“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.””
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 rollercoaster 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.