"PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge" Expands Rivalry Between Akron and Kent State

– The athletics departments at The University of Akron (UA) and Kent State University (KSU) today announced participation in a new competition called “The PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge,” which further expands an intercollegiate athletics rivalry dating back more than a half-century between the two schools.

The PNC 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.  For the 2011-12 academic year, the PNC-sponsored rivalry will broaden the competition to include 15 NCAA varsity sports, with victories in each sport adding one point to the challenge standings.  (See qualifying sports, page 3). 

Fans can learn more about the rivalry and follow the results and standings via www.PNCWagonWheelChallenge.com.

 “PNC’s new athletic challenge will spark more excitement in a broad range of sports between these rival schools,” said Kevin O. Thompson, PNC regional president for Akron, Canton and Wooster.  “By showcasing the talents of student-athletes, we will further engage alumni and the community to support our schools.”

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 matchups for that academic year will receive an overall series trophy.

“The Akron-Kent State rivalry is a regional event and this partnership will help expand it to more sports and likewise more fans,” Akron director of athletics Tom Wistrcill said. “We’re excited to have PNC serve as sponsor of what is one of the more unique rivalries in college athletics. As members of the Mid-American Conference, the results of our competitions against one another are already very important, but the Wagon Wheel Challenge will increase the level of bragging rights around the community.”

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 2010 game, Kent State leads the series 20–19–1 in Wagon Wheel games. Dating to 1923, Akron leads the all-time series on the gridiron, 30-21-2.

The PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge matchup begins Oct. 8 when the UA Zips and the KSU Golden Flashes meet in women’s volleyball at Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena. 

Other fall competition includes an Oct. 21 women’s soccer game at Kent State’s Zoeller Field; the men’s and women’s MAC cross country championships on Oct. 29 (hosted by Ball State in Muncie, Ind.); a Nov. 11 volleyball match at KSU; and a Nov. 12 football game at UA’s InfoCision Stadium – Summa Field.

“College athletics is built on strong rivalries, and we're fortunate to have one of the closest in the country with Akron,” Kent State director of athletics Joel Nielsen said. “We're very appreciative of PNC's support of the Wagon Wheel Challenge – this model has worked very well with other schools and it can only help grow this rivalry and make it even stronger.”

IMG College, the sponsorship and multi-media rights holder for both Akron and Kent State athletics negotiated the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge, and terms of the agreement will not be made public.

The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (www.pnc.com) is one of the nation’s largest diversified financial services organizations providing retail and business banking; residential mortgage banking; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management. Follow @PNCNews on Twitter for breaking news, updates and announcements from PNC.

PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge - Rules and Qualifying Sports

  • Each of the fifteen (15) sports will be worth one (1) point. For a school to be the winner of The PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge, it must accumulate at least eight (8) 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 matchups (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 15-sports season tie, the school that won the trophy the previous year will retain possession.  (If there is a tie in the first year, then the schools will share the trophy).