Many community members, including some Zips fans, have showed concern that investing in a football stadium is an unwise use of public money.
Those voices will be amplified if attendance is low, and the team struggles to fill the 30,000 seat venue. That is why the marketing plan for this season is so crucial. Akron has a unique opportunity to ride InfoCision Stadium's momentum in establishing a broader fanbase.
I asked senior associate athletic director Hunter Yurachek to expound on his marketing plan. Here is the Q&A:
On Thursday, I toured InfoCision Stadium and walked around on Summa Field (See, I'm willing to plug both major donors!)
Frank Horn, who serves as Ted Curtis' director of architectural design and construction, took Dan Kadar and me wherever we wanted to go. And we wanted to go just about everywhere.
Although an Ohio.com video is coming Wednesday, here are scribbles from my notebook. For your reference, I posted a rendering of the stadium.
Horn had been at the University of Akron for only two weeks in 2003 when he met with President Luis Proenza and Curtis, and they decided that it was no longer economically feasible to dump money into the Rubber Bowl. Six years later, the daunting task of building a new stadium is nearly complete.
We began the tour by walking through the lower level on the west end of the stadium (the west end is the side with the press tower.) I was a little surprised to see that not all of the lower level bleachers will have chairbacks. Only the middle section will have that luxury at first. With enough demand, it won't be difficult to add them. You will see that as a recurring theme. The designers built this stadium with a load of future upgrades in mind. Other examples: There is room for three additional luxury suites on the sixth level. Seating can be expanded significantly with bleachers on the north end.
The designers made it very convenient for disabled people to watch the Zips. There are multiple miniboxes for disabled people. These miniboxes (my term, not theirs) have room for several chairs or wheelchairs. And these seats are phenomenal. I mean, they are positioned at the perfect height for viewing the game -- between the lower-level seats and the upper-level bleachers on the west end. The miniboxes are in such a great position that I wonder if UA will sell some of these spots on a game-by-game basis if disabled people do not demand them in proportion to ADA predictions. Kudos to UA for such a compassionate gesture.
You pass these miniboxes when you walk up the lower level stairs and under the second-level bleachers. This is where the west end's restrooms and concessions are located. The designers made certain that fans will not be away from their seats for long when they need to eat, drink, or relieve themselves. There will be one concessions service point for every 250 fans. I don't have the Rubber Bowl data, but that must be an exponential upgrade. I was similarly amazed at the array of restrooms. Unfortunately, troughs will not be available.
We began to navigate our way to the top of the press tower. We could not use the bank of three elevators because an operator is still required at this point. However, the elevators will be very fast -- requiring only 15 seconds to transport fans from the lobby to the sixth floor.
The second and third floors are classrooms, which will not be ready until the spring. The space will belong to the College of Education's Sports Science program. The floor plan appeared to permit large laboratory settings. Large windows face west toward campus.
The fourth floor is the club and loge level. An open-air gathering point sits at either end. The university will rent this space for banquets.
The fifth floor houses the suites. One of the coolest features about the suites is their interactive television system, which allows fans to use the screen to play DVDs, radio, game film, feeds from multiple cameras at the stadium or instant replays. Users can also access the Internet or buy merchandise at the team shop through the TVs.
Horn was really excited about the windows on the suites. They implemented a state-of-the-art window system that does not require steel posts and minimizes viewing obstruction. I, on the other hand, was awed by the president's suite. It has capacity for 54 patrons, including a full bar and buffet. The amenities should grease the pockets of wealthy alumni who are guests of Proenza.
The lobby areas for the club and suite levels feature a great view of downtown Akron. The suite's lobby overlooks the club's lobby, so that the two levels can share energy and atmosphere.
The sixth level is mainly for the media. There is room for 52 writing press, which seems about five times greater than the Rubber Bowl. You would like to think that a stadium's amenities would not determine whether its team gets media coverage, but I'm telling you that the Rubber Bowl's media area must have been keeping people away. There are also booths for the coaches, television analysts and cameras.
