an annual tradition, Kent State and Akron will compete in the final regular-season game of 2009-10.
Click here for the rest of the conference schedule. At first glance, it looks favorable in that it lacks a prolonged road trip.
Freshman forward Andrew Parrish has left the team with plans to transfer to the University of Indianapolis, a Division II school.
His scholarship will shift to Darryl Roberts, who will have two years remaining in the program.
Parrish redshirted last season. He was touted as a tall, athletic player with a big wingspan. With a glut of youth in the frontcourt, Parrish probably saw a limited opportunity to play.
Akron held its first scrimmage today. I wasn't there, but here are some thoughts I gleaned from Tom Gaffney's story and the GoZips.com report.
Norman Shuford and Broderick Alexander each averaged more than five yards per carry on their 17 combined attempts. Alex Allen and Dale Martin did not play, as they are still recovering from their injuries. We were looking at Allen, Martin and DeVoe Torrence as potential running backs, but it's nice that two more talented backs have emerged. Torrence took five carries for a total of six yards.
Chris Jacquemain (12 for 20, 131 yards, 1 INT) and Matt Rodgers (10 for 17, 139 yards, 1 INT) had similar stats. I am glad that J.D. Brookhart has committed to play Rodgers, at least some. We know what we have with Jacquemain -- a player who can look really good and comfortable one moment, then toss away the game the next. Rodgers might be a franchise quarterback, or he could be just another name on the depth chart. It takes several series of live football to find out who should be playing.
Marcus Lemon, brother of Shawn, forced a fumble and made a tackle for loss. He might add depth to the linebackers. That position is looking strong. Matt Little recovered the Lemon fumble and took it 27 yards for a touchdown.
The president's office is reviewing candidates for the athletic director job, with hopes to name Mack Rhoades' successor by the end of August.
I have been told the university is getting great interest from very well qualified individuals at big schools.
The search process works like this: The search firm gathers interest from a large group of people. In this case, Eastman and Beaudine found 75 people who were interested in Akron's job. The university added to this bulk list by passing along resumes of people who directly contacted the university.
Then it was the search firm's task to find candidates who possessed the skills that the university desired. Of that narrow list, the search committee will interview no more than 10 candidates. The number of interviews is likely to be around three to five. These interviews will begin in the next couple weeks. As we saw with Rhoades and his pursuit of the Rutgers and Houston jobs, the candidates strive to keep their candidacy secret because they do not want to disrupt things at their current universities.
Do you remember how fans voted in a poll about what traits they would like in the next athletic director? That data played a role in determining what characteristics will be most important in the candidates' backgrounds. As a result, the next athletic director is likely to be someone who can grow the Zips marketing efforts and build the fanbase.
Here is the video of my interviews with Mike Ward and Dale Martin...
Every time I visit InfoCision Stadium, more and more has progressed.
Among the additions in the past week: The main scoreboard and two ribbon scoreboards are operating. The sound system is set up. Plants are growing in the northeast and northwest corners of the stadium. The wrought iron gates with brick pillars are up, surrounding the stadium.
Mike Cawood took me on a mini-tour of the facility on the north end of the stadium. The men's soccer and baseball teams each have locker rooms and gathering rooms, and the team share a restroom/shower in the middle. The women's softball and women's soccer teams have the same arrangement. The football team's gameday lockerroom is also impressive.
A Web site compared several NCAA teams to pro wrestlers. If you're a '90s wrestling nut, like me, you'll snicker a few times.
The list did not include Akron, which allows us to use our creativity. Below is my comparison. Please post your ideas, if any.
Akron -- Rey Mysterio
Known for his gimmick (5-foot-6 wrestler who mastered the hurricanrana), Mysterio developed a cult following in the mid '90s through his high-flying acrobatics. He came out of nowhere to win the world title in 2006. His reign on top lasted only a few months. He returned to mid-card status before winning the Intercontinental Title in 2009.
(I will post something of substance tomorrow after tomorrow morning's practice. Dan Kadar will provide an Ohio.com video shortly after.)
Caleb Porter's Zips will open the 2009 season as the favorite to win the national championship, according to Top Drawer Soccer's rankings.
The Zips earned this honor, despite losing the No. 1 pick in the MLS Draft (Steve Zakuani) and a four-year starter goalie (Evan Bush). Akron opens the season Aug. 21 against South Florida in an exhibition match.
Last season Akron went 16-1-4, losing to Northwestern in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Akron spent nine weeks in the national top five.
Junior midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong is among 38 players on the preseason Hermann Trophy watch list, given to the best player in men's collegiate soccer.
College Soccer News ranked the Zips sixth nationally.
The ABJ's Michael Beaven spoke with longsnapper Adam Steiner, whose father died five days after Adam signed to play at Akron.
It is a story you'll want to read. Beaven has done a nice job keeping up with camp every day.
Quick, guess who scored Buffalo's only touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game. Terrell Owens? Lee Evans? Trent Edwards? Wrong! University of Akron and Canton McKinley grad Reggie Corner returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown at Faucett Stadium. Tennessee won the game, 21-18.
Single-game football tickets will cost a little more if you want to see one of the two "premier" matchups of 2009.
Fans will pay an additional $5 for seats at the Indiana and Kent State games, according to GoZips.com. Single-game tickets will go on sale Monday.
From the first day on Summa Field, the Zips declared a goal.
"We want to set some traditions," running back Alex Allen said. "The goal is to go undefeated here."
Added coach J.D. Brookhart: "This is our house. This is a place we will violently protect."
The coaches and players talked about how special it was to finally do something meaningful inside the stadium.
"There's a lot of excitement walking down here," Brookhart said, referring to the staircase that the team will walk down before entering the gameday locker room. "A lot of guys said they got chills. It was special. It had to sink in."
On top of an undefeated home record, Allen has a personal goal: "I'm going to be the first player to score a touchdown here."
Mike Bizzarro had a "ridiculous performance" at Akron's camp. Shortly thereafter, J.D. Brookhart offered him a scholarship, and Bizzarro accepted.
Bob Lichtenfels of Scout.com says Bizzarro is a sleeper, hidden in a run-oriented offense at McDowell High School in Erie, Pa. As a junior, Bizzarro caught only 15 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns.
Bizzarro is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. It does not appear he had other scholarship offers.
The media picked Akron to finish third in the MAC East, behind Buffalo and Temple.
Central Michigan was the favorite in the West. Following Akron in the East are Ohio, Bowling Green, Kent State and Miami.
I think the media did a good job in ranking the East. Isn't it funny how the power balance has completely shifted? Who could have imagined Buffalo and Temple being favorites, while Miami and Bowling Green sitting at the bottom of the division?
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