One major goal of spring football was to decide who would take over for Luke Getsy as quarterback.
If anything, the battle became more misty. Frontrunner Carlton Jackson had a very mediocre spring, which was broken up by an early concussion. Chris Jacquemain, last year's third-stringer, suffered an early shoulder injury and returned to move the offense impressively. Sean Hakes benefitted from his competitors' injuries by getting a lot more snaps than he would have; he showed some terrific ability, yet committed some colossal errors.
This is a crucial decision for J.D. Brookhart because it will determine the team's offensive leader for the next three or four years. In April, I wrote Hakes should be the choice. My reasoning is that he has a higher ceiling than Jacquemain, fewer character issues than Jackson and one year more of eligibility than both.
With three qualified candidates, don't be surprised to see one or both of the losers to change positions or transfer. And that's not to mention touted true freshman Matt Rodgers, who will join the team in July. A friend joked to me: "Wouldn't it be funny if Brookhart said, 'Forget you guys. We're going with Rodgers.' " I suppose the humor would depend on your perspective.
Anyhow, the quarterback decision is very important. I really don't think Akron can go wrong (unless Jackson's character issues are worse than I think). Although I endorsed Hakes, my hunch is that Jacquemain will start Sept. 1 against Army.
Here are some recruiting notes I dug up from Rivals.com, starting with a new offer...
This is a slow time for Zips sports.
Except for the NCAA track championships next week, there is nothing going on. Recruiting is quiet, too.
In the next few days, I'll be breaking down the football team, however, position by position.
In the mean time, there are rumors I'm working to confirm or dispell about top receivers David Harvey and Jermaine Lindsey possibly being academically ineligible.
Tomorrow, I'll talk a little about the quarterbacks.
I can't remember the last time Akron went after a player in Michigan.
First, the talent isn't all that great up there, compared to Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. Second, there's about a bajillion colleges that will fight the Zips on each one.
Anyhow, here are three new scholarship offers, including one from Michigan.
In a regional meet that saw near misses, weird rulings and injuries, one bright point is that high jumper Natalie Sako earned an at-large invitation to nationals.
With Stevi Large (hammer throw) and Auston Papay (shot put and discus), that makes three athletes representing Akron in four events in the NCAA Championships -- the team's smallest group of national qualifiers since 2002.
"Even though we had our largest contingency ever and one of the larger groups in the region, unfortunately we came away with our worse showings ever at this meet," head coach Dennis Mitchell said.
There were some odd happenings that prevented Akron from having more national qualifiers. Crystal Goldsmith, for example, sat in a three-way tie for fourth after the pole vault finals. She injured herself, however, and the Zips coaches tried to stall a little to let her recouperate. No one complained -- not the official or the other coaches. A meet referee, however, stepped in an disqualified Goldsmith.
"That event was crazy," said Mitchell, who protested the call and tried to have it overturned.
The Zips performed well in the 4x400 relay, but were disqualified for a lane violation. It was a violation that officials announced along with the event's results, so the coaching staff had no chance to protest.
Further, Cadeau Kelley had a great leap in the long jump, but it was called a fault, despite video evidence to the contrary.
"That was a tough one to swallow," Mitchell said. "It was one of those types of meets."
Mitchell said he still is confident Akron will have a strong performance at nationals, despite the smaller contingency.
"The three we have going to nationals should do a great job," he said. "They are all veterans of the meet."
Tom Gaffney wrote a season synopsis of the Zips' rise to prominence.
If you haven't kept up on the team, you should read it.
Taking 23 athletes to regionals is impressive.
Having two advance to nationals is not.
Stevi Large (hammer throw) will compete for a national championship in two weeks. Shetook third. Crystal Goldsmith took fourth in the pole vault, but missed an automatic bid in the jump-off.
Large joins Auston Papay, Akron's lone male representative for the meet in Sacramento. Ryan Jones finished just one spot away from qualifying for the high jump. Jones and Natalie Sako, who both took sixth, have an outside chance at earning an at-large bid. Sako, with her high national ranking in the high jump, probably has the better shot.
If you're into team rankings, the men came in 23rd with nine points. The women were 21st with three.