We went back downstairs and over to the east side of the stadium. It is sweet and simple. The bleachers are metal to enhance the fans' sound. Underneath is similar to the west side, with loads of concessions and restrooms. Two locker rooms are beneath the concessions area. Three large light poles will stand behind the bleachers. Workers will affix lights to the west side's press tower on July 7.
The south end, of course, is where the scoreboard will sit. There will be a large grassy student area between the field and scoreboard. They chose to plant grass seed, rather than sod, because planting seed makes for a more durable surface on a slope. The students also will sit on the south side of the bleachers. The university has allocated 5,500 seats for students, and also the endzone grass. It's first come, first serve.
The southwest corner of the stadium will house the main ticket office. Ticket offices also are on the northeast and northwest tips of the venue. In the future, a giant team shop also will face Exchange Street.
About 10 yards past the north end zone is a training facility and gameday locker room. On gamedays, the Zips will dress in their locker room at Stile Field House. They will come down the stairs into the gamday locker room, which is more geared toward meetings and pregame activities. The training facility has an two in-ground therapy pools (one hot, one cold). There are also four locker rooms for other university sports inside this building. Atop the training facility, there is ample room for fans to stand and watch the game. I can't think of a better place to view the game when one team is charging toward the north end zone.
Parking will be more of a hassle than people want. But this is the University of Akron, after all. Horn pointed to the bright side of the issue. He talked about the White Sox stadium being in the middle of nowhere, but people have plenty of parking. People attend the game, then go home. Wrigley Field, on the other hand, sits in the middle of a neighborhood. Fans stay in Wrigleyville for hours after the game. I'm sure the City of Akron would love for "Rootown" to stimulate its economy in a similar manner.
When we filmed our video, we had to be careful not to drag our feet, which would upset the turf. At this point, the rubber additive is missing. Soon, a giant machine will spread the rubber pellets throughout the field. Right now, it feels like walking on a thin rug that's sitting on gravel. Basically, that's what it is.
There is other information I'm omitting because I don't want to steal thunder from our video. I guarantee I forgot to mention other tidbits from our tour. If you have questions, fire away, and I'll try to answer.
On Oct. 24, the Zips will take a break from MAC play for a rematch with Big East doormat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
2008 recap: Aside from two upset wins over Louisville and Notre Dame, 2008 was a disgraceful year for Syracuse. The first warning sign should have been when Chris Jacquemain and Alex Allen combined for five touchdowns in a 42-28 home loss to the Zips. The biggest problem was a passing game with all the firepower of a wet matchstick. Quarterback Cameron Dantley averaged 118 yards per game and threw only 11 touchdowns in his 11 starts. The top receiver Donte Davis averaged only 26 yards per game, which is less than Dennis Kennedy's 26.2 receiving yards in 2008. Behind Curtis Brinkley, the running game was OK. But when you give up 414 yards of total offense per game, you'll get buried early and feel the pressure to pass. The Orange finished at 3-9, including a win over a Division I-AA team.
What they lost: Dantley is gone, for what it's worth. But losing Brinkley will hurt. Syracuse must replace three offensive linemen and four members of its front seven defensive players, including sacks leader Nick Santiago and tackles leader Jake Flaherty.
2009 preview: What's the best remedy for a pathetic passing game? The offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, that's who. Doug Marrone is the Orange's new head coach. Syracuse will get national attention because of its quarterback, Greg Paulus -- the four-year point guard at Duke, who has a year of football eligibility. ... Antwon Bailey beat out Copley High School grad Delone Carter for the starting tailback position. Bailey averaged 6.7 yards on his 33 carries in 2008. ... Arthur Jones will anchor the defensive line. He made a team-high 12 tackles for loss in 2008. The secondary has a chance to improve by returning three starters, but they were very poor tacklers last year. That must improve. ... The Orange will play seven of its first eight games at the Carrier Dome.
