John Green is an expert in human behavior, especially when it comes to politics and religion.

The interim president of the University of Akron is the longtime director of the school's Bliss Institute for Applied Politics, which is nationally renowned for its research and teaching, and is a senior fellow with the prestigious Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

But in regard to the $8 million in cuts to the athletic budget Green announced this month, he is being incredibly naive about human behavior.

He said he believes revenue increases at the football box office will make up for $500,000 of the $1 million that needs to be trimmed this coming year, a boost he attributes to the hiring of a new head coach, Tom Arth.

Expecting the turnstiles to suddenly start whirring after several decades of collecting cobwebs is simply unrealistic.

UA has brought in a parade of football coaches during the last 35 years, some with high national profiles, all of whom were touted as the solution to bad teams and horrendous attendance.

Let's review.

UA decided to get serious about football in 1985, the year before it moved up from Division I-AA (now called FCS) to 1-A (now FBS), and hired former Notre Dame coach Gerry Faust. With Faust's sky-high profile, recruiting was going to improve dramatically, the team would become a powerhouse and the Rubber Bowl would look like midtown Manhattan on a sunny Friday afternoon.

(Never mind that his fired predecessor, Jim Dennison, was coming off an 8-4 season and a playoff berth. In his 13 years, Dennison went 80-62-2 with nine winning seasons.)

Faust flopped. After eight years — and a record of 43-53-3, with only three winning seasons — he was canned.

After three subsequent coaches went a combined 72-125, Akron again tried to drum up interest by hiring another nationally known figure. This time it was Terry Bowden, whose resume included a sparkling 47-17-1 mark in six years at Auburn, one of the nation's most prominent programs.

UA sacked him after he staggered to 35-52.

Although Bowden had a couple of decent seasons — the 2015 team actually won a bowl game — UA's $62 million, 27,000-seat InfoCision Stadium usually looked like a 1970s Cleveland Indians game at Municipal Stadium: Pick you seat. Want a whole row? Heck, you can have your own section.

Here's how bad it has been: In 2014, the school recorded the worst attendance of all 125 FBS football programs in the country. The average “crowd” was 9,170. In a 27,000-seat facility.

Today UA can barely give away tickets. This year you can buy a season ticket package for as little as $60. Yes, 60 bucks for six home games.

Part of the problem is the area's obsession with that college football monster in Columbus, as well as the proximity of another FBS school in Kent, a mere 10 miles away.

Will this year's team come out smoking, fill the stadium to the brim and ring up a $500,000 increase in ticket sales? That would be marvelous. I'd love to see it. But it's not going to happen, especially in a new coach's first year.

The interim president also proclaimed that the goal of the baseball team will NOT be to make the College World Series. That program will merely aim to give students something to do.

And because the team will be focusing its recruiting efforts in Ohio, Green said, "People will want to come and watch their friends' and neighbors' teams play.”

Good lord. Sounds like a glorified rec league, not a Division I athletic program.

Again, let's review.

In 2015, out of the blue, former President Scott Scarborough nuked the baseball team, with its 143-year history. The next regime decided to bring it back in 2020, and attempted to get the attention of potential top-flight recruits by hiring a former Major League Baseball All-Star, Chris Sabo.

The hiring of a household baseball name was announced with great fanfare and lots of news coverage. But what is Sabo going to tell recruits now? Every baseball coach in the Mid-America Conference will have Green's quotes in boldface type in recruiting packets.

I'm pretty sure the family who donated $1 million to help renovate the baseball field isn't thrilled with those comments, either.

As at most schools, though, it is football that rules the sports roost. And football is the biggest problem.

Eight million dollars in cuts? Perhaps it's time to go back to the FCS division. Or maybe even go back to Division II, where UA football resided until 1980.

If nothing else, we'd have the biggest Division II stadium in the country.

 

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31