The NCAA Championships begin June 6. Last year, Akron sent six athletes to nationals, and it very easily could have been more.
This is a pretty young team, so it's not really a complete letdown. Just as we're seeing in the NBA playoffs, experience is invaluable when the competition matters most. But in that vein, Papay has been to nationals before. He did not qualify for finals, however.
With a third place finish in the discus, junior Auston Papay will make his second trip to nationals in two weeks.
Natalie Sako finished sixth in the high jump, just one spot away from qualifying. She still might, however, earn an at-large berth.
Kenny Anunkike runs a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. His coach calls the Lewis Center, Ohio tight end a relentless blocker.
But it's all a moot point. Rivals.com is reporting 1) that Akron offered him a scholarship and 2) Anunkike already committed to Duke.
Other tight end targets include Johnstown, Pa.'s Mike Cruz (whom they won't get) and Jermyn, Pa.'s Justin Virbitsky (whom no one else wants). A fourth tight end, Demetrius Boone from California, has similar stats as Anunkike, reports interest in Akron, but has not received a scholarship offer from the Zips coaching staff.
I took a look at the players who notified Rivals.com of their interest in Akron. Thirteen of them have offers from other schools, making them likely Division-I players and possibly the next scholarship offers for the Zips.
Kurt Davidson and Doug McNulty will return for their senior seasons as All-MAC First Team players.
With these two guys in the middle of the order, Akron's offense should be a powerhouse. Like I wrote earlier, the Zips will need some young pitchers to step up in order for the team to be a conference contender.
The Midwest Regional begins
It's way too early to analyze or rank 2008 recruiting classes in the MAC.
In fact, only Bowling Green has received a commitment so far.
However, we can tell how many scholarship offers each team has made, according to Rivals.com.
In his trek through each Division I-A team, Dan Kadar broke down Indiana -- Akron's third opponent on Sept. 15.
You'll want to read it for yourself, but in short, the Hoosiers have great receivers and a speedy defense. Luckily for Dennis Kennedy, they can't stop the run.
Still, a winnable nonconference schedule and Big Ten season devoid of Ohio State and Michigan should make Indiana a bowl team.
When I last checked on Lance Jeter's status, all that was holding him back from being a Zip was some paper work.
Now it appears there is a lot more.
The former University of Cincinnati football player announced recently he is heading to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. He plans to stay there only one year while he gets in basketball shape. Then he's probably headed to Kansas State to team with Bill Walker and the rest of Bob Huggins' excellent recruits.
I think that means the coaching staff will have five, not four, scholarships to grant this year.
Here is a new basketball scholarship offer...
After a complete-game four hitter against Miami on Thursday, Frank Turocy is the MAC East Pitcher of the Week.
With a team ERA of 6.08 -- nearly a run higher than the opposition -- pitching was the team's weakness this year. The Zips' rotation should be stronger next season, despite the loss of seniors Billy McKinney and Pat Gliha.
Turocy, Zach Yike and Steven Zemanek -- all underclassmen -- should be anchors of the rotation for the next two years. Assuming he doesn't leave for pro baseball, Tom Farmer will return from injury as the team's ace -- and perhaps the MAC's best pitcher.
As far as the offense goes, Charlie Lenhard is the only senior. Kurt Davidson must be a preseason player of the year candidate.
I'm not very high on Pat Bangston's first two years as coach, but there's no arguing the team's record improved eight games in his second season.
In the aftermath of the Toledo point-shaving scandal, Kent State has banned its football team -- and even the support staff -- from Facebook.com, the social networking Web site adored by college students nationwide.
At Toledo, shady bookmakers supposedly contacted Scooter McDougal through Facebook. He went on to recruit fellow players to participate in the scandal where they were allegedly paid thousands for sitting out a game.
Several Zips players are still signed up on Facebook, so it does not appear Akron also has restricted its players.
This information comes from a softball teammate of mine. It seems reliable.
Miami shelled Pat Gliha in his final career appearance for eight runs in 3.2 innings in a 13-0 blowout.
The Zips' season concluded with a 23-24 record, as Miami also won 5-4 in game two of the series.
UA sports are almost over for this school year. The track team has several athletes who will compete at Regionals this week.