How the Orange will test the Zips: Syracuse has a bye week before hosting Akron on Oct. 24. The Zips will be coming off a tough road game at Buffalo. If Paulus and Marrone can make wine from the dirty water that was Syracuse's passing game, they will have a decent offense.
How the Zips will test the Orange: There are so many "ifs" about Syracuse that you would have to stack them up on their ends to reach a possibility that Akron doesn't score at least 30. To believe Paulus can take four years off from college football and dominate is ludicrous. And dominate he must, in order to keep the Orange's offense up with Akron's.
Way-too-early prediction: Syracuse's defense gave up five touchdowns to the Zips in 2008. The defenders tackled like a flag-football game. That defense lost two of its best players. Akron's offense has another year of experience. Barring a vast turnover disparity, this should be a slaughter. Akron 49, Syracuse 28
Dan Kadar and I toured InfoCision Stadium today. He is editing our video. I think you will really enjoy it. I have a bunch of notes, too, but I'll wait until the video is ready, which will be this weekend or Monday.
Akron is the No. 6 team in the nation, according to College Soccer News' preseason poll.
Coach Keith Dambrot will coach at the Cavaliers' free agent camp later this month.
After a long deliberation, the university chose to conduct a national search, rather than immediately promoting Hunter Yurachek.
Of course, Yurachek might still be a candidate if the search firm believes him worthy. A reliable source within the administration told me Tuesday that at least two other individuals from within the university have expressed their desire for the job. The administration is keeping an open mind for candidates with nontraditional backgrounds. For example, one of those internal candidates is not a member of the athletic department.
Yurachek, like every candidate, has strengths and weaknesses. He has made great impressions on those working with him. He is a hard worker, and his transition will be quick due to his familiarity. His weakness is that the athletic department has glaring problems in one of the departments he was overseeing -- marketing and promotions. Men's basketball attendance is low. Football season ticket sales are woefully short of the target number.
The university typically pays the search firm between 1/3 and 1/4 of the employee's salary. If the firm does not provide a candidate that the university is happy with, the university may choose to conduct a second search. The positive aspect of a search firm is that the firm nitpicks candidates' resumes, which almost always include achievements that the candidate did not directly affect. Not to pick on Yurachek, but GoZips.com talks about him "overseeing" the MAC Championship basketball team. The search firm sifts through the rhetoric and finds out: What happened at your old job that would not have happened without you?
Believe it or not, the administration truly wants to hear what Akron fans think. Please take the time to vote below, and perhaps comment on what qualities you'd like to see in Akron's next athletic director. A high-level administrator promised me that the university will keep tabs on the results.
University president Luis Proenza named Hunter Yurachek its interim athletic director as Akron searches for a longterm replacement through a national search.
Yurachek has thrown his name into consideration for that position, and many believe him to be the favorite heading into the search process. GoZips.com laid out Yurachek's accomplishments in a press release.
The Board of Trustees said alcohol is not to be sold at InfoCision Stadium -- except in the suite and club areas.
Judge Jane Bond, in fact, voted to ban alcohol sales at the entire venue.
Great idea, folks. This Board of Trustees builds a 60-plus million dollar football stadium, and then it says, "Oh, but legal adults cannot buy alcohol. It's what the NCAA wants." It's a symbolic gesture of what sort of chance the stadium has to succeed.
Fans will only drink more before the games. This isn't about preventing drunken brawls. This is about allowing the University of Akron to make a boatload of profit on beer, and to entice upperclassmen to attend Zips games. Kent State and Cincinnati do it. Stop thinking like a bureaucracy and start thinking like a business.
Congratulations, Board of Trustees, you effectively cost your university thousands of dollars. There are hundreds of methods to regulate alcohol consumption. Allow beer sales only in the first half. Heck, even limit each patron to two brews. We can make it work without an outright ban.
