I am not a fan of the Kent State Golden Flashes football team. Nor do I hate them. As a matter of fact, they mean nothing to me. As someone that spends an awkwardly large amount of time following MAC sports, that tells it all. I have some sort of attachment or feeling about every other football team. And all the basketball teams, both men’s and women’s. And various other programs like Akron soccer or WMU hockey, even Kent golf. But Kent State football? Nothing.
Because I have absolutely no emotional connection to the program, I felt compelled to give an outsider’s opinion on what I think should happen, which is to just kill the football program. Here is how I came to that conclusion.
First, let’s take a look at their history. They started playing football in 1914 and promptly have done nothing notable since. They haven’t won a bowl game in their 3 tries and their sole MAC championship came in 1972, with a team that finished 6-5-1. And needed an all-time great coach named Don James, who turned Washington into a national powerhouse. And had a player named Jack Lambert, who was literally one of the greatest to ever play the game. Think about that: They needed one of the best coaches and one of the best linebackers ever all to go 6-5-1.
So there is no history.
Now let’s look at the current state of things. They are awful. With very few exceptions they have been awful since 1980. They just fired their coach and have yet to hire a new one. Sure, they plan on naming one this week, but what does that mean for the future? And that’s where this story gets really sad.
Without a coach being named yet, they are behind in the recruiting battle. So this new coach will have a few years to get Kent State back on track. It likely was never going to happen, but it’s going to be even more difficult when he is starting from behind. However if there is a miracle and he somehow manages this feat before the program turns into a wasteland of broken dreams, he’ll promptly leave for more money, just like the only coaches that have brought a tiny amount of respectability have in the past.
The way I see it, Kent is at a crossroads, and they have 3 legitimate choices.
Same old, Same old
This option, which they almost certainly will choose, is to half-ass invest into the football team, continue the factory of suck, and generally be a waste of time for everyone involved, from the fans, the coaches and the players. That may seem harsh, so I will break it down a bit. Fans, did you have fun? Judging by the attendance numbers being about one third of capacity, I would say that’s a big fat no. Coach Paul Haynes career was showing some promise when he was hired, and he certainly would have had better opportunities than he does now if he never took the job. Now let’s talk about the kids, because at the end of the day, that’s what this is all about. Sure they made friends and memories and all that touchy feely stuff, and they still would have if there was no Kent State. Because if they were good enough to get a scholarship at Kent, they could have just gone somewhere else and continued their career elsewhere, like some did when Haynes was let go. And if this new team won more than 3 games per season, those very same kids would probably have had more fun and made more friends and memories, like at a bowl game, something only 3 Kent teams in over one hundred years got to experience.
Invest and Improve
While this is certainly crazy talk to those in NE Ohio, one can look to Ypsilanti to see what this will take, and what it looks like. Eastern Michigan hired an energetic and talented coach, completely rebranded, and are dumping tons of money into facilities. This has already shown some promise, with the exciting potential of more to come. The Eagles had an average attendance of 3923 in 2012, which climbed to 17,677 in 2016. Everyone loves a winner, they say. There is some truth to that. But no one likes sucking, and 7-5, or even just that potential, gets you 12k more fans per game.
Just Kill It
Contact the coaching candidates and tell them you’ll keep the money and they get to keep their pride, let the kids that are currently on scholarship either go to another school or remain at Kent on scholarship, their choice, and just kill the program. Aside from a few sentimental fans, no one will miss it.
Of course that means leaving the MAC and opening up additional cans of worms.
Or maybe, just maybe, they should pick door number 2 and spend a little money. I am sure some of you will say, “but there is no money to spend, durr!!!!!!”.
First of all, I don’t really believe that, but let’s pretend that’s true. Find a rich asshole, name the new facilities after him and his kids, since he bought and paid for them, and give him access to the decision making process of the new coach, since he is going to pay half of his salary. You certainly aren’t going to sit and tell me there is a shortage of rich, ego maniacs running around, are you?