Semester review: new year brings milestones, changes to athletics program
A new year brought in new faces, milestones and downfalls for Central Michigan athletics.
After returning from Miami without a bowl game win and a 6-7 season record, the football team’s next endeavor during the offseason was to replace star quarterback Cooper Rush.
Starting 50 consecutive games in his four-year career, Rush became the second-highest passer in Mid-American Conference history, throwing for 12,894 yards and 90 touchdowns in his tenure with the Chippewas.
The Charlotte native announced on April 29 via Twitter that he landed a spot with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, joining his former teammate Kavon Frazier. Rush will have to compete with Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott for the starting quarterback position.
A Tweet from Shane Morris on Jan. 18 brought big news. The 6-foot-4 Warren native announced that he will use his one year of eligibility to join CMU’s roster after graduating from the University of Michigan in May.
Morris will compete with returning quarterbacks Tommy Lazzaro and Tony Poljan to replace Rush in 2017. With Poljan leading the battle as of the annual Spring Game on April 22, the quarterback competition should be a two-horse race between him and Morris through most of fall camp.
After losing both its offensive coordinator and running backs coach in less than a month, the Chippewas hired former Northern Michigan head coach Chris Ostrowsky to bring in a new offensive system to the 2017 roster. Ostrowsky was hired in March and showcased a glimpse of his spread offense system at the Spring Game.
Along with the staff changes on the football team, the athletics department is in the midst of a search for a new athletic director after Dave Heeke announced his departure in late February. He will take the same position at the University of Arizona. Heeke passed off his ‘Championship Culture’ to former CMU executive associate athletic director Mary Weston, who is serving as the interim AD.
Four finalists have been named to visit campus in May. President George Ross is expected to make an offer to one of the four by June 1.
Hoops, hopes and heartbreak
The seasons for the men’s and women’s basketball teams took different paths, but ended on similar notes.
While the women’s team was nearly unstoppable at home this season with a record-breaking 15-1 record at McGuirk Arena, the men’s team went from being tied for first in the MAC West to plummeting in the conference an eight-game losing streak to end its season.
The season ended on March 6 for the men in the first round of the MAC Tournament while the women’s season ended with a heartbreaking loss to Western Michigan in the final 11 seconds of the quarterfinal game on March 8.
Despite the tough ends to its seasons, both teams had record-breaking campaigns through the spring semester.
With a 23-9 overall record and 15-3 record in the MAC, the women’s team won its first regular season title in 32 years. Head coach Sue Guevara became the all-time winningest coach in program history with 176.
Several Chippewas had noteworthy seasons for both teams. Sophomore guard Presley Hudson scored a program record 43 points against Ball State on January 11, suprassing Shonda Long’s 40-point performance against Buffalo in 2011. Junior Tinara Moore totaled a record-breaking 64 blocks this season.
Marcus Keene and Braylon Rayson declared for the 2017 NBA Draft after leading one of the country’s top scoring offenses.
Keene not only led the nation in scoring, but became the first Division I player since 1997 to average 30 points per game. He finished the season with seven 40-point games and a 50-point performance against Miami (OH) on January 21.
His backcourt counterpart Rayson finished the season second in the MAC in scoring (21.2) and was selected to the All-MAC Third Team. He finished third in CMU history in scoring with 1,885 career points.
To be continued
The baseball team is ranked No. 2 the MAC West with a 11-4 league record. Michael Brettell and Colton Bradley combined to hold Kent State to one run on one hit over the final five innings on April 29 as the team wrestled away a critical 7-4 victory.
Margo Jonker’s softball team swept Ball State in its home finale on April 29 to guarantee a share of the MAC West Division Title. The Chippewas lead the overall MAC standings by two games over Ohio.
The young lacrosse team will enter its third year as a varsity program next season as part of the Southern Conference. The Chippewas snapped a program-best, three-game win streak at the hands of Detroit-Mercy, ending its season 7-10 overall and 4-6 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Central Michigan Life sports reporters will continue coverage throughout the summer on the baseball and softball teams, the MAC Championships for the track team, the search for CMU’s new athletic director and any and all updates on current and former student athletes.