Luckily, the board gets to vote again in 2010, because they can't possibly make the same mistake twice.
Maybe each trustee can write the taxpayers a personal check for such an poor decision. Judge Bond can pay double.
The year 2016 is two presidential elections from now.
It is also the next year that Keith Dambrot conceivably could be looking for a job. Akron extended its MAC Championship-winning coach through seven more seasons on Wednesday evening.
Praising Dambrot is overkill around Zips circles. He is the most popular coach on campus since John Heisman. Now that he won his MAC Championship and recruited a top-50 player, Dambrot has silenced the last of his critics. The remaining challenge is whether he can build a strong fanbase at Akron.
The Board of Trustees also extended softball coach Julie Jones through 2012 and women's basketball coach Jodi Kest through 2014. I don't want to see Mack Rhoades tinkering too much with the next AD's coaching lineup, but it's hard to argue with those moves.
If Akron or Buffalo plays in the MAC Championship, their Oct. 17 matchup likely will have made an impact.
The Bulls are coming off the program's best season by far -- and that was before shocking Ball State to win the conference championship. After almost leaving for Auburn, coach Turner Gill returns with almost everyone except his excellent quarterback, Drew Willy.
2008 recap: Who can forget one of the most devastating home losses in Akron history? The Bulls closed the Rubber Bowl gates with a 43-40 quadruple-overtime win due to a misfired handoff between Chris Jacquemain and Dennis Kennedy. Before that game, both teams were 5-4. The Bulls won two of their last three to earn a trip to the MAC Championship (and Akron lost its last two). Buffalo's offense relied on three key components: Willy, workhorse running back James Starks and one of the nation's best route runners in receiver Naaman Roosevelt. ... The most stunning statistic was a plus-20 turnover margin (which was third in the nation). The defense recovered the most fumbles in the nation with 25. Aside from recovering an extraordinary amount of fumbles, the Bulls' defense was nothing special. It gave up a lot of rushing yards and the most first downs of any MAC team.
What they lost: Willy is a huge loss. He was a big reason why Buffalo's turnover margin was so wide. Willy threw 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. An inexperienced offensive line will protect the new quarterback. Gill must replace three linemen, including an All-MAC guard. The defensive line lost three starters, including Mike Thompson, who led the Bulls in tackles for loss.
2009 outlook: It might seem like Buffalo is stacked for 2009, but you cannot overestimate the impact of losing six starters along both lines and a franchise quarterback. Athletic sophomore Zack Maynard is the favorite to win this August's three-man quarterback competition. ... Buffalo's safeties are the best in the conference. Mike Newton is a hard-hitting playmaker. Davante Shannon is only a junior, but he has already earned First-Team All-MAC honors twice. ... The main questions are: Can Buffalo protect an inexperienced quarterback? Will that quarterback follow Willy's lead in protecting the ball? Can Buffalo stop the run?
How the Bulls will test the Zips: Roosevelt will have a huge game. Bet on it. He had 111 receiving yards last season against Akron, and that was when the Zips had a more experienced secondary. Starks also smoked the Zips last year (151 rushing yards, 90 receiving yards, and three TDs). Keeping these two out of the endzone will be difficult. ... Of all the matchups this year, Buffalo might give Akron's receivers the hardest time. The Zips will have to rely on the ground game more often than what is comfortable.
How the Zips will test the Bulls: Akron's front seven can create chaos in Buffalo's backfield. A new quarterback will probably fall prey to interceptions and fumbles because of the defensive pressure. On offense, a healthy Alex Allen should have no trouble prancing for 100 yards.
Way-too-early prediction: There are two great unknowns: How will Buffalo's quarterback progress? And can Akron pressure him? That's why I believe this close game will come down to turnovers. The tiebreaker is Roosevelt, who scares the living daylights out of me. Akron 27, Buffalo 28
The PD's Elton Alexander interviewed Jon Steinbrecher, the new MAC commissioner whose primary goal is to grow the conference as a basketball power.
