CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio – The athletics departments at The University of Akron (UA) and Kent State University (KSU), in partnership with Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center, announced on Wednesday the continuation and new title sponsorship for the 14-sport rival series which will now be called "The Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge."
The Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge is based on a time-honored competition for an historic wooden wagon wheel trophy awarded originally in 1945 to the winner of the annual Akron-Kent State football game. Since the 2011-12 academic year, the rivalry was broadened to include 14 NCAA varsity sports, with victories in each sport adding one point to the challenge standings.
Fans can learn more about the rivalry and follow the results and standings via www.WagonWheelChallenge.com.
"We are excited to join the Crystal Clinic and Kent State in our promotion of the Wagon Wheel Challenge once again," said Larry Williams, Akron Director of Athletics. "We are grateful to Dr. Ray Acus and Dr. Tim Myer, and all of the doctors at the Crystal Clinic who have taken great care of our student-athletes over the years. We are proud to support this historic tradition with our rivals at Kent State."
In keeping with tradition, the annual winner of the football contest will gain possession of the historic wooden Wagon Wheel trophy, while the school that accumulates the most total points in all varsity match-ups for that academic year will receive an overall series trophy.
"Sponsoring the Wagon Wheel Challenge with the University of Akron and Kent State University is a great honor," said Ronald Suntken, EdD, FACMPE, president and CEO of the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center. "We are excited to be a part of this traditional rivalry for the next five years."
According to legend, the "Wagon Wheel" trophy traces its beginnings to the spring of 1870 when Akron industrialist John R. Buchtel set out for the town of Kent in search of a site to establish a college. In the muddy Ohio fields, however, his wagon became bogged down in the area where Kent State University is currently located. When horses pulled the wagon, a wheel came loose and became buried until it was discovered in 1902 during the construction of a pipeline along the Western Reserve Trail.
The wheel eventually fell into the possession of Dr. Raymond Manchester, who as the Kent State Dean of Men in 1945, suggested the local historic artifact be offered as the trophy to the winner of the annual Akron-Kent State football game. Through the 2015 game, Kent State leads the series 23–21–1 in Wagon Wheel games. Dating to 1923, Akron leads the all-time series on the gridiron, 32-24-2.
The Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge match-up continues on Saturday, Oct. 1, when the Zips and the Golden Flashes meet on the gridiron at 3:30 p.m. at Dix Stadium.
The Golden Flashes have already taken a half-point lead in the 2016-17 competition with their 3-1 victory over the Zips in volleyball last Saturday. Other fall competition includes a women's soccer match (Oct. 6) at Akron's FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field; the men's and women's MAC cross country championships on Oct. 29 (hosted by Kent State); and the second volleyball match at Akron (Oct. 28).
"We are proud to partner with Crystal Clinic and the University of Akron to extend the Wagon Wheel Challenge," said Joel Nielsen, Kent State Director of Athletics. "The doctors at Crystal Clinic have been assisting our student-athletes for years; they are a great fit as the title sponsor for a rivalry series that incorporates 14 sports. I'd like to thank Ron Suntken, Dr. William Paken, Dr. Kyle Nelman, and the rest of the Crystal Clinic team for their support, and we look forward to continuing this historic tradition."
IMG College, the sponsorship and multi-media rights holder for both Akron and Kent State athletics, negotiated The Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge, and terms of the agreement will not be made public.
The Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge - Rules and Qualifying Sports
- Each of the fourteen (14) sports will be worth one (1) point. For a school to be the winner of The Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge, it must accumulate at least seven and a half (7.5) points.
- The point is awarded to the team that wins the season series in the head-to-head competition.
- If the teams play head-to-head once in a given season (e.g. football), then the school that wins will receive the point.
- All regular-season games count toward the season series tally (including if non-conference games are played) with the school that wins more games (e.g., winning two of three in softball) receiving the point. If teams split the regular season match-ups (e.g., in basketball), then each team receives a one-half (½) point for that sport.
- For men's and women's cross country, golf and indoor/outdoor track and field, one point is awarded to whichever school finishes higher in the MAC Championship for each of those sports. (For these sports, no other competitions – in-season or post-season – will count toward the series).
- MAC and/or NCAA Tournament games can count toward determining the season series winner (e.g., the schools split the two regular-season meetings in basketball and then plays in the MAC Tournament, whichever school wins that game is awarded the point).
- In the event of a 14-sports season tie, the school that won the trophy the previous year will retain possession.
2016-17 Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge Event Schedule
Sept. 24 Women's Volleyball Kent 3, Akron 1 0.5 KSU
Oct. 1 Football
Oct. 6 Women's Soccer
Oct. 28 Women's Volleyball
Oct. 29 Men's Cross Country MAC Championship
Oct. 29 Women's Cross Country MAC Championship
Feb. 11 Women's Basketball
Feb. 18 Men's Basketball
Feb. 25 Women's Basketball
March 3 Men's Basketball
April 21-23 Women's Golf MAC Championship
April 28-30 Men's Golf MAC Championship
Feb. 24-25 Men's Indoor Track and Field MAC Championship
Feb. 24-25 Women's Indoor Track and Field MAC Championship
May 11-13 Men's Outdoor Track and Field MAC Championship
May 11-13 Women's Outdoor Track and Field MAC Championship