Frank Turocy allowed only four hits and one run in a complete game 2-1 win over Miami Thursday.
The Zips (23-22, 8-14 MAC) will finish their season with two more games against the RedHawks -- one today and one tomorrow.
I suppose an above-.500 record would be a decent consolation prize.
"Dandy" Dan Kadar previewed Toledo's season today.
I know the Zips won't play the Rockets this year, but it's interesting to know what they're up to over in the MAC West (besides point shaving).
Perhaps the Zips coaches are concerned their three current quarterback recruiting targets are out of their league.
Akron extended a fourth recently to New Philadelphia's Jordan Miller.
Jordan Miller, quarterback, New Philadelphia, Ohio Offers: Akron Height: 6-2 Weight: 207 Speed: 4.7 Notes: Miller only completed 47 percent of his passes as a junior. He acknowledges that as an area for improvement. He showed good arm strength and footwork at the Elite Skills Camp in Cleveland earlier this month. Rivals.com called him one of the camp's greatest surprises. Likelihood: Miller also has interest in Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. He has received mail from Big Ten schools for several months. His height and accuracy might keep BCS schools from offering a scholarship, however.
Dan Kadar, formerly of the Buchtelite, previewed Army's season for NewEraScouting.com.
From the sounds of it, this team is pretty bad.
They have a decent secondary and receiving corps but awful quarterbacks and a shoddy offensive line.
The Zips will play Army to open the season at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sept. 1.
This looks like a certain win for Akron. There are a few of these, such as Temple, Bowling Green and Buffalo. There also are some sure losses, such as games at Ohio State and Western Michigan.
The important games are versus Indiana, Connecticut, Miami and Central Michigan. They will determine the team's chances for a MAC Championship and bowl game.
Mike Jones, cornerback, Harrisburg, Pa. Offers: Akron, Iowa, Syracuse, Virginia and Miami (Ohio) Height: 6-1 Weight: 200 Speed: 4.42 Notes: Jones has family near Notre Dame, Penn State and West Virginia. He liked the Virginia Tech teams under Marcus Vick. (That must be a typo.) Likelihood: Luckily for Akron, Jones values academics and wants to be an engineer. That, and his interest in law could provide a boost to the Zips.
Reuben Johnson, cornerback, Atco, N.J. Offers: Akron, Boston College, Syracuse and Kentucky Height: 5-9 Weight: 175 Notes: For as good of a program Boston College is, the Eagles are consistently battling Akron for recruits. Likelihood: Both of these corners look like solid D-I players. If the Zips land either over a handful of BCS schools, I'd be surprised.
Jermaine Reid signed on to play with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
With the league's stipulation that favors Canadians, it's no wonder Reid, Jason Nedd and Jabari Arthur have long futures playing up north.
Eleven Zips earned all-conference honors this season, the most of any team in the MAC.
With seven of J.D. Brookhart's known targets for 2008 residing in Northeast Ohio and 11 more in other parts of the state or Pennsylvania, the coaching staff hopes playing at Cleveland Browns Stadium against Army will help recruiting, the ABJ's David Lee Morgan writes.
ESPN will televise the game, and that could lure in other high school players from North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia and Maryland, as well.
In the story, Army's athletic director says he thinks his team is America's No. 2 sweetheart, following Notre Dame. Kevin Anderson, originally from Cleveland, also believes the Black Knights can sway the crowd at Browns Stadium.
Sorry, Kevin. The next time most of America watches an Army football game will be the first. All I know about the Knights is they were part of the ugliest football game I've ever watched -- a 20-0 slop-fest at the Rubber Bowl.
Anyhow, I do like the Patriot Bowl. 1) It gives Akron more visibility in Northeast Ohio. 2) It gives the Zips publicity across the nation. 3) It's one less game sitting on those broken benches at the Rubber Bowl.
In fact, I applaud Akron's entire 2008 schedule. It's not really favorable this year, but it's smart to move the Indiana home game to 2009 when Akron can invite two BCS schools to Summa Stadium, or whatever they will call it. (Kentucky also is slated to come to town.)
It's good to think long-term in that regard. Consider the publicity the Zips will get in this area with a brand new stadium, third-year quarterback, two BCS home games and a winnable third BCS matchup at Syracuse.
p.s. It's good to talk about football again. I'm getting tired of this down time in Zips sports.
