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Pluto: After nearly a decade of losing, Akron football shows progress
The Zips are off to a 3-2 start after slowly improving from three consecutive years of 1-11 records.
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
The University of Akron football team hasn't had a winning season since 2005. But in his third year on the job, coach Terry Bowden is turning it around. The Zips are off to a 3-2 start.
Courtesy of University of Akron
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The University of Akron’s football team hasn’t had a winning season in nearly a decade. During that time, the university built a $60 million dollar stadium and went through a handful of coaches. And, it saw MAC rival Kent State go to a bowl game in 2012. Now, Akron is starting to show signs of progress. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about a team that's gradually finding success after years of losing.
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The University of Akron football team last had a winning season in 2005, when they were 7-6 and went to a bowl game. In 2009, the team built a new stadium and posted a record of 3-9. In 2010 and 2011 they went 1-11. In 2012, the university hired Terry Bowden as head coach. His first year, the team went 1-11. But last season, things started to click. The team finished 5-7, but won 4 of 5 to finish season.

This season, the team is off to a 3-2 start. 

An experienced coach
“The story is Terry Bowden," Pluto says. "He’s now 58-years-old. Some people thought he was just here for a paycheck. He was in Auburn in late ‘90’s and even had an undefeated season there. Thatat fell apart. And then he did national TV for like 11 years. But he missed coaching. So he went to Northern Alabama, which is a Division II school. It’s making like $90,000 [a year]. And he was there for three years, had some winning seasons and now he’s at Akron. So, his point was, ‘Look, you don't go to Northern Alabama for three years if you’re just after a paycheck.’”

 

Pressure mounting to win
"The coach before [Bowden], Rob Ianello, was not very popular with the alumni and he went 1-11 twice. The coach before that, J.D. Brookhart, they had some internal problems in the program with grades and other issues. So this was pretty much a mess when Bowden walked in here in 2012."

Bowden has also recruited a number of Northeast Ohio players, like Cody Grice from Firestone High School. He’s a nose tackle who weighs 284 pounds. “Bowden discovered they were having trouble scoring in goal line situations. So when they get the ball on the one or two yard line, they bring Cody in, they put him in the backfield and they hand this bowling ball, this football, and he just kind of rolls into the end zone and he’s scored a couple touchdowns that way. To me, that’s innovative thinking.”

Building momentum gradually
"Something similar happened at Kent State in 2012. That’s when they were 11-2 and ranked 23rd. But the year before, I think they won four of their last five in 2011. It was kind of a preview of, ‘We’re starting to put this thing together.’ And then the next year it took off. Unfortunately for Kent, it was sort of a one year flash. But, this may be the year like for Kent.”

Will Bowden stay?
After Kent State’s 2012 season that landed them in a bowl game, head coach Darrell Hazell left for the head coaching job at Purdue after two years. So, Pluto wonders if Bowden will leave Akron after seeing some success here. “A lot of times, truthfully, a lot people might not want to hire a 59-year-old coach, which is what he will be next year. They’re hoping what Bowden will do for football what [University of Akron basketball coach] Keith Dambrot did for basketball, which is an older coach who comes with some experience.

What does 0-5 Kent State do?
Last year, Kent State's record was 4-8. This season, it's even worse so far with an 0-5 record. “Basically, you probably find your young guys if they can play. The old thing, if you’re going to lose, lose with your future. It’s a huge challenge for [coach] Paul Haynes. And I thought he was going to be in some trouble because a lot of those players who were on the team the year before had graduated or at least their eligibility is up. Now, it’s up to Kent State, if they think Haynes is a good man and doing a good job with the guys off the field, you’ve got to give him some time."

"Remember, Terry Bowden was like the third coach in five years. Which was actually a good thing for Bowden. It’s like they gotta stick with this guy for a few years. You can’t just keep firing them every other year.”

 
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