Army, Air Force Navy, Coast Guard and now Kent State

Brock Harrington

So a team walks into the Patriot Bowl, sits down on the sideline and says, “OK, so now what do we do, fans?”

The fans, in shock that an entire college football team has just asked them for their opinions, look right back at the players and whisper, “Win?”

I’m not sure if that’s how the Patriot Bowl is going to work. So far, there are a lot of things that I’m not sure of about the Patriot Bowl – featuring a game between Kent State and Boston College inside Cleveland Browns Stadium (with former Flashes quarterback and Browns’ Pro Bowler Josh Cribbs in attendance) on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Central Time on Aug. 30; check your local listings for ESPNU. (I’m almost sure that’s the athletic department’s official name for the game.)

Freshmen, all 3,900 future Brewhouse customers, are probably reading this and saying to themselves, “Why is the game still called the Patriot Bowl?”

I’m glad all 3,900 of them asked. The original Patriot Bowl was supposed to feature a service academy, or patriots. Army, Navy or Air Force was supposed to play a Mid-American Conference team for the Cleary Trophy. Akron defeated Army 22-14 in last year’s inaugural game.

The problem this season is that no service academy teams were free to play in the Patriot Bowl. So the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, which organizes the event, went to Kent State Director of Athletics Laing Kennedy and asked for help.

A few years ago, the Flashes locked themselves into a game with Boston College. The game was going to show off the new facelift of Dix Stadium. The season-opening 2008 game would probably be the largest crowd at the stadium since Golden Gopher fans came down for the Kent State-Minnesota ritual killing in 2006.

A couple of rubbed elbows here, a promise to draw 30,000 fans there, and Kent State was officially a service academy playing Boston College in Cleveland.

The school, whose students once burned down the ROTC building, was now tagged to play in the Patriot Bowl. Meanwhile, Eagle fans get to rejoice in the knowledge that they don’t have to Google Map search Cleveland Airport to Kent, Ohio, before they leave their chowder and lobster-infested homes in the birthplace of patriotism.

Oh, this is going to be good.

But there are some great opportunities for Kent State and the people who are getting lost in the scheduling conflict: Doug Martin and his kids, the actual football team.

Last season, Kent State had no nationallycovered football games. They weren’t even on local stations in Ohio for the Ohio State game. (Thank you Satan’s favorite channel, The Big Ten Network, with apologies to Satan for being lobbed into a Big Ten Network joke.)

This season, Kent State is on national television three times. Twice they play in the middle of week, and now because of the Patriot Bowl, once on Saturday. This is huge for a program that recruits heavily in the South, where kids eat, sleep and watch Wednesday night football.

Plus, the players get to play in an NFL stadium. Since the advent of high school games in NFL stadiums, most of the Flashes, and likely all of the Eagles, have played in one of these stadiums. Sophomores Brian Lainhart and Cobrani Mixon have played in Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati (not Massillon). Junior Eugene Jarvis has played in Heinz Field, in Pittsburgh (where “immaculate” incomplete passes are counted). Considering the several players Kent State has from the Chesapeake Bay area, I’m sure there’s at least one player who has played in M&T Bank Stadium, in Baltimore (home of the Cleveland Browns). This all adds up to Jarvis having more starts in AFC North stadiums than Brady Quinn, so he can’t be nervous.

The Patriot Bowl will be a huge success for Kent State regardless of the score. The game could be 30-0 and Kent State will still come out with some money. The ESPN coverage, regardless of who ESPN decides to send to the game, will be slightly better than the TV2 coverage of last season.

And if you want to tie it into more recent campus events, PARTA’s strike isn’t going to affect the buses scheduled to take students to Cleveland included in a $20 package with game tickets.

So what happens after the fans tell the team in a whisper to win?

I’m not sure if the team wins, but my money is on the Patriot Bowl and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.

Contact sports editor Brock Harrington at [email protected].