I will be interested to see the result on this poll...
The ABJ's Tom Gaffney detailed Stevi Large's experience at the national championship.
Large's career is far from over. She says she hopes to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The team will soon name a new assistant coach, according to Jodi Kest on Twitter.
The Browns waived former Zips safety Bryan Williams today.
The Beacon Journal's story indicated Williams never felt comfortable in Berea. He was happy, however, to have time to find another team.
I'm a little surprised. I think Williams has the athleticism to find a niche in the NFL. Perhaps the next team will find a better way to use him.
The ABJ's Patrick McManamon presented the case for hiring Hunter Yurachek as the next athletic director: You don't have to hire a search firm. It will be a smooth transition. If he doesn't get the job, Yurachek might follow Rhoades to Houston.
As I reported last week, Yuracheck is the favorite to win the job. Since he arrived on campus, there has been an implicit understanding at Buchtel Hall that he would eventually take over for Rhoades.
My concern is this: Yurachek's current responsibility is to oversee marketing and promotions, among other things. And yet, football ticket sales are woefully behind. The basketball team keeps winning 20 games, and it can't fill Rhodes Arena or even the student section on most nights.
Obviously, Yurachek is not to blame for these shortcomings. They are longstanding, complicated obstacles. But can we say that the Rhoades/Yurachek regime has made noticeable strides? Is Yurachek a favorite for the job because of his well-rounded resume, or because he has great ideas to fix these problems?
I encourage President Luis Proenza and his chief of staff Candace Campbell Jackson to answer these questions. If Yurachek promises more of the same, I do not endorse his selection. If he offers new ideas, then I am all aboard (but I also wonder, what was he waiting for?).
Vincent Dorsey is writing a Zips blog for GoZips.com. Bookmark it. He's diligent and will stay on top of things.
He linked to this SportsCenter commercial that includes Zippy. I had never seen it before...
Stevi Large became the third national champion in school history on Friday by summoning the two longest hammer throws of her career just when she needed it most.
Large's two throws were each independently good enough to earn her the national championship.
"It does not get much better than having two personal records and a national title on the same day," Large told GoZips.com. "It really has not sunk in yet."
Large is the track program's second national champion. Christi Smith won the heptathlon in 2000. Large is also Akron's second national champion this season. Jenna Compton won the individual air rifle national championship in March.
Coach Dennis Mitchell said this about Large's feat:
After the much-ballyhooed games to start the year, Akron will host Ohio in its first divisional game.
Last year, the Zips lost a 49-42 shootout at Athens that would have made Akron bowl-eligible. This year, the contest is Akron's homecoming game, but more importantly, it will give one team a chance to position itself in the MAC East standings.
2008 recap: The Bobcats went 4-8 in Frank Solich's fourth year. It's probably not the results they hoped for from the coach they are paying a base salary of $240,000. The problem was turnovers. The Bobcats lost more fumbles and threw more interceptions than any other MAC team. The team was also pretty bad in the red zone. Ohio finished the year with explosive wins over Akron and Miami. Safety Mike Mitchell was a second-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in the NFL Draft (albeit a stunning selection).
What they lost: Mitchell will play on Sundays. Defensive lineman Jameson Hartke leaves an equally gaping hole. He was a second-team All-MAC selection. Tight end Andrew Mooney, another second-team all-conference player, was a good target. Ohio also lost three of its linemen, including second-team All-MAC Josh Leuck.
2009 outlook: The Bobcats lost several blockers, but the skill players return. At quarterback, Solich must decide between Theo Scott, a touted juco transfer who was hurt two games into last season, and Boo Jackson, who lit up the Zips for five touchdowns last fall. The passer will throw to Ohio's top two receivers from 2008, Taylor Price and LaVon Brazill. The running back corps of Chris Garrett and Donte Harden might be among the MAC's best. The defense returns its top three tacklers, including stud linebacker Noah Keller, but it must find a player who can plug the middle like Hartke. Garrett's kick returning will give Ohio an advantage on special teams. The Bobcats open with a home game against Connecticut.