Akron added a final home game to the schedule.
Youngstown State, whom the Zips (21-22, 7-14 MAC) planned to play April 11, will come to town Tuesday before Akron finishes off its season this weekend at Miami (Ohio).
Kent State won this weekend's series at Lee Jackson Field by taking Sunday's rubber match in extra innings. Ryne Romick and Steven Zemanek surrendered a boatload of runs in the 11th inning.
Now that the team has no chance at the postseason, you are excused from paying attention.
Akron extended an offer to Okechuckwu Okoroha, a safety from Maryland.
Forget three times fast, just say his name once if you can.
Okoroha has several offers, including one from Penn State, which made him cry in happiness upon receiving it.
I don't expect Akron will beat out the Nittany Lions, along with Boston College and Virginia for the 6-foot, 180-pound prospect, although he only runs a 4.8 in the 40-yard dash.
It's hard to be disappointed when a team makes history, but the men's track team came close.
The Zips held a strangle hold on the MAC Championship heading into the final event, the 4 x 400 relay.
All Akron needed was a second-place finish in the event to clinch the title. They took third, allowing Eastern Michigan sneak to the top of the podium by one point.
"The 4 x 400 was as exciting as a sporting event could go," coach Dennis Mitchell said. "We were very confident with our team. Going down the last home stretch it looked like we would at least get Kent and win the meet. However, Kent's anchor leg came alive just to edge our top 400 runner James Howell at the line."
It really wasn't a choke job by the Zips either. The top three relay teams, including Akron's, qualified for NCAA Regionals with their times in the finals. Akron even set a new school record.
"Unfortunately, it was not enough," Mitchell said. "This is an extremely hard one to swallow."
In the end, Kent State played spoiler by taking second in the 4 x 400. The top three total scores were EMU (182 points), Akron (181) and Kent State (178).
Mitchell, of course, wasn't completely dismayed. His women easily took first, their fifth MAC Championship in six track seasons (indoor and outdoor). And if you combine men's and women's scores, the Zips blew out the second-place school Kent State, 335 to 218.
"I would have wanted, for anything, to put both teams on the awards podium," Mitchell said. "It is a wild thing being a coach of both men and women at the same time. (EMU has separate men's and women's staffs). Unless you win both, you always feel like you have lost in some way."
Fellow coaches did not think Mitchell lost at all. They named him Women's Coach of the Year. His star thrower Stevi Large was Women's Field Athlete of the Year.
"It is a big roller coaster ride -- three days, all day of super intensity," the coach said. "It is amazing, with the heat, people were not collapsing right and left. Instead there were great performances after great performances."
The season is not complete. Twenty-three athletes will head to NCAA Regionals at Colombia, Mo., for a combined 48 events. They are...
If not for one measley point, Akron's men would have joined the women as MAC Champions.
Still, it was the highest finish ever for the men, and the fifth championship in the last six track seasons for the women.
Akron's Dennis Mitchell earned the Women's Coach of the Year Award. Stevi Large was the Women's Outdoor Athlete of the Year.
The women extended a two-point lead they held after day two to a 19-point trouncing of second-place Western Michigan. The men nearly completed a comeback after being in third place early in the weekend. Eastern Michigan (182 points) edged the Zips by one point in a three-team race that Kent State (178) was in, as well.
The men's title came down to the final event of the weekend -- the 4x400 relay, which the Eagles won by nine-tenths of a second over Akron's foursome.
Natalie Sako helped the Zips mount their lead by winning the high jump conference championship.
I plan to have more on this tomorrow.
After day two of the MAC Championships, Akron's men moved to second place while the women retained their hold on first.
Among the highlights were Cadeau Kelley taking first in the long jump and Auston Papay setting a school record in the shot put.
The men trail Kent State by 17 points. The women lead Buffalo by 15.
The Sporting News mentioned J.D. Brookhart in its list of the top five coaches who are 45 and younger.
The magazine also said Brookhart is the 17th-best non-BCS coach.
The MAC added Hartwick College to the conference for only this sport to take the place of the departing IPFW.
