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Ferrise: The case against Akron's NIT bid

By mrasor Published: March 12, 2007

Men's basketball

Although everyone I've spoken with the past 24 hours is really upset, it's good to have a balanced debate.

The Buchtelite's Adam Ferrise outlines the case against the Zips' NIT candidacy. Of course, he also presents the obvious case for it, too.

  • Adam also wrote about the tournament and how Keith Dambrot felt about being excluded from the postseason.

  • My column is on page A1 today. I wrote about how bad the NCAA gipped Akron. I also wrote about what the school needs to do to combat it. As always, I'll post it below.

It's times like these I wish I wasn't smiling in my column picture.

In reality, I'm gritting my teeth.

I'm angrier than a bear who just had its pinky toe snapped in a hunter's trap. More p.o.'ed than Ron Artest at a fashion show while a Pistons fan paper-cuts his eyeballs. Hotter under the collar than Keith Dambrot after the Mid-American Conference Championship game.

Let me recap this weekend: Akron took a cheap shot to the groin. As it bent over in pain, the university took an uppercut to the chin with a sledgehammer.

If you missed the championship game, the Zips held a two-point lead with 6.6 seconds left. Miami fouled Akron's Cedrick Middleton, who banged his first foul shot off the front of the rim. Miami's Doug Penno drained a bank-shot 3-pointer to win while the game clock operator sat on his thumbs.

Whether the shot should have counted is iffy. It probably should have. Regardless, it was the most heartbreaking way to end a season you will ever see.

Yes, I said "end a season." The NCAA not only shunned the Zips from the Big Dance, but it also refused to invite Akron to the 32-team NIT.

I mean, who would want a 26-win team in the field? Who would want a team that lost its seven games by a combined 22 points? Who would want a conference finalist who lost out on an NCAA Tournament bid on the most bush-league shot all year? Who would want a team that earned several votes in The Associated Press and Coaches Polls the past four weeks?

If invited to the NIT, Akron would have boasted more wins than any other team in the bracket.

If I'm Dambrot right now, I'm screaming "What the (blank)?" to everyone from my bank teller to the McDonald's cashier.

What else can the Zips team do? A more difficult schedule would have helped, but for goodness sake, this kind of screwjob is unfathomable.

The NCAA has become such a money-hungry beast that it will accept two big-name schools with sub-.500 conference records (NC State and Oklahoma State) just to bolster attendance before wondering if perhaps the best teams should merit entry to the NIT.

In its first year of running the NIT, the NCAA turned the tournament into an old boys club.

Let's move on to the MAC, which isn't so much corrupt as it is incompetent. It chose Lamar Simpson as its head official for the MAC Championship game. He has all the vision of Mr. Magoo and the intelligence of a drunken Paris Hilton.

His ineptitude paid off nicely for the league after Penno hit the game-winning shot on Saturday. The game clock operator started the clock about 1.3 seconds late. So Simpson showed off his foolish decision-making skills by putting more time on the clock.

Let me break this down in plain English. When the clock starts late, you should consider if Penno had time to release the buzzer-beater. In essence, you'd be taking time away. Instead, he added 0.6 seconds to the game clock, giving Akron about one-third of the time Christian Laettner had to knock down a history-making shot after a full-court pass in 1992.

I don't know whether Simpson was trying to appease an angry Akron bench or if he's really that stupid.

It doesn't matter. Game over. Zips lose. And so end the careers of Dru Joyce and Romeo Travis, who deserve a memorable sendoff, not a kick in the pants.

This kind of treatment for Akron athletics is getting old. Really friggin' old. In the past few years, the Zips have come to expect a lack of respect.

In Charlie Frye's senior season, the Zips football team was the only bowl-eligible team not to play in the postseason.

In 2005, the men's soccer team was ranked No. 1 in the country for most of the season. They lost one game. The NCAA gave the Zips a No. 9 seed, which forced them to play on the road most of the postseason. They lost the Elite Eight game on a shootout to Maryland, the eventual national champion.

The men's basketball team also has fought through a series of snubs and low seeding during Dambrot's tenure.

I'll agree that you have to earn respect over a long period of time. But these instances are just plain unfair.

Face it, Zips. It has been you versus the nation, and it probably will be that way for awhile.

After the men's soccer team lost in the Elite Eight, head coach Ken Lolla got fed up and bolted for Louisville. You can bet that football coach J.D. Brookhart is waiting for a BCS school to call him for an interview.

I don't completely blame them. But I am pleading (heck, I'm downright begging) Dambrot to stick it out.

"I can't say I won't get to the point where I wouldn't look (for another job)," Dambrot said Monday. "This is the biggest injustice I've ever been a part of."

Coach, the University of Akron is your alma mater. I am certain you could have moved on by now if you wanted.

After this weekend, offers at bigger schools will appear more attractive. Please ignore them.

You already have built a successful program. Your bigger challenge will be to stand by the blue and gold as these setbacks occur.

Northeast Ohio adores you. And it won't necessarily be that way at a bigger school where media pressure and big-time donors will call for your head on a regular basis. Ask former Kent State coaches Stan Heath and Gary Waters.

Here's another challenge - this one for athletic director Mack Rhoades. Find a way to make this kind of thing stop happening.

Read some posts on The fans can't take it. The coaches are going insane. Some of Dambrot's most responsible players missed the team meeting Monday, probably out of anguish. Recruiting efforts are doubtlessly taking a hit.

Look for the first opportunity to abandon the MAC. The once-proud ship is capsizing with a league rating around 14th in the nation. Burn the telephone lines to Conference USA. Get us out of the MAC.

Even the MAC's associate commissioner for basketball, Rick Boyages, is realistic.

"The term I used with the commissioner is that we have just flatlined," said Boyages, who was interim coach at Ohio State during Nick Dials' year there. "We're stuck between 11 and 16 in the (conference) RPI. We're just solid. We're not great."

I love the competition in the MAC, but the respect it once had has waned to zilch. It will be a shame to lose rivalries with Ohio, Miami and Kent State. You can still schedule those teams for non-conference play.

Mr. Rhoades, here are a couple more suggestions to help UA rebound from a miserable weekend.

Announce that the university will hang Nos. 12 and 24 in the rafters during the Kent State game next year. Travis and Joyce, who are the school's all-time leaders in blocked shots and assists, respectively, deserve it.

Next, ask the board of trustees to propose a resolution at their March 21 meeting that the new football stadium will open in 2009 at the corner of Exchange and Union streets.

The University of Akron is nursing a broken set of ribs and a busted jaw.

It's time to fire back with a haymaker.

  • Here's a little snippit I picked up. My buddy Drew Prosser was playing basketball at the Rec Center today. He saw a few Zips players there. Prosser, who knows basketball probably better than me, said Steve McNees looks really, really good. He was the best player on the floor.
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