How the Bobcats will test the Zips: If Ohio's offensive line comes together quickly, they are likely to charge down Summa Field on several drives. The defense will be reliable, and it will make Akron work for its touchdowns.
How the Zips will test the Bobcats: Under Solich, Ohio is 1-20 when trailing after three quarters. The Zips' offense has more firepower than Ohio's. If Akron opens an early lead, the Zips' defense won't need to stack the box. Pressuring an inexperienced line might cause some interceptions.
Way-too-early prediction: Ohio moves the ball steadily. Akron is sporadic. The Zips gain momentum after halftime and push ahead for a close victory. Ohio 27, Akron 28
Akron's next athletic director might already be on staff.
A source tells me that an early favorite to replace Mack Rhoades is Hunter Yurachek, Akron's executive senior associate athletic director.
I have talked with Yurachek a few times. He seemed like a good guy. He has made a favorable impression on many people at the university, as well. A few years ago, the university paid me for this blog. When Yurachek arrived, he asked me to market university apparel and events through the blog. Journalistically, I felt that the extra control would cramp me, but I understood his point. That's when Ohio.com stepped in took over.
My personal opinion is that Akron must conduct a national search. If Yurachek had local roots, it would be different because we could count on him staying longer than a term of Congress. If we are going to hire a transient, it might as well be the nation's finest transient. In the end, that might end up being Yurachek anyhow. Due diligence requires Luis Proenza to find out for sure.
Many fans predicted that Akron was a stepping stone in Mack Rhoades' career plan.
Few believed his stay as athletic director would last only 3.5 years.
According to the ABJ and Plain Dealer, Rhoades has accepted the athletic director job at the University of Houston.
Rhoades brought to fruition the stadium plan, which was only a rough sketch when he arrived in January 2006. His coaching selections have been wise; Rhoades' plan was to hire successful individuals who already had head coaching experience.
His successor will take over in the most crucial year of the football team's existence. A strong year will give the team an attendance boost that it may never relinquish. A sub-par year will probably require a coaching change. Upcoming projects include improvements to the soccer stadium and a new basketball arena.
After the jump is a statement from Rhoades released by the UA athletic department:
Forward Josh Egner of Jackson High School verbally committed to play at Akron, according to the Canton Repository.
The 6-foot-6 senior-to-be averaged 14 points and nine rebounds per game as a junior. He shot an impressive 59.7 percent from the field.
The coaching staff likes Egner's athleticism -- that he plays above the rim. His offensive game compares to Romeo Travis, in that he can post up but also play on the perimeter and drive. On defense, Egner has a long wingspan, which allows him to contest shots. The coaches see him as a nice complement to Zeke Marshall at the power forward.
Egner had offers from many MAC schools and some other mid-majors, such as Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His teammate, Mark Henniger, already committed to Kent State.
Egner said this to HighMajorScoop.com:
Men's and women's basketball
Starting next season, only eight of the 12 teams will have the opportunity to play a MAC Tournament game at Quicken Loans Arena.
The MAC's presidents approved that recommendation and other cost-cutting measures at their meeting Monday in Cleveland.
Over the next year, the presidents will discuss a separate site for the women's tournament. Toledo was the former site, and it seems like it would be a great way to ensure adequate attendance because of the city's proximity to two member universities (Toledo and Bowling Green).
The ABJ's Mike Cardew took some interesting photos from the work on InfoCision Stadium.
Mack Rhoades is back on the job hunt.
The PD's Elton Alexander reports that Akron's athletic director is believed to be in Houston, interviewing for the same job at the University of Houston. Rhoades is also rumored to be on a short list at Marshall.
