Hey everyone, welcome back to MAC Gems, the only column on the internet* that scours the web to bring you some certifiably cool MAC-themed gear available for purchase!
(* that we know of, anyway.)
We had a (self-inflicted) scheduling hiccup last week, so sorry for the delay! So, this week will be last week and next week will be this week, and then we’ll be right back on track. (Remember, folks: the first rule of time travel is that it isn’t real and the rules don’t matter.) This week, our theme is all things Toledo!
In case you missed it, we covered all things Akron two weeks ago and we covered the directional Michigan schools in a special triple-school edition in the long-awaited (?) return of MAC Gems about a month back.
Without further ado, here are the gems!
The Toledo Rockets made the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl thanks to an electric 9-2 football season which saw the Rockets upset Arkansas in Little Rock, as well as retain a national ranking for five weeks in-season. It was a season ultimately derailed by their own hands, however, as the Rockets lost to divisional foes NIU (32-27) and WMU (35-30) at home while holding a national ranking.
They made up for those self-inflicted wounds by boat-racing a nationally-ranked Temple team in the Boca Raton Bowl by a final score of 31-17, thanks to two Phillip Ely touchdowns (including an 80-yard TD reception by Cody Thompson), two Kareem Hunt rushing touchdowns and a forced safety by the defense. Now you can own a piece of that bowl thanks to this (what I assume is team-issued) pullover!
The beauty is in the details of this pullover, as the Boca Raton Bowl patch has a little rocket inside it. It’s a classic black pullover with two front pockets for carrying convenience and looks pretty good with any business-casual look, I would imagine.
The good thing about our self-inflicted wound is that instead of the original $38.36 with free shipping, it’s going for an incredible $9.59 as of publication time! That said, you can make an offer on this awesome pull-over if you feel like getting it for a single-digit dollar amount is equal to larceny, since 100 percent of the proceeds go to “Managers on a Mission,” a sports non-profit charity with mission focuses in Africa and the U.S. That way, you can do good AND look good all at once, no matter what the price.
Our second wearable MAC Gem also has a related thread with the first one, in that the 2001 Toledo football squad also had a cancelled FCS game and a 9-2 regular season record going into their bowl game. Just like the 2015 team, the 2001 team also held an AP ranking in multiple non-consecutive streaks and finished with a bowl win vs. a nationally-ranked squad.
The 2001 team defeated a then 11-1 nationally-ranked Marshall Thundering Herd squad in the MAC Championship game to win the conference championship for the first time since the 1995 squad which went 11-0-1.
The 2001 Motor City Bowl was the penultimate game in the Motor City Bowl series to be played at the Pontiac Silverdome, as 2003 was the first year the game moved to Ford Field in downtown Detroit, Michigan, which makes this a unique collector’s item.
The game itself was a fairly close one, with UT having to hold off #23 Cincinnati late in the fourth to win on a Chester Taylor 24-yard touchdown run with 3:23 to go to break a tie for the third and final time. Afterwards, the Rockets were awarded a #25 ranking in the final AP Poll.
The sweatshirt featured here has a classic late 90’s look despite it being two years into the new millennium (as most turn-of-the-decade wear tends to do), and makes perfect use of spacing, with big, bold logos and contrasting colors.
Crewneck sweaters are coming back into fashion, and for $24.99 with free shipping, you really can’t go wrong. The good news is, the seller is willing to take offers too, and as of publication time, the price was cut down to $22.49 as part of a sale. I think you can come away with this gem for $15-20 without much of a hassle.
Media guides are some of my favorite things about sports.
They’re a glimpse into a specific time in that you can typically sense the type of expectation a team has going into a season by the way the guide looks and feels. I can recall going to MAC Media Days several years back and picking up a media guide which was just faxed paper and a staple at a 45-degree angle. Not a lot of confidence there!
Another reason why media guides are good is because they contain everything you could ever want to know about a particular team in a physical copy. Sure, you can look it up on the internet, but that’s lazy and doesn’t feel nearly as intimate. Besides, some programs don’t keep all their information online.
So in a way, media guides serve a functional job beyond the time when they’re published. They serve as a de facto history book, filled with past team stats, player bios and the like, things that links online probably can’t serve as efficiently.
All of that is a long way of saying this 2004 Toledo Rockets Media Guide is a hell of a find. LOOK AT THAT COVER!!!
The 2004 squad went 9-4, including 7-1 in-conference to secure the MAC West division title and eventually the MAC Championship, the first to be played at Ford Field in Detroit, after nearly a decade of being played on-campus. This team featured junior quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (3,518 yards and 27 touchdowns), senior receiver Lance Moore (90 rec., 1,189 yards and 14 touchdowns), senior offensive lineman Nick Kazcur and freshman punter Brett Kern, who would all go on to long professional careers in the NFL.
Moore would go on to win a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints, while Kazcur was named to the New England Patriots all-2000’s team and Kern has been a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2017, 2018.) Gradkowski, who primarily served as a backup for his nine pro seasons, is currently the Rockets’ radio play-by-play host.
It can be yours for $14.99 with $4.31 expedited shipping, which is a fair price for something the public typically doesn’t have access to.
Need a glass or two to pair with your selection from the Belt’s Beer Garden? Well, look no further! These pilsner glasses feature the schedule from the 1999 season, an 11-game campaign which saw the Rockets go 6-5 under head coach Gary Pinkel.
These pilsner glasses appear to be part of a former promotional series through Food Town Grocery Stores, a chain of regional stores based in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio. As I’m not a resident down there, I’m unsure if that’s still a thing they do, but regardless, this is surely a rare find any Toledo fan would be happy to possess or use.
Best part? They’re $19.99 with fast-n-free shipping.
VHS is, by this point, an ancient technology. But in the mid-1990’s, VHS was essentially the only way to get in-demand entertainment, as cable and satellite were still in their infancies. Hell, the internet was largely inaccessible at that point.
So, enter the extremely niche market of retrospective documentaries.
This tape documents the origins and program-building moments in Toledo’s then-75 year history, with rare footage and interviews with former players and fans which is sure to be a wealth of information that any fan of Toledo or MAC football will find informative.
The 1992 team finished with an 8-3 record, tied for third-place in the MAC, and featured future NFL Super Bowl-winning linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Dean Pees as a third-year defensive coordinator after taking the job under Nick Saban.
The cover reeks of history, and indicated it was a product made with a lot of local love. For the price of $18.99 with free shipping, you too can own this rare and interesting piece of Rocket football history.
Did you know Toledo has a hockey team? Yes, it’s true! Well, technically, they’re a club team, but it still counts for something.
The Rockets play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division II, a non-NCAA sanctioned conference, and have a decent history of success, with 11 conference championships, and two national championship appearances, including the 1992 National Title.
It’s a team which gets by exclusively via sponsorships and donations, and it turns out, they have a shop on the team website which features the ability to buy a game-worn team jersey. Behold, our first non-eBay entry!
All proceeds go directly to the club team, and at $60 plus $10 shipping, you can help keep the dream alive for a group of student-athletes. Best part? They look fairly wicked. Be the envy of all your friends and invest in your alma mater in a cool and alternative way.
If you have your own suggestions for themes or gems to be featured, let us know on Twitter @HustleBelt or using the #MACGems! We also accept showing off MAC gems which are not for sale, too!