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Monday, December 22, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 3/13/2013

Title banner well deserved for Rockets

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

The Mid-American Conference postseason tournaments continue today at Quicken Loans Arena where a few more than 302 people — the ultra-embarrassing announced attendance at Eastern Michigan for a first-round men’s game against Northern Illinois — are expected.

The Toledo’s men will not be in Cleveland unless they buy tickets. It is the unfortunate byproduct of an NCAA postseason ban that was assessed for academic shortcomings, albeit not the fault of any coach or player currently associated with the program. As is the case with most NCAA sanctions, the innocent are punished for the actions of guilty predecessors.

The ban was nonetheless merited and that it would include the MAC tournament was no secret from the start. Connecticut basketball was in the same boat for the same reason and is not playing in the Big East tournament. Ohio State was in the same boat for completely different reasons last football season and could not play in the Big Ten championship game.

You may recall, though, that undefeated OSU was declared champion of the Leaders Division and overall Big Ten regular-season champion. No one from the league office even whispered a suggestion to the contrary.

In the MAC, meanwhile, school presidents and athletic directors voted last fall on the Toledo issue. UT’s Mike O’Brien said the AD vote was 11-1 — he was the 1 — and that it “centered on the conference tournament in relation to the NCAA’s overall postseason sanction.”

We all presumed Toledo would have the same regular-season rights Ohio State football was accorded. After all, the Rockets were preseason picks to win the MAC West title and not a discouraging word was heard from the conference office. After all, the Rockets played the games, 16 MAC games, specifically, and there was no suggestion from the league that they were essentially meaningless. They were not forfeited or vacated. The six games that UT lost counted as wins for the opposing teams.

It appears Toledo’s 10 wins had no meaning, at least in the division title race. Only late in the season with the Rockets doggedly pursuing a crown, and upon questioning from a Blade reporter, did the MAC commissioner provide a “policy” statement that said UT was also ineligible for a regular-season title.

Maybe it slipped his mind until then. I can only imagine how busy he, his seven associate and assistant commissioners, three department directors, and assorted other staffers must be. Or maybe another conference school turned the screws a bit. Who knows?

All I do know is that the MAC opted to needlessly pile on a program that dealt with scholarship restrictions, an abbreviated schedule, relaxed NCAA transfer rules, and the postseason ban and STILL tied for first place in the division standings.

O’Brien said Tuesday it’s time to turn the other cheek and move on, but before he did he crafted this comment:

“I would think it would be hard for anyone to dispute how difficult it would be for me to tell our student-athletes, especially Dominique Buckley, a senior who could have transferred but stayed, that their 10 wins mean nothing.”

Coach Tod Kowalczyk said he intends to hang a title banner from the Savage Arena rafters and that he “couldn’t care less” what the commissioner and the league thought.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. 

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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