Turn-around not easy in college

Sean Ammerman

With the first half of the season gone, the Kent State football team is now enjoying a week of much-deserved rest.

The Flashes are entering the strategically-placed mid-season bye with a superb, if not remarkable, 5-2 record, their best after seven games since 1987.

Their success is still mystifying the Mid-American Conference, which was used to the Flashes’ legacy of losing. So far, Kent State has outscored its MAC opponents 131-46.

The vast improvement is now the talk of the campus, but a one-year turn-around like Kent State’s isnt unheard of in the conference. Last season, Western Michigan went 7-4 after winning only one game the year before.

No doubt Kent State coach Doug Martin took notes on the Broncos’ redemption, which was led by wide reciever and MAC Player of the Year Greg Jennings. This season Kent State is getting the help from a wide reciever as well, Najah Pruden, who is an early candidate for player of the year.

The Broncos have continued to win this year, and they are currently second in the MAC West Division with a 4-2 overall record.

Since there have been two recent turn-arounds, one might assume this type of record reversal is commonplace in the MAC.

Actually, it isn’t.

Aside from the last two seasons, teams rarely have jumped more than three spots in the standings in a year. Dividing the conference into divisions nine years ago made it easier, but a college team doing a complete 180 is still pretty difficult.

Football fans should be reminded that this isn’t the NFL, where there’s a free agency, trading and a salary cap, which gives virtually every team a chance to win. This is the NCAA, where good teams take years of quality recruiting. It takes time to develop a good organization that will attract athletes coming out of high school.

Kent State coach Doug Martin is on the verge completing a miracle. A good year like this can only build success in the future, as an up-and-coming school is more attractive to future prospects.

Western Michigan, like Kent State, has a losing record in all-time MAC play and is trying to build up a new football culture. Last year’s turn-around earned Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit MAC Coach of the Year honors.

Right now, Martin looks to be the best candidate for receiving the award this year. If he continues leading Kent State down its current path, you can consider him a shoe-in.

But let’s not crown him the messiah just yet.

After all, Martin is a humble Kentucky native that would attribute the success of the team to his players and surrounding coaches in a heartbeat.

This was the season he was supposed to have last year after he led Kent State to a decent 5-6 his inaugural season. But when one injury and loss led to another, suddenly the Flashes were back to their crappy selves in year two.

No one is going to be convinced of the Flashes reawakening unless they make it to a bowl game.

At this point in the season, the Flashes only need to worry about getting soft.

Martin said the break will allow time for his team to get healthy. Sure, the time off is good to rejuvenate a team beat up after seven weeks of gridiron beating.

But let’s not forget these guys have won five straight. You don’t want to mess with a streak, and this bye week could have a side effect of making the Flashes lazy.

Contact assistant sports editor Sean Ammerman at [email protected].