Head Coach Darrel Hazzell of the Kent State Golden Flashes celebrates with his team after defeating Bowling Green 31-24 on November 17, 2012 at Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Photographer: (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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KENT, Ohio - It really feels weird to think that Kent State has a chance to play in a Bowl Championship Series game rather than Ohio State.
Kent State is sitting just one spot out of the race to get in a game. A win over another ranked team, Northern Illinois at number 21, could do the trick.
But first, they need to take care of business at the MAC championship game.
You should root for Texas and UCLA to lose too, and hope that the voters in the Harris Poll don't squeeze out the Flashes after the MAC Championship.
None the less, Kent State is going to a bowl game for the first time since 1972.
It's a Kent State football program that has come a long way since since Don James left in the 70s and Glen Mason almost put it on the map in the mid-80s.
Kent State made a commitment to football when they hired athletic director Joel Nielsen. He let it be known that KSU was going to put the football program in the top of the athletic chain.
They hired Ohio State assistant head coach Darrell Hazell to take over the program two years ago. Good thing they hired him when they did. This Jim Tressel disciple, all the way down to his KSU sweater vest, has been the best move inside Dix Stadium since Mason.
Hazell could have easily been running Ohio State, instead of Luke Fickell in Columbus, two seasons ago. In the end, his name is already getting buzz at big-time programs across the country after making Kent State a player in the football world.
Problem is, the rest of the world can see this too. Hazell's success will lead to another job. In the past, watching basketball coaches leave is frustrating when you want a program to succeed.
Kent State finally made a play to keep a coach after resigning baseball coach Scott Strickland. Strickland's team made the College World Series.
Maybe Hazell will follow Tressel's lead at Youngstown State and wait for his dream job before leaving. I doubt it, but it is wishful thinking.
KSU has about 30 players from northeast Ohio on the roster. Those same kids from Solon, Stow, Akron, Cleveland, Aurora, Maple Heights, Amherst, Hudson and Elyria that filled out Friday night's in the past now have a chance to play in a big-time bowl.
If you are an OSU fan with no real tie to Ohio State, this is an easy jump to fill your bowl-season void. If you are a KSU alum, like I am, it's finally chance to have pride in your school's football team.
Let's just hope the university finally realizes the mistake of not hopping on the athletic train to highlight a major accomplishment.
KSU failed big time with the Elite 8 basketball team when they didn't put resources back in the program. This could be a $17 million payout. Plus, every time ESPN has something good to say about KSU, it is a chance to recruit nationwide. Not just in sports, but in academics too.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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