Rita Ianello, the mother of University of Akron football coach Rob Ianello, died early Tuesday on Long Island, N.Y. No other details were available.
Funeral arrangements are being worked out, and Ianello is expected to coach the Zips (1-10, 0-7) in the season finale Friday afternoon against Western Michigan (6-5, 4-3) in Kalamazoo, Mich.
However, the death of his mother did lead Ianello to cancel his weekly press conference scheduled to be held Tuesday on campus.
The Zips are coming off a 51-10 defeat last Saturday at the University at Buffalo that dooms them to finish last in the East Division and last overall in the Mid-American Conference.
The Zips, who have lost seven consecutive games, might be hampered Friday by the loss of junior linebacker Brian Wagner, the second-leading tackler in the nation.
Wagner suffered a knee injury against the Bulls. A team spokesman said it is not an anterior cruciate ligament injury and that his status might not be determined until the day of the game.
With the game this week on Friday, the Zips will be traveling to WMU on Thanksgiving. The team will hold a short practice in the morning, takes buses to Kalamazoo and then have a holiday meal together.
The Zips will be playing a Western Michigan team that is in contention for a bowl game.
The Broncos are one of six MAC teams that are bowl eligible. Two others, Eastern Michigan and Kent State, could join them with victories Friday.
The MAC has primary agreements with three bowls, guaranteeing that three conference teams will have postseason spots. There also are four secondary bowl agreements, with MAC teams gaining entry depending on how teams in other conferences do.
So WMU would strengthen its case with a seventh victory if it can prevail against the Zips.
“We have a pretty good shot, but some things have to happen this week,” WMU coach Bill Cubit said. “There are a lot of teams on the bubble. It will come down to the wire. We all understand that.”
Western Michigan, which defeated host Miami 24-21 in its last game, relies on a potent offense led by junior quarterback Alex Carder and senior receiver Jordan White (North Ridgeville).
Carder is No. 6 in the nation in passing and White is No. 1 in passes caught and in yards receiving.
The early line on the game has Western Michigan as a 27›-point favorite.