Kent State vs. Akron: your good old-fashioned rivalry and more

Randy Ziemnik

Let’s face it: You’ll never hear Kent State-Akron mentioned in the same breath as Duke-North Carolina.

Neither Kent State nor Akron can attract A-list prospects, neither school has the greatest facilities and neither school has consistently made the NCAA Tournament.

But both schools have die-hard fans, rich tradition and a deep hatred toward each other, which makes for a damn good rivalry.

Now, don’t confuse this meeting with the “Battle for the Wagon Wheel,” where two historically awful football teams play for essentially nothing in front of less-than- stellar crowds.

The Kent State–Akron hardwood rivalry regularly has MAC championship implications, physical play and a packed arena filled with rowdy fans.

A successful playing or coaching career at Kent State and Akron can be determined by the answer to a simple question: “Did you beat Akron?” or “Did you beat Kent State?”

Only the MAC championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament means more to these two teams than beating each other.

When these two teams play, it could be compared to a good old-fashioned boxing match, figuratively and literally.

Similar to any big-time fight, the hype leading up to Kent State-Akron is big enough to make the likes of Don King proud. From the opening tip-off, expect to see George Foreman-like hits and, at times, a few sucker punches reminiscent of Mike Tyson — just ask Chris Singletary.

The knockout punch, by way of a key 3-pointer or free throw, is usually delivered late, leaving one team victoriously hovering over the beaten spirit of their hated rival, much like the historic image of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston.

From a fan’s perspective, there is simply no better atmosphere than walking into the sold-out M.A.C. Center or J.A.R. Arena on a crisp winter day to witness the greatest rivalry in the history of the Mid-American Conference alongside a couple thousand of your classmates or rival fans.

When game day rolls around, Kent State and Akron followers simply can’t tolerate one another. Fans should be ready for clever innocent sayings like, “Screw the Roo” or “Kent Read, Kent Write, Kent State.” Clever insults packed with a few F-bombs will surely be thrown back and forth all game as soon as the liquid courage begins to flow through the veins of both student sections.

And years from now when you’re old and gray and your grandchildren are students at either of these fine universities, you can tell them all about the time when Kent State swept Akron in 2008. Or the time when a fight broke out in the M.A.C. Center and Jim Christian pleaded with students to stop throwing things on the court over the PA to no avail.

And that makes for a pretty damn good rivalry if you ask me!

Contact assistant sports editor

Randy Ziemnik at [email protected].