This will put the number of teams at six and retain the MAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
J.D. Brookhart quietly shifted some positions around on his coaching staff.
Mauro Monz takes over as director of football operations, the job previously held by Reno Ferri, who is now the wide receivers coach.
Click on the above link for the new assignments.
Stevi Large led the Zips women with a new MAC record in the hammer throw. They lead after the first day of the conference championships while the men sit in third.
The women also racked up major points in the pole vault, taking first, second and fourth in the specialty event of head coach Dennis Mitchell.
Kent State (47) and Central Michigan (35) pace the seven-team men's field. Akron trails with 23 points. On the women's side, the standings go Akron (35), Ohio (17) and Toledo (13).
As the Zips coaches enter the summer recruiting season, they have a larger task ahead than most years.
They will grant four scholarships. The level of success Akron has in bringing in its top targets -- or more importantly, players who fit in Keith Dambrot's system -- could determine the team's success from 2009 to 2013.
That's not to mention that the team will need to replace Nick Dials, Jeremiah Wood, Cedrick Middleton and Quade Milum.
"2008 is a big year for us," assistant coach Jeff Boals said this morning. "After we lose that class, we'll be pretty young.
Akron has a database of a couple hundred high school juniors, broken down into three lists (A, B and C).
"Out of that class, we''ll probably bring in two guards and two power forwards or big kids," Boals said. "We just try to identify the guys we really want."
Per NCAA policy, coaches cannot discuss players they are recruiting until the player signs a letter of intent. The two major recruiting sites, however, say Akron already has extended six scholarship offers.
UA sent out a press release about the inaugural Patriot Bowl between Akron and Army Sept. 1 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
For the most part, it was big-wigs saying how great it is. It struck me as odd how the authorities expect 30,000-plus fans in attendance.
When the teams played in 2005 at the Rubber Bowl, only 12,203 showed up.
GoZips.com recently profiled senior outfielder Charlie Lenhard.
Akron will wrap up its home schedule this weekend versus Kent State. Lenhard talks about that rivalry's importance to him.
I'm trying to get ahold of the coaching staff to see how the offseason is going.
I'll have that soon hopefully.
Do you like college football but wish you could be a bit more knowledgeable about the national scene?
Dan Kadar, formerly of the Buchtelite, has a college football blog, and he is breaking down each Bowl Division team in the next 100 or so days.
Kurt Davidson is doing his best to redeem another lackluster Zips baseball season.
The junior first baseman set a new school home run record today when he belted an 0-2 pitch over the left-center wall. It was the 29th of his career, surpassing Mike Doerbecker and Dick Duncan, who hit 28.
Akron still lost 12-8 to Ohio. Duquesne will visit Lee Jackson Field Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Akron capped a tailspin end to its season with a 2-0 home loss to Central Michigan.
The Zips (17-25, 7-11 MAC) had a chance to earn a berth in the five-team MAC Tournament but were swept in the season's last two series.
They tried to do it with first-year head coach Julie Jones, who I have heard is a disciplinarian to say the least. The team loses five seniors, none of whose names I recognize as being major contributors.
Akron lost this weekend's series with Ohio, with both teams dealing alternating blowout losses.
The Zips are 20-19 and 6-12 in the MAC after dropping two games to the Bobcats, one of the conference's worst teams.
Many Zips performed well at this weekend's Campbell-Wright Open.
Hopefully, it served as good preparation for next weekend's MAC Championships at Miami (Ohio).
Akron built a 10-stroke lead in the early rounds of the MAC Tournament.
The Zips had a few slip-ups. Eastern Michigan began to charge.
In the end, the Eagles (14-under) won the MAC by three strokes.
If there's a consolation, it's that the Zips (11-under) fended off Kent State (5-under).
Brad Wright gave the Zips a shot, shooting 7-under for the weekend. That was good for second place individually. Graham Hill of EMU was medalist at 11-under.
Who wants to win the MAC Tournament?
Akron retook the lead after Eastern Michigan dropped several strokes. The leaderboard now looks like this: Akron (-14), EMU (-13) and Kent State (-11).
Scores today have been considerably higher than the first three rounds. I don't think it's the weather, but it could be the fatigue from playing 72 holes in three days.
