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MAC football: Is Akron on the rise while Kent suffers a sharp decline?
Terry Pluto says the story of football at Akron and Kent may be one of age vs. youth – on the coaches’ part

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
Akron's three wins in football season equals their number of wins in each of the last three seasons combined.
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In The Region:

Kent State and University of Akron came into this football season with a lot to prove. Kent wants to show fans its big 2012 season wasn’t a fluke. And, Akron is trying to string together a few wins and fill the seats at its multi-million dollar stadium. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks with Amanda Rabinowitz.

LISTEN: Terry Pluto on Kent and Akron football

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Listen: Terry Pluto on the Browns big game against Bengals

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A tale of two seasons and a state-of-the-art facility
This time last year, Kent State was riding a 10-game winning streak that ended with its first bowl game in nearly 30 years. The University of Akron, meanwhile, was looking for just its second win in two years. But this year, just the opposite. Kent has just two wins so far on the season and a five game losing streak. Akron has won three games for the first time since 2009, including a win over rival Kent State. Terry Pluto says he recently visited the Akron campus to talk with head coach Terry Bowden.

“Any coach in the MAC would love to have this stadium. Their Field House at Akron is nicer than the field house the Browns have at Berea. … you’ve got all that going for you,” Pluto said. 

All in the coaching 
Pluto says the key to Akron turning things around is in an experienced coach, like Bowden. “He’s 57-years-old now, so as he said, ‘I’m kind of at the point in my life where I’ve got to make this work.' It isn’t like he’s a young assistant, never been a head coach before. So I’m guardedly optimistic this guy … can do it here because he’s got the facilities to make it happen.”

Pluto says he's been stunned by the sharp decline in Akron football, especially after the school built InfoCision Stadium. "Back in the old days, here’s what they would do with recruits at Akron U. They would not even take them out to the Rubber Bowl. … So they would just drive them by. … Now the new stadium’s in, they don’t use the Rubber Bowl any more...[Yet] those three seasons were the three worst football seasons in Akron U. history."

Kent State, meanwhile, has seen a sharp decline this year after coach Darrell Hazell left after two years at Kent State, “went to Purdue for a $2 million job, where by the way, he’s 1-8. A lot of these guys find out when they move from the MAC to the Big 10, it’s not so easy.”

“You brought in another coach, Paul Haynes, who had never been a head coach before. He came from Arkansas where he was a defensive coordinator. … He played at Kent State, he really wanted the job badly." Pluto adds: "My guess is you’re just seeing another guy where there’s a lot of training wheels."

Pluto says Kent State's drastically different season is surprising. "I thought Kent would win at least 4-5 games this year. I figured there’d be a drop off; they lost some of their better players. But I also thought they would be able to use that past success the previous two years. especially last year to really help with recruiting. Maybe some of those guys will come through in 2014."

A rivalry that matters 
But no matter how Kent tries to explain it right now, losing to Akron… that’s a real downer for them just as it’s ahuge boost for  Akron’s program.

"In my mind, it will be fun to watch the older Terry Bowden vs. young Paul Haynes and see which of these two guys the next couple years can get their guys at least winning half their games or more."

Listener Comments:

It's called The University of Akron and not "Akron U". It was never called Akron U.

Posted by: Terry on November 14, 2013 1:11AM
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