Sean Lewis snuck away to the Kent State weight room early Monday afternoon. As the Golden Flashes coach left his office, he told his director of football operations why he needed the workout.
“It’s just so I can understand reality, that gravity still works. That a 45-pound plate is a 45-pound plate,” Lewis said. “Because for the past six hours, I’ve been watching superhumans do things that defy reality. I’m just going to go make sure I’m still living in the right universe right now.”
Lewis had spent the morning scouting Saturday’s opponent. That opponent is Georgia, which won the national title last season and might somehow be better this season. If the Bulldogs don’t have the best collection of talent in America, they’re in the top two. For Kent State, a game such as this can provide a memorable experience for the players and a paycheck for the athletic department. That’s why most schools in Kent State’s place in the college football pecking order schedule one or two of these a year.
The difference is that Kent State schedules three.
So if you’re an athlete in another sport at Kent State, make sure to thank a football player today. Because he’s getting his brains beat in so your athletic department can make its budget.
Some programs schedule for success. The Golden Flashes, who have won 10 consecutive home games and who won the MAC East Division last season, succeed in spite of their schedule.
No. 1 Georgia will be the third team the Golden Flashes will play that is currently ranked in the top 18. They are 1-2. They’ll probably enter MAC play 1-3 and bruised from a meat grinder that included visits to Washington, Oklahoma and Georgia in a four-week span. Between the Washington and Oklahoma games, the Golden Flashes didn’t even return home. They flew to Tulsa, practiced for a week and bussed to Norman for the game.
Those three games will make $5.2 million for Kent State’s athletic department ($1.8 million from Washington, $1.5 million from Oklahoma, $1.9 million from Georgia). The only revenue source that provides more to Kent State’s athletic budget? Student fees. (So maybe also thank a tuition-paying student while you’re at it, Kent State athletes.) This is not a one-off coincidence, either. This has been a strategy at Kent State. Last year, the Golden Flashes played Texas A&M, Iowa and Maryland. In 2019, they played Arizona State, Auburn and Wisconsin. In 2018, it was Illinois, Penn State and Ole Miss. During that stretch, Kent State is 0-11 and has lost each game by an average of 29.2 points. But that makes seasons like 2021 even more impressive. After going 0-3 and being outscored 108-33 in buy games, Kent State went 6-2 in regular-season MAC play.