Eastern Michigan picked up a stroke on the front nine to narrow the gap to four heading into the final nine holes of the MAC Tournament.
The Eagles are 6-under on the day. Akron is 5-under, as is Kent State, who sits in third, 10 strokes off the lead.
You can follow the tournament on Golfstat.com.
Eastern Michigan cut the Zips' 10-stroke lead to five in the third round of the MAC Tournament.
Ryan Culbertson's score of 5-under was the day's lowest card.
The tournament will conclude with one round Saturday morning. You can follow it live at Golfstat.com.
Akron leads by 10 after the first two rounds of the MAC Tournament.
Four of the Zips' five golfers are in the tournament's top six, individually.
Leading the whole thing is Brad Wright, who is 6-under. Colin Clemente (3-under), Ryan Culbertson (2-under) and Blake Sattler (2-under) are close behind.
Ten strokes back, Ball State is in second place, followed by Kent State (11 behind Akron), Eastern Michigan (12 behind) and Ohio (14 behind).
The nine-team field will play a round Friday and a round Saturday to determine the conference champ. If Akron can close it out, it will be the first secondary sport that actually followed through on a promising nonconference performance to win the MAC (track and soccer not included).
The Buchtelite's Tony Bosma covered Akron's 2-1 extra-innings win over Ohio State.
His story also discusses what the Zips must do to earn a berth in the five-team MAC Tournament.
Tonight was my last issue to be editor of the school newspaper.
If there's one piece of advice I can give, it's to take part in your college paper. It's an unforgettable experience that teaches life lessons in leadership and how to work with people. If you're a student, I'd consider applying if you can write at all. If you're an alumnus, push your son or daughter to do it eventually.
It was an outstanding four years that I wouldn't trade for anything and gave me a lot of great friends.
Jabari Arthur and Jason Nedd were taken sixth and 10th, respectively, in the Canadian Football League Draft.
Cam Yeow is the highest Zips player drafted, being taken second overall in 2005.
Jermaine Reid was selected ninth last year. He is currently trying out for the Minnesota Vikings.
Zips coaches often have struggled to pick up the best prospects in the campus's own city.
One prime target this recruiting season should be Whitney Mercilous, a defensive end from Akron Garfield High School.
Lately, BCS teams have beefed up their interest in the 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect. He now has offers from Akron, Illinois and Kansas. Joining the list soon could be Arkansas, Indiana, Bowling Green, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Purdue and West Virginia.
The recruiting sites aren't showing updates for other city prospects whom Akron has offered, Larry Dawson (North HS) and Will Fleming (Hoban).
It may not seem like a big deal to get the local guys when similar talent can be found in Florida or western Pennsylvania, but it should help with fan support and building credibility locally for the Zips. Look what Dru Joyce and Romeo Travis did for the basketball program.
I have written about 150 columns in the Buchtelite to go with my about 300 straight news or sports stories.
Since I'm graduating in two weeks, here is my final column, summing up the four years of Zips sports I witnessed...
This is my last week before graduation.
In this final installment of "Rasor's Edge," I will be your guide as we reminisce through the roller coaster's hills and valleys of the past four years in University of Akron sports.
The ride noisily creaks to a start.
"Who's got the WD-40?" asks a smart-aleck Dru Joyce from the back.
To your left, you will see the building of a great foundation for the men's soccer, men's basketball and football teams. There is J.D. Brookhart and Keith Dambrot. They are signing contracts to become head coaches at UA. On the other side of the train is Ken Lolla, recruiting Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Ross McKenzie.
Riders begin to sense the train is about to descend.
"Holy cow!" former athletic director Mike Thomas shouts. "Is the coaster seriously going down there?"
(Heh. You have no idea where this thing is going, I think to myself.)
In Brookhart's first year, and Charlie Frye's last, Akron will be the only bowl-eligible team not to play in the postseason.
"Dang. That hurt my groin just seeing it," Dambrot jokes to assistant coach Jeff Boals.
Don't get too comfortable, coaches. This ride shifts quickly. As a matter of a fact, the men's basketball team will miss out on the NIT in Dambrot's first year as head coach, despite an RPI that almost qualified the Zips for the Big Dance.
