In voting on the team to win the championship game, Toledo picked up 22 votes to only nine for Marshall. Bowling Green, Miami and Northern Illinois each received three votes and Akron one. The championship game, scheduled to be held at the East Division champions field on the rotating basis set up by the MAC in 2001 (after Marshall hosted from 1997-2000), is still up in the air as far as its location. According to MAC sources, Paul Brown Field in Cincinnati, Ohio; Ford Field in Detroit; and the Columbus Crew stadium for the Major League Soccer team in the Ohio capital have all expressed interest in hosting the title game in an extended contract.
In the West Division, Toledo received 34 first place votes and 278 points to easily outdistance runnerup Northern Illinois, who had three first place votes and 225 points. Last year's West champion, Bowling Green, also received three first place votes and 223 votes to finish third in the pre-season poll. The MAC only released the top three in each division.
Marshall, who had won the East Division six times in a row from 1997-2002, edged Miami, the 2003 East Division and MAC champion, by one vote. The Herd collected 21 first place votes and 258 points to 18 first place votes for the RedHawks, who had a total of 257. Akron was a distant third with one first place vote and 188 total points, least of any team released by the MAC.
In other MAC news, the Mid-American Conference announced Tuesday it has extended the employment contract of Commissioner Rick Chryst through the 2008-09 academic year. "I speak for all the Presidents of the MAC when I say that I am extremely pleased that Rick Chryst has agreed to serve as our commissioner through 2009," said Dr. John Peters of Northern Illinois University, Chair of the MAC Council of Presidents. "Rick is one of the most able, knowledgeable, and respected Division IA commissioners and he has led the MAC through an unprecedented period of growth as the league has enhanced its athletic competitiveness while maintaining the highest academic and sportsmanship standards."
Chryst is entering his sixth year as Commissioner of the MAC, having been appointed the league's seventh full-time commissioner in May of 1999. He is overseeing the MAC at a time when the league's competitive achievement and external growth is at an all-time high. Highlighting league growth for member schools is the initiation and expansion of a national television package involving ESPN, Inc. Since 1999, MAC schools have had 54 appearances in football on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. The success of MAC teams on the gridiron has drawn the attention of the bowl world also. Beginning with the 2001 football season, two MAC teams have received positions in the postseason with secured tie ins to the Motor City Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit and GMAC Bowl in Mobile, AL.
"I am excited by this announcement and appreciative to so many, particularly our staff," said Chryst. "This is a watershed period of time in major college athletics, and I feel fortunate to be involved with the leadership of our league on these many important issues - be it athletic, educational, social or cultural in scope. I look forward to continuing to build on the successes of the last several years, in an environment that will remain challenging and changing.
"Above all, though, I am just extremely honored and proud to be representing the schools of the MAC, and the student-athletes, coaches and administrators that make this such a special and unique conference." Chryst is now in his 16th year in conference work, coming to the MAC following terms as Assistant Commissioner at both the Atlantic Coast Conference (1992-99) and the Southwest Conference (1989-92). While at the SWC, Chryst worked with former MAC Commissioner and MAC Hall of Fame member Fred Jacobs.
The MAC also announced several staff changes and additions, including the appointment of Dan Hughes to the newly-created position of Assistant Commissioner for Men's Basketball Operations. In tandem with Hughes' appointment, Bob Gennarelli, entering his sixth year as Associate Commissioner for External Operations, will assume primary responsibility for overseeing all MAC football matters, including scheduling, game management, television, bowl games and the MAC football championship.
Also announced was the promotion of Shonna Brown to Assistant Commissioner for Compliance Services and Aimee Dupree-Chambers to Director of Marketing and Corporate Programs. A search is presently underway to fill a final staff position, an Assistant Commissioner for Women's Basketball Operations and Sport Programs.