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Top 10 MAC Stories Of 2010

It's not THAT hard to pick out a list of 10. Really, it's not. You just start slotting stories where they oughta go, take a two-hour break, come back, shuffle some stories around, play Freebird on Rock Band 3, get distracted with chores, sob uncontrollably for three days, then come back and try to fit Eastern Michigan in there somewhere.

There's the secret. It still won't stop you from griping about this list, which I'm all in favor of: please, please, tell me where I went wrong with this list of the ten top stories from the Mid-American Conference in 2010. if that sounds like a dare, then you're just an astute person on the Internet, aren't ya?

10: No lead is safe: Rallies by CMU, Kent State in MAC Baseball Tournament semis

You might've missed these games the first time around. In the first semifinal, Central Michigan built a 5-0 lead through five innings, only to have Bowling Green score eight unanswered (including a 5-run eighth) to take an 8-5 lead. CMU would respond in the ninth inning with four runs to win 9-8.

In the other semi, Eastern Michigan was up 8-3 after four innings and 8-5 after eight. But Kent State, never say die, scrapped together three in the ninth to force an extra inning, at which point they walked off with a 9-8 comeback victory of their own. A much less boring championship had Kent State topping CMU 5-2.

Kent State quickly bowed out in the NCAA tournament, losing 15-1 to UCLA and 19-9 to UC Irvine.

9. Where's the upside? Weak NFL Draft for the MAC

Taylor Price, Dan LeFevour, James Starks, Antonio Brown and Jameson Konz were the only five MAC players selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. Ouch. Others, like Frank Zombo and Barry Church, were signed as free agents and got some neato playing time, but usually the MAC's good for a first- or second-round pick.

Unfortunately, there are no projected first-day guys for 2011 either.

8. The favorite son: Trey Zeigler picks CMU over larger schools

Our sadness about MAC basketball at a nadir in competition perked up with coach Ernie Zeigler's blue-chip son Trey chose to play for him in Mount Pleasant. Zeigler could've gone to Michigan, Michigan State, and even UCLA. But he stayed home. Rarely do high-profile players get so much attention, only to go to the MAC. A brutal road schedule and some curious home performances punctured some holes into the helium-filled hype balloon, but even fabulous freshmen need assistance.

7. X's and O's Exodus: Three football coaches hired away by larger schools, a fourth is fired, a fifth resigns

Jerry Kill to Minnesota. Al Golden to Miami. And then Mike "Michael" Haywood to Pittsburgh. This all after Stan Parrish was canned at Ball State and Doug Martin walked away from Kent State. Not to mention three new coaches at CMU, Buffalo, and Akron to start the '10 season. It was enough for us to think that maybe something was wrong with the conference that they couldn't keep any continuity at the head coach position.

In their places: Wisconsin DC Dave Doeren to NIU, Florida OC Steve Addazio to Temple, Ohio State WR coach Darrell Hazell to Kent State, Elon's Pete Lembo to Ball State, and Mr. Vacant to Miami. Time will tell if these were the halcyon days of coaching prodigies, or if a couple dynasties are at the sapling stage of development.

6. What got into that cat? OHIO mascot beats up Brutus Buckeye during the Ohio State game

This is a story about the man who would be Rufus the Bobcat trained all year just so he could get a shot at attacking the Buckeyes mascot. He didn't exactly go to either school, but all he had was a dream. Fueled by rage. Still, you want Charlie Cardinal in your corner.

5. Miami dedicates Frozen Four season to fallen team manager

Right, right, there is no MAC hockey. Try to keep your outrage in a mason jar; this one was worth it.

You could really draw three stories out of this one, but we're going to bundle them together. Brendan Burke, son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, was killed in a car accident when their auto collided head-on with another vehicle on a snowy Indiana road.

The story of Burke itself is pretty amazing, as one of the few openly gay men actively working for a sports organization, and how the team was pretty quickly accepting of his lifestyle. Of course, as a top-ranked hockey team, they still likely would've gotten to the Frozen Four with him dead or alive, but to score 10 goals the day after his death? That's gotta elicit some tears. Just some wonderful stories that stemmed from this tragic tale.

4. LeFinale: CMU beats Troy in overtime thriller in the GMAC Bowl

The end of an era in Mount Pleasant was annotated on January 6 when Central Michigan beat the Trojans 44-41 in double-overtime. Yep. And what a finale: it was the last-ever GMAC Bowl, who handed the mighty sponsorship torch to Oh, and Dan LeFevour's final game mumble-mumble four-year starter blah blah MAC records legend dynasty Chuck Ealey fire up Chips.

Look at the FBS records he left behind: the only player to pass for 12,000 and rush for 2,500. He's the only guy to account for 150 career touchdowns. So many MAC records (passing TDs, completions, attempts, starts, hearts broken, fevers induced) were given to us by him.

And then the team basically disbanded. LeFevour was drafted by the Bears, cut, and snagged by the Bengals. Antonio Brown went to Pittsburgh and became their return guy. Butch Jones started coaching at the University of Cincinnati.

3. Proof You Are Stupid, Football Edition: Miami upsets NIU for MAC football crown

A comeback, a turnaround, and a badly batted ball all rolled into one game. Just as soon as they became ranked, No. 23 Northern Illinois was no longer the talk of the conference as Haywood's RedHawks won 26-21 in the MAC Championship Game thanks to a 4th and 20 play which will be replayed in our minds for somewhere between a little while and ferfreakin' ever. Oh, and it didn't hurt that Miami scored early thanks to some crazy mad long rushes and matched the better-on-paper Huskies, yard for yard. It wasn't just one fluke play. It was just a damn good game.

This gave Miami a 9-4 record, one year after finishing a measly 1-11. They still got pulverized by AQ conference teams, but none of that matters; they won the championship, and others didn't.

2. Proof You Are Stupid, Basketball Edition: OHIO basketball beats Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

This should not have happened, but it did. OHIO finished 7-9 in the MAC and won the tournament as a No. 9 seed. They went into the big national brackety tournament as a No. 14 seed and just stomped on Georgetown 97-83. I was mostly stunned as Ohio coolly left the bench, shook hands, and went back to the locker room. There was no Cinderella dogpile. No over-jubilant coach fist pump. Just a woodshed beating, like they planned for this.

Postcript: Armon Bassett would declare for the draft early, play in the NBA Summer League, and make a pilgrimage to Israel. And you can still watch D.J. Cooper play in Athens today, although his team has been dropping a few weird games.

1. Zip zip, hooray! Akron beats Louisville 1-0 to win the NCAA soccer championship

Here's where the biggest story is rather inclusive; nobody in the national spectrium really used many gallons of ink or teleprompter lines on this story. But it was huge to us: at long last, a Mid-American Conference team is a national champion at something. That they triumphed over Louisville, led by Akron's former soccer coach, blew a hole in the Bigger School Theory. Caleb Porter built up a better dynasty in Akron, and in return the school signed him through the year 2020.

Received consideration: NIU's football season, Toledo losing the Little Caesars Bowl, rumors of possible addition of UMass to the conference, bar fight involving Boo Jackson and OHIO players, the end of David Kool's career at WMU, Temple beating UConn and not going to a bowl game despite an 8-4 record, Bowling Green reclaiming the women's basketball championship, that Akron-EMU double-overtime game in the MAC basketball quarters, decline of Buffalo football, Kent State's five overall MAC sports titles, formation of Hustle Belt Dot Com, and [your nomination here ______________ ]