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Chuck Landon: Losses to MAC teams hard for MU fans to take

Sep. 18, 2013 @ 12:13 AM

Is Marshall playing too many opponents from the Mid-American Conference?

It certainly seems that way.

Particularly since the Thundering Herd isn't beating foes from its old league on a regular basis.

That's just plain embarrassing to Marshall's fans. And it should be embarrassing to the Herd's administration, coaching staff and players.

I mean, this is the MAC. This is the league Marshall dominated so thoroughly for eight seasons (1997-2004), the Herd decided it needed the challenge of a better league and moved up to Conference USA.

And justifiably so.

At least, then.

That's because Marshall won the MAC championship five times in eight seasons, including five of the first six years in the league. The Herd's overall MAC record in eight years was a stunning 59-11 for a gaudy .843 winning percentage.

In those days, Marshall had a winning record against every school in the MAC. Marshall was 7-1 against Ohio; Kent State, 8-0; Akron, 6-2; Miami (Ohio), 5-2; Toledo, 4-3; Buffalo, 6-0; Bowling Green, 4-2; Western Michigan, 5-1; Central Michigan, 4-0; Ball State, 3-0; UCF, 3-0; Northern Illinois, 2-0; and Eastern Michigan, 2-0.

But, now, look at how Marshall is faring against MAC opponents.

Since leaving after the 2004 season, Marshall has a 4-4 record against the MAC. That's not good. What's worse, the Herd has lost four of its last six games against MAC competition.

And, yes, that's downright embarrassing.

Is it any wonder many Marshall fans are calling for the Herd to return to the MAC? Sort of a "if you can't beat 'em, rejoin 'em" premise.

Am I an advocate of that move? Absolutely not. C-USA is a much better league than the MAC. Perhaps, not always on the field, but C-USA is clearly superior off the field in the areas of money, resources and administration.

What I do endorse, however, is improved coaching, playing, preparation and motivation by Marshall's football program when it takes on MAC foes and less MAC scheduling by MU's administration.

Neither one is happening, unfortunately.

Marshall is an unsightly 2-4 against MAC opponents during Doc Holliday's tenure as head coach, including a humiliating three-game losing streak to Ohio.

As for scheduling, nine future games against MAC opponents already have been booked. In fact, the Herd plays three of its four non-conference games against MAC foes in 2014. The games include Miami (Ohio), away, Aug. 30; Ohio, home, Sept. 13; and Akron, away, Sept. 20.

Hmmm. Is Marshall trying to win the C-USA championship or MAC crown?

Then, in 2015, the Herd plays at Ohio on Sept. 12 and at Kent State on an undetermined date. In 2016, MU hosts Akron on Sept. 17. In 2017, the Herd is home to Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 2 and hosts Kent State on an undetermined date. Then, in 2018, Marshall visits Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 1.

And, remember, that's not including the potential renewal of the Ohio series.

The argument for scheduling so many MAC opponents is it allows Marshall's fans to travel to nearby road games. It's a logical premise. But only if Marshall is much more successful than it has been recently.

The Herd faithful most certainly doesn't want to travel to Athens, Oxford, Akron or Cleveland to watch Marshall lose to MAC schools. That galls MU fans. And it should.

That's the twin-edged sword of scheduling MAC opponents.

Win or endure a barrage of bitter backlash.

It's the MAC factor.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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