Kent State - Akron Rivalry Heats Up Print E-mail
Written by David Carducci   
Thursday, January 24 2008
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Akron head coach Keith Dambrot and Kent State head coach Jim Christian
To any of the 6,516 fans who attended Wednesday night's renewal of the Kent State-University of Akron rivalry and didn't march immediately to the James A.Rhodes Arena ticket window to secure a seat for the March 9 rematch, I don't understand you.

As I watched Kent State's thrilling 75-69 come-from-behind victory, I kept thinking of Leo McGarry explaining what it is like to be an alcoholic during an old episode of the West Wing.

"I don't understand people who have just one drink," the fictional chief of staff said. "I don't understand people who say they've had enough. How can you have enough of feeling like this? How can you not want to feel like this longer?"

Like McGarry's character, my brain works a little differently.

I don't understand not wanting to watch Kent State and Akron battle just a little more and then a little more after that.

Some fans don't understand just how lucky they are to have two such talented college teams separated by such a short distance. The Kent State-Akron rivalry has become the North Carolina-Duke of the mid-major level.

After Wednesday's game, the upcoming run through the Mid-American Conference's West Division and February's renewal of other East Division rivalries are just filler until these two teams meet again to close the regular season. And hopefully, the stars are finally aligned enough to give us the Kent State-Akron MAC championship game the league and area fans have dreamed about since the MAC moved its tournament to Cleveland in 2000.


KSU's Jordan Mincy is separated from Akron's Nick Dials.

Yes, Wednesday's game was marred a bit by the scuffle that broke out on the sideline opposite the Kent State bench with five seconds to play. But it wasn't enough to spoil the night the way some have suggested.

I agree with Akron coach Keith Dambrot, who reminded us, "the NBA guys can't even control themselves and they make all that money."

"I think our kids respect their kids. I think their kids respect ours. It was a heat of the moment thing in which young people sometimes lose their composure. I think everybody should be forgiven."

After fighting tooth and nail against your rival for 39 bitter minutes and 55 seconds, tempers will sometimes flare. But all involved still managed to keep their heads enough to avoid throwing a punch.

It's just one more moment that will make the Mar. 9 rematch all the more interesting.

I'm sure all the players on both teams will have the shoving match in the back of their heads when they take the floor in Akron that night.

Kent State will probably still harbor hard feelings over comments by Akron's Jeremiah Wood, who compared the Flashes previous three-game losing streak in the rivalry to a series of chess matches that fostered "mental problems" in KSU's players.

Akron players will probably find motivation in Haminn Quaintance's post-game response to Wood's comments. Instead of shaking hands with the Zips, "Q" hopped down the line, grinning and repeating "check mate, check mate."

It's all a little childish and silly, but even Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky used some petty gamesmanship to spice up their rivalry when they met in Iceland in1972. Fortunately for Kent State and Akron fans, they don't have to wait 30 years for the rematch the way chess enthusiasts did for Fischer and Spassky.

David Carducci writes for the Record-Courier and has covered Kent State and the Mid-American Conference for several seasons.

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