“It’s the game of the year. And something about it is not right. Not this season and not last season. When Kent State meets the University of Akron on the gridiron, it’s an event. But the last two years, the powers that be in the Mid-American Conference offices have not done it justice.””
It’s the game of the year.
And something about it is not right. Not this season and not last season.
When Kent State meets the University of Akron on the gridiron, it’s an event. But the last two years, the powers that be in the Mid-American Conference offices have not done it justice.
This Saturday is the rivalry’s golden anniversary game, but it comes at the wrong time. It’s the first MAC game of the season instead of the last.
The poor scheduling will cost this game its edge.
There’s very little build-up, a necessary ingredient to all rivalry games. It makes the game that much more important, exciting and intense when it’s the final day of the season.
Part of what makes a rivalry special is keeping tabs on the other team all year, so when they meet to wrap up the season there’s something at stake.
There won’t be any of that this year.
Even if the Zips win, what will it mean as far as importance to the season? Not much, other than getting off to a decent start in the conference schedule. There’s not enough meaning for a game that should always be the most meaningful.
Mid-American Conference commissioner Rick Chryst said he has been pleased with the way the rivalry in the 330 area code has been gaining notoriety.
So, instead of letting the 330 rivalry take part in rivalry week – when normal rivals play on the last week of the season – he purposely scheduled the game so it would fit with the conference’s new television deal with ESPN Regional. The game will be broadcast in about 22 million homes.
Don’t get me wrong. That’s fine and a good step to gain publicity for what is a very intriguing rivalry, especially as one or both teams is contending for a division crown every year.
Except there aren’t 22 million fans interested in the game. As the rivalry stands now, it is more of a concern locally than nationally and the conference has to accommodate fans accordingly.
Zips athletic director Mack Rhoades agrees. He likes the idea of two rivals playing later in the season and he’s talked with Kent State athletic director Laing Kennedy about establishing a set schedule for the game so fans can look forward to a late-season game.
Chryst said that is something he will continue to look at, especially when the new stadium is built.
In the meantime, UA and Kent State fans suffer.
Just look at the 2005 season. The Zips entered their match-up with Kent on the final day of the regular season needing a win to secure their first-ever MAC East Division crown.
It would have been exhilarating no matter who UA beat to earn a trip to the championship game, but it was more special because it came against the Flashes.
Last year’s basketball season finale was another prime example.
It was the final regular season game in all of college basketball.
Again an East Division title was on the line as well as the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
And again, it delivered with a two-point, last-second overtime win at Kent.
The players were elated, the fans euphoric.
And this year, regardless of the outcome, there will be very little of that.