Along the Way: A festive, competitive MAC title game

By DAVID E. DIX | PUBLISHER Published:

"You guys nearly gave me a heart attack," a Huskies' fan told us a week ago Friday evening during the short walk back to the Atheneum Hotel from Ford Field Stadium in Detroit after the Mid-American Conference title game between Northern Illinois and the Kent State Golden Flashes.

The Huskies had just managed to squeak out a victory over the valiant Golden Flashes in double overtime. Other Huskies fans were complimentary, too. If they were any indication, the fans of Northern Illinois, a university in DeKalb, are certainly gracious in victory.

We had traveled Friday afternoon via the Ohio Turnpike and I-75 to Detroit to see the big game. Our group included attorney and former State Sen. Leigh Herington, our unofficial tour guide, and his wife, Anita, Common Pleas Court Judge John Enlow and his wife, Lois, Linda Sandvoss and Janet and me. Thousands of fans must have been traveling the same route. At a service plaza on the Ohio Turnpike, we encountered a slew of people dressed in Kent State Blue and Gold.

Outside our hotel, we ran into attorney John Flynn and his wife, Connie, and Dave and Sherry Joy. At the big game, Laing and Saundra Kennedy were seated in front of us. I noticed Dr. Em Ferrara, his wife, Margaret, and some of their children and grandchildren in attendance. He is a KSU trustee. We encountered Steve Colecchi and his wife, Andrea. The Robinson Memorial Hospital CEO and president is a KSU trustee, too.

Former KSU Vice President Mark Lindemood, his wife, Deb,and their daughter, Haley, had driven up from their home in Goshen to join their Kent neighbors, Ralph Kletzien and his wife, Judy, for the game. I remember seeing retired pharmacist Jim Myers in attendance. I saw Dick Kotis there and Reed and Karen Beck. I saw Matt French, the Ametek vice president and general manager. Architect Doug Fuller, who arrived on one of the KSU Blue and Gold sponsored buses, sat with us at the KSU tailgate party prior to the game.

The so-called tailgate party was actually a sumptuous buffet in a large banquet room at Ford Field Stadium, a huge all-enclosed facility that is home field for the Detroit Lions. There, KSU President Lester Lefton and his wife, Linda, and Athletic Director Joel Nielson and his wife, Sharon, circulated to welcome fans. With as many as 500 or more seated at the party, Lori Randorf, executive director of the Kent State Alumni Association, stepped up to the microphone to welcome fans and introduce her boss, Lefton.

"Go Flashes," Lefton proclaimed over the microphone amidst cheering fans, who've not been to a title game for the Flashes since 1972. Add Coach Darrell Hazell's and his team's great success to last summer's College World Series appearance by the KSU baseball team and the Lefton Era at Kent State in Division I sports is looking pretty remarkable.

Combined, the fans of the Huskies and the Flashes couldn't begin to fill the nearly 80,000 seats of Ford Field Stadium where one sits comfortably indoors. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm by fans on both sides filled the air with cheering. The marching bands of the two universities added to the festive, competitive atmosphere.

The Golden Flashes demonstrated once again the poise they have acquired this season. They came roaring back in the fourth quarter and forced the game into overtime and then double overtime. What a great team with a great coach and a great coaching staff, especially considering where they came from two years ago.

Hazell will become head coach at Purdue next season and will face a tough turn-around situation not unlike the one he undertook at Kent State. Purdue and Kent State have worked out an amicable agreement that lets Hazell coach the Flashes in the GoDaddy Bowl on Jan. 6. This is much better than what took place in the Huskies' locker room immediately after the Mid-American title game when Head Coach Dave Doren reportedly shocked his victorious team by telling them he was leaving to coach at North Carolina State.

GoDaddy is the name of the company that sponsors the NCAA sanctioned Division I bowl game where the Flashes will face Arkansas State Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala. The company's name seems odd to me, but maybe GoDaddy is a sign of the times. The company was founded in 1997. Its work is domain name registering and website hosting. The company is privately held. Its founder sold 65 percent his company to a group of investors for a reported $2.25 billion last year. Before 2011, the bowl was sponsored by GMAC. Currently the GoDaddy Bowl matches Mid-American Conference and Southern Conference teams. Bowling Green, Miami, Central Michigan and Ball State have played in it.

Flags atop Ametek

Those flags atop the new Ametek offices in the Fairmount complex on Kent's North Water Street represent the eight countries where Ametek Precision Motion Control has manufacturing locations that report back to the company's Kent division headquarters.

That's the word from Matt French, vice president and general manager, who pushed very hard to keep his company from leaving Kent. Instead of leaving, Ametek remained and occupies premier space in Kent's rejuvenated downtown. The eight flags represent Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Serbia.

French says the flags speak to the international aura Kent is gaining in terms of bringing in internationals who will soon be hosted in the new hotel that is going up a block east of Ametek. He says Ametek brings in an average of three internationals a week and sometimes many more than that for conferences. He currently hosts them in neighboring cities, but says that will all switch to Kent when the new hotel opens in 2013. Kent State brings in hundreds of internationals over a year's time and they will utilize the new hotel also.

As vice president and general manger, French has gotten Ametek much more engaged in the life of Kent. The company paid for the impressive display of fireworks at the conclusion of KSU's home opener Aug. 28, when the Flashes defeated the Towson University Tigers. While the Golden Flashes practiced for the big MAC title game in Detroit, Matt had eight Kent State flags installed temporarily in place of the eight international flags.

Celtic carol concert

A Celtic Christmas Carol concert presented Thursday evening in Akron's Westminster Presbyterian by Apollo's Fire, the baroque orchestra headquartered in Cleveland, drew a large crowd and I spotted plenty of Portage Countians in the audience.

Janet and I attended with Tom and Jan Hatch. We bumped into attorney Tom Sicuro and his wife, Edith, Stan and Helen Gregory and John and Sharon Akamatzu. We saw Ann Waters and Guenveur Burnell and Jeff and Camille Fauser.

Besides the orchestra, Meredith Hall, soprano, Jesse Blumberg, baritone and Amanda Powell, soprano, along with Steve Player, dancer and guitar, plus the Apollo Singers performed in collaboration with the Ensemble La Nef of Montreal. Jeannette Sorrell is the conductor.

I am one quarter Scottish, but have never explored the Celtic part of my cultural heritage so much of that concert was a revelation. Someone in the audience explained to Janet and me that the bagpipes were Irish, which have fewer pipes and a different shape than the Scottish version. Some of the lyrics were sung in Gaelic. Some of the carols performed are 900 years old.

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