I don't blame Rhoades for wanting to advance. The only way to do that in his industry is to keep moving laterally. He certainly has made strides at Akron and gained valuable experiences.
If he goes, I know a great replacement. He goes by the moniker, "Nature Boy." He was a finalist for athletic director at Akron before Luis Proenza hired Rhoades. Give up? OK. It's Mike Waddell, an associate athletic director at Cincinnati.
The webcams show that workers have begun to lay down the FieldTurf at InfoCision Stadium.
It might sound silly, but I think the turf will help with recruiting. It will start to look more like a pearl and less like an abandoned quarry. Players can envision themselves making cuts on the surface.
Recruiting is a big focus for football coaches during the summer, but Akron has not traditionally locked up many players during this month.
By the time Akron begins MAC play, it will have competed in three highly anticipated games.
Few fans will circle Central Michigan on their pocket schedules, but this game is probably more consequential to Akron's postseason hopes. A win would put Akron in great early position to win the MAC East.
2008 recap: In any other season, CMU's high-scoring offense would have been enough to carry the team to the division crown. 2008 was different, thanks to Nate Davis and Ball State. The Chips finished the MAC season at 6-2 (8-5 overall), with losses to Ball State and Eastern Michigan. The solid overall record carried the Chips to the Motor City Bowl, where they fell to Florida Atlantic, 24-21. The primary handicap all season was a pass defense that gave up 287 yards per game -- 33 yards more than the nearest MAC team. Despite the weak secondary, CMU notched 10 more sacks than any other MAC team. Just like the previous two seasons, the Chips' bread and butter was quarterback Dan LeFevour, who was responsible for 306 yards of total offense per game.
What they lost: The Chippewas must replace four offensive linemen. The most prominent is first-team All-MAC winner, Andrew Hartline. The Chips' franchise running back Ontario Sneed is also gone. Aside from those players, CMU returns 18 starters, including 10 out of 11 on defense.
2009 outlook: It might sound like CMU's rushing game will suffer because it must replace a running back and four offensive linemen. The truth is, LeFevour was the Chips' best runner, not Sneed. CMU's recruiting classes have been stellar, so there is no doubt the offensive line will reload. LeFevour is a preseason All-American, according to Phil Steele. The senior quarterback will have two first-team All-MAC receivers in Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson. The defense still must shore up the secondary if the Chips hope to make an impact like Ball State in 2008. It will rely on its best defensive playmakers: defensive end Frank Zombo and middle linebacker Nick Bellore.
How the Chips will test the Zips: Central Michigan was 5-1 in games decided by three or fewer points in 2008. By contrast, Akron repeatedly invented new ways to lose games in crunch time. If it's a close game, one team will have a confidence advantage. ... Akron's weakness likely will be pass defense -- at least early in the season. There won't be many offenses in the nation capable of scoring through the air like CMU. In that regard, this game could be as difficult as playing Penn State.
How the Zips will test the Chips: Akron can throw the ball, too. If the Zips limit turnovers, then there is no reason why they can't match CMU touchdown-for-touchdown. ... If CMU's inexperienced offensive line falters, the Zips can bother LeFevour (although chasing the mobile quarterback out of the pocket isn't necessarily the best idea).
Way-too-early prediction: Akron will fall behind early before catching a rhythm on offense. LeFevour and the Chips never look back. Akron 35, CMU 49
Three Zips earned at-large berths to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Stevi Large and Valerie Wert will compete in the women's hammer throw. Wert is an at-large participant. Carrie Kayes and Mike McCall earned the other at-large bids in the women's pole vault and men's high jump, respectively. Daniel Kinsey automatically qualified for the decathlon.
The New York Times ranks Akron as its No. 93 team in the nation.
The author did a thorough job at researching the team. It's hard to argue with his thesis that the team has big talent and big problems closing games. I dispute the conclusion that one "can't see the team doing better than 6-6."