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Why I'm a Fan of MACtion: Coaches and athletes make the experience

It's been a journey of more than 20 years for me on the road to loving MACtion. I wouldn't trade a day of it.

Sage Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

As one of the oldest contributors to this blog, I suppose it is fitting that my task here is to bat lead-off. My journey. My journey down the path of MAC fandom began before many of my contemporaries were even born.

I was born and raised in the south, so even though my parents were both from northwest Ohio, the heart of MAC country, I knew very little about the MAC and her sister mid-major conferences as a youngster. After graduating college in 1994, I decided to attend college at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. WSU was a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League), and it was there that my journey to MACtion finally began.

The Raiders played (and lost to) Ohio and Miami during my first year at WSU. That spring, I got my first taste of real mid-major conference tournament heroics when WSU's Delme Herriman sank a Christian Laettner-esque buzzer-beater for a 71-70 win over Xavier. As my time at WSU continued, I also grew to enjoy women's hoops through my coverage of the team for the Wright State student newspaper and radio station.

During that same time period, the MAC began holding championship games in football. This is where the train really got going for me. Watching guys like Chad Pennington and Randy Moss own December games in the late 1990s was an awesome thing. The 1999 title game, where Marshall overcame a 23-0 deficit to Western Michigan, was one of the greatest games I've ever watched. Remember that? Marshall finished that season 13-0 and ranked 10th in the country.

Soon after, I had a new reason to follow the MAC. Ben Roethlisberger is from my father's hometown of Findlay, Ohio, and Ben went to Findlay High School at the same time as both my brother and sister. Thus, it was natural to root for him when he attended Miami.

The first MAC game I ever attended in-person was the 2003 MAC Championship at a freezing cold Doyt Perry Stadium, when Miami faced Bowling Green. Believe it or not, I was rooting for Miami then, with Ben leading the RedHawks. Miami was the first team not named Marshall to win the Eastern Division, and they manhandled BGSU that night 49-27.

Of course, as soon as Big Ben left Oxford following the 2003 season, my allegiances flipped. My wife began attending BGSU in the fall of 2004, and our family became Falcons, forever. We rooted hard as Omar Jacobs led BGSU to a bowl game to continue an upswing in Falcon football that had been started by Urban Meyer.

Two years later, I dove into the pool myself as a Bowling Green student and began working with the athletic communications staff. In the decade since, my love for the MAC and (most importantly) BGSU athletics has grown exponentially. I've had the opportunity to work closely with coaches and athletes from virtually all of BGSU's intercollegiate sports, and those experiences have transformed me.

You want a favorite moment? Well, I have a laundry list of great moments over the years, but one stands out above the rest. On December 5th, 2007, BGSU's spectacular women's basketball team hosted #16 Notre Dame at Anderson Arena, The House That Roars. Anderson has been the site of some insanely great basketball over the years, but it was never more alive than on that day. The atmosphere was fabulous, provided by a packed house that was constantly engaged in one of the better basketball game's you'll ever see. BGSU ultimately lost that night, 86-84 in overtime, but it was a no-doubt great experience.

This isn't to say that I'm a strict BGSU homer. I love all things MAC, whether it's Kent State going to the College World Series, the MAC's representatives in the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, MAC athletes shining at the track and field national meets, or student-athletes doing great work off the field.

There are many great reasons to love the MAC, from mid-week football zaniness to our own maddening version of March basketball and so much more in between. However, for me, nothing speaks about the MAC more than the coaches and athletes themselves. They are what make the MAC so great, and those people are why I love it the way I do.