Akron, Marietta Share Ohio Athletic Conference Connection

Thanks to my Fraternity Brother Chuck and his wife Noel (shoutout to his blogging challenge!), I got to enjoy a night of Akron Zips Men’s Basketball at the James A. Rhodes Arena (affectionately known as The JAR).  While we attempted to eat our way through the included buffet, the Zips beat Bowling Green’s Falcons 89 to 84.

While the win kicked off Akron’s Mid-American Conference schedule, it also allowed the team’s head coach Keith Dambrot to complete a major milestone for the program at home.  We’ll get back to that in a minute.

But, you know me.  Despite the many Zip fans demanding fouls throughout the game, and Akron’s famed mascot Zippy, I noticed something hanging from the rafters that piqued my interest.

Amongst the many banners flies one that caught my eye:  OAC Championships.  So I had to look it up…did Akron once play in the same conference that my beloved Marietta Pioneers continue to be a part of today?  Yes, actually…along with many other Division One and Division Two schools throughout Ohio.

Familiar names that have spent time in the Ohio Athletic Conference include: Ashland, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami of Ohio, Ohio State University, Ohio University, Cincinnati, Toledo, Wooster, and Xavier!

Akron and Marietta shared the Ohio Athletic Conference from 1926 to 1936, and again from 1948 to 1966.  For more information about Akron’s conference alignment, here’s a bit of knowledge from Wikipedia:

“The Zips began play in the Ohio Athletic Conference in 1923 where they would compete from 1923–1965 except for 1936–1944 when the University left the OAC and competed as an independent. In the OAC, Akron would win 8 conference titles and five tournament titles, three of them under legendary coach, Tony Laterza. After the 1965–1966 season Akron left the OAC for good and competed as an independent in the NCAA’s College Division, which would later be renamed Division II.

When the NCAA divided into three divisions in 1973, the Zips would play one season in Division III before moving to Division II, where they would play from 1975–1980. During the final three years as a Division II member, the Zips were part of an earlier Mid-Continent Conference for two years before joining the Ohio Valley Conference for the 1979–1980 season (though they did not play conference games until the 1980–1981 season), their last in Division II. The Zips participated in the NCAA Division II tournament on seven different occasions, making the Division II Final Four three times (1964, 1966, and 1972) and reaching the championship game in 1964 and 1972.[3] Coach Laterza’s winning percentage at UA of .751 (178–59 from 1960–68) remains best in the history of the program.”

“Akron attained NCAA Division I status in 1980 and began play in the Ohio Valley Conference that fall.[3] In 1984 Bob Huggins began coaching the team, leading the Zips to the 1986 OVC title and tournament title to gain their first berth in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament as a 15th seed, where they fell to the 5th-ranked and 2nd seeded Michigan Wolverines 70–64 in the first round.

Akron would play one more season in the OVC and earn a berth in the 1987 National Invitation Tournament before another stint as an independent from 1987–1990. Huggins would lead the Zips to the 1989 NIT before leaving Akron after the season to coach at Cincinnati. Akron would rejoin the Mid-Continent Conference in 1990 and compete for two seasons before officially beginning play in the Mid-American Conference in 1992.”

So…the question is, how did Marietta fair against Ohio’s Polytechnic University?  To the Marietta Athletics Men’s Basketball historical statistics page!

1910-1911 22 33 (W)
1911-1912 33 (W) 20
1911-1912 15 38 (W)
1912-1913 17 44 (W)
1913-1914 20 24 (W)
1952-1953 69 70 (W)
1953-1954 82 (W) 77
1954-1955 78 (W) 66
1956-1957 85 108 (W)
1957-1958 73 82 (W)
1958-1959 77 95 (W)
1959-1960 71 95 (W)
1960-1961 78 84 (W)
1961-1962 69 87 (W)
1962-1963 57 74 (W)
1963-1964 52 64 (W)
1964-1965 61 65 (W)
1965-1966 59 74 (W)
1965-1966 63 77 (W)
1966-1967 62 100 (W)
1967-1968 55 64 (W)

Go figure, the school that would eventually move to Division Two, then Division One, would rock a staple of Division Three.  Marietta went 3-18 head-to-head with Akron.

The Zips won eight OAC season championships, plus five tournament championships.  Akron was able to “double up” in 1965 and 1966, winning both championships both years.  1966 was the last year Akron competed in the OAC, according to Wikipedia.

Marietta’s Pioneers won seven OAC season championships, plus two tournament championships.  The Pios were able to “double-up” in 2011, winning both the season and tournament championships.

So, to connect all the dots and end this trip down the rabbit hole on an interesting note…Akron’s winningest head coach in Men’s Basketball before tonight was Russ Beichly, with 288 games won.  Oddly enough, according to the OAC’s media guide, Beichly’s final record was 288-144 (66.67% winning percentage, winning twice as many games as he lost).  225 of Beichly’s 288 wins came while Akron was a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference.  Keith Dambrot, the Zip’s current coach, won game 289 tonight, making him the winningest coach in Akron history.

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