But please nurse your bruises quickly, gentlemen. We are preparing for a steep incline. This is the fall of 2005. The men's soccer team will reach the ultimate regular season pinnacle: a No. 1 national ranking. The football team will shock the Mid-American Conference by coming back to score two touchdowns in the final minutes to win the title over Northern Illinois. Yep, that's right. Wee-little Akron is on SportsCenter and getting national publicity. There's Chris Berman, calling the Zips the athletic department of the week.
"You've got to be kidding me," a bitter Buckeyes fan says from the back of the train. "The only school in Ohio is The Ohio State University."
Jay Rohr and John Mackey, the most intense football players you'll meet, begin to growl. Concerned about self-preservation, the OSU fan buttons up.
Don't get too excited Zips fans. This won't last. As you'll learn, one of the themes of this ride is that the powers-that-be won't let this roller coaster reach too high. And so begins our descent. The NCAA gave the soccer team a nine-seed for the national tournament, despite Akron losing only one game. The courageous Zips will fight to the Elite Eight, but lose in a shootout against Maryland, the eventual national champions.
Thomas and Lolla unlatch their harnesses.
Sirs, I don't recommend…
Thomas and Lolla leap off the train. Their parachutes open to reveal logos for the universities of Cincinnati and Louisville, respectively.
Ladies and gentleman, we just lost two talented men, but the coaster will continue as planned. Actually, we're heading up. Welcome to the ride, Mack Rhoades and Caleb Porter.
On your left, you can see Dambrot leading the Zips to a 23-win season in 2006. This team actually got an NIT berth and beat Temple on the road in the first round, thus ending the career of the legendary coach John Chaney.
All of a sudden, riders on the train begin to stir. They anticipate the football team has a chance to be special in 2006.
I hate to disappoint you, but this team is going nowhere. Look to your left as the offensive line won't protect quarterback Luke Getsy. The kickers will miss extra points. Players will squabble. No leaders will emerge.
"So what's the damage?" asks Rhoades, the new athletic director.
(Gulp.) Five and seven, including a blowout at the hands of Kent State.
But please remain in your seats. Don't follow your colleagues off the rollercoaster. Joyce and Romeo Travis are about to take this train to new heights. How does 26 wins sound?
The riders erupt into a chorus of cheers.
"Obviously, this means we're going to the Big Dance," a giddy Cedrick Middleton says with a giant grin consuming his face.
Ced, you're not going to like this. But take a look to your right. That is you clanking a free throw with 6.6 seconds left in the MAC Championship. After Miami's Doug Penno banks in a 3-pointer, the Zips' two-point lead will turn into the most disastrous defeat in tournament history. And no, Cedrick, the NCAA Tournament did not invite Akron. (Gulp.) … Neither did the NIT.
"That's utter bull----," Dambrot says as he loosens his harness.
I know, I know. Try to sit tight, coach.
The other riders slip out of their seatbelts, too.
Rather than taking the plunge, the riders crawl across the train to console Middleton, Dambrot and the team.
Dozens of fans write letters to the selection committees and the MAC, decrying the injustice. About 700 fans plan to meet for a postseason pep rally to give the Zips a proper sendoff.
Rhoades leans over to Dambrot and pulls out his university checkbook. "You mean so much to us," he says, as he rewrites the coach's contract.
Fans alternate chanting, "Rom-e-ooooooh!" and "Let's go Zips!" The school's spirit is higher than ever.
I hate to stop the party, but you must return to your seats. This train is going up again.
You'll never believe the view.
As you might expect to hear from a coach who lost a tournament by one stroke, Tom Porten blamed putting for Akron's second-place finish at the FirstEnergy Intercollegiate.
The team is still going strong heading into the MAC Tournament, which begins Wednesday in Westerville, Ohio.
The Buchtelite's Tony Bosma wrote an interesting feature about coach Dennis Mitchell, who built up a rotten program to one of the nation's elite during his 11 years at the helm.
The Buchtelite's Vincent Dorsey wrote about Andy Alleman's reaction to being drafted by the Saints.
On Sportscenter, Mel Kiper Jr. just said Alleman could be a factor on New Orleans' offensive line soon.