In 1984, for an unprecedented third time, Joe Jakubick was voted The University of Akron's Athlete of the Year honors. This basketball player extraordinaire had proved to be one of the best Zip cagers of all-time, establishing 25 new school marks - the most broken by one player in 91 years of basketball on the hilltop. Jakubick, a 6-5 southpaw from Mansfield, Ohio, became the Zip's all-time leading scorer during the 1980-84 seasons by netting 2,583 points. The 827 points he scored as a junior is also the all-time mark for a season. However, Jakubick's senior season was something special. He scored 30 points or better in 14 games and on three occasions pumped in 40 or more points. Joe capped off his career with an exclamation mark by scoring 42 points versus Illinois-Chicago to capture the NCAA Division I scoring crown with a 30.1 average. Jakubick's efforts earned him All-Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) first team honors in 1982, '83 and '84 OVC Player of the Year honors in 1983 and '84, as well as honorable mention All-American in 1983 and '84.
Mike Buckner always did things in a hurry. He was a football starter in the Big Ten as a sophomore. He was a head high school football coach in his hometown at age 26. He retired from coaching and moved in to administration when he was only 34. After earning All District honors as a Junior and a senior at East High School, Buckner was signed by Akron native Ara Parseghian, then the coach at Northwestern. Buckner started his first six games as a sophomore and defensive back in 1963. He continued as a starter the next two seasons. As a junior, he returned an interception 71 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State. As a senior, he was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection. In the meantime, Parseghian left Northwest to begin a legendary career at Notre Dame. He didn't forget Buckner, selecting him to play in the 1965 North-South Shrine game. Buckner was drafted by both the Chicago Bears of the National Football League and the Miami Dolphins of the old American Football League. He signed with Miami but an injury stopped his pro career at Buchtel High School. He turned a losing program around, highlighted by 10-1 seasons in 1976 and '78 and an overall mark of 47-28-1. He left coaching after the '78 season to join the Akron Board of Education.
These days, Fred Gissendaner may look like a mild-mannered school administrator, but there are many who can remember when this respected educator doled out a few lessons on the football field. Like one game in 1965 when Gissendaner's performance against mighty Penn State earned the Kent State University senior national back of the week honors. After starring at football and track at Buchtel High School in Akron, Gissendaner moved on to Kent State, where he lettered four years in football field, Gissendaner was an outstanding halfback and punt returner. He was an All-Mild American Conference choice in 1965 and set several school records for punt return, including a 17.5-yard average in '65 and a 15.3 yard average for his career. He was a pole valuator for the Flashes' track team, setting the school's indoor pole vault mark. After graduation, he played one season for the Akron, he was named an assistant coach at Kent State and was on the staff of the school's first MAC football championship team in 1972. He returned to Akron as an assistant principal in 1979, then was promoted to principal at Norton High in 1984. He has served on the Akron Board of Education staff since 1986, currently as director of certification.
Track & Field 1991
Understanding that training and will power are the keys to victory, Cletus Griffin disciplined himself to run between 14 and 35 miles a day during his four-year (1970-73) career at the University of Akron. As a freshman Griffin established himself as the number one long distance runner with record-breaking performances in the two mile (9:34) and three mile (14:56)0000000 runs. During the next two cross country and track seasons he set marks in the four and five mile course runs, the three mile, six mile and 3000 meter steeplechase. At one time or another, Griffin held every UA long distance record from the one mile to the 10,000 meter runs. At the 1972 NCAA Championships he earned All-American honors by finishing sixth in the 10,000 meter run and in the following cross country season, led UA to an eighth place finish in the NCAA Championship and earned All-American honors in that sport as well. Griffin was inducted into UA's Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.
This outstanding wrestler helped put his coaches into halls of fame. At Akron East High School, McNair lettered four seasons under Larry Dessart, a 1986 Summit County inductee, and he lettered three years under Joe Begala, a Kent State Hall of Famer. However, it was while McNair wrestled with the Flashes that earned him a spot along side of Dessart. McNair's dual meet record for three seasons was 25 wins, one loss and one draw. As a sophomore this Florida-born transparent in the Mid-American Conference Tournament and then promptly captured the Conference crowns in the 130 pound division the next two years (1958-59. In addition, McNair captured the prestigious 41, (Interstate, Intercollegiate, Individual, Invitational) Tournament championships on three occasions and twice was the Lake Erie AAU champion. McNair's highest honors came in 1959, when he finished fourth in the NCAA Tournament to earn All-America honors, and in 1986, when he was inducted into the KSU Hall of Fame.
Excellence in coaching and a winning tradition are terms that have become synonymous with Edinboro University's cross country coach Doug Watts. Since his tenure began at Edinboro in 1969, the Scots have accumulated six national championships, back-to-back National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics titles in 1975 and '76, and NCAA Division II number one finishes in 1986, '87, '88, and '90. Four times his teams were national runner ups. For the past 21 seasons his thin lads have been unbeaten in dual meet competition and his overall 22-year record reads 121 wins and eight losses. In addition, Watts, a native of Mogadore, Ohio, has coached 54 small college All-Americans and has been voted national coach of the year honors in 1975, '76, '86, '88, and '90. A graduate of The University of Akron, Watt lettered four years each in track and cross country from 1961-64.
James "Sid" Laria
Sid Laria was a successful athlete. He was a three-sport star at South High in Akron. He lettered three years in football at Baldwin-Wallace College, earning all-conference honors in 952 and 1953. He was named to the Summit County Baseball Hall of Fame. He was successful assistant football coach at South High, Revere High, St. Mary's High and at The University of Akron. He was best known as the referee, umpire and official, calling games for 27 years. But his legacy is the mark he left in his work with young people - as a coach, official and security officer for the Summit County Juvenile Court. After his death in 1982 at age 51, the Beacon Journal wrote in an editorial about Laria: "His death...is a grievous blow not merely to those in or familiar with the juvenile court system who knew that Sid Laria was a very special person, but to a legion of future kids-in-trouble who won't even know he existed but would have profited from his help if he had lived longer. There is no way that he could be replaced.
It is said that Art Kusnyer has made baseball his life. Well, it was a goof choice because baseball had been good for Art. From his early beginnings in the West Akron Baseball League, to Buchtel High and on to Kent State, Kusnyer became an outstanding hitter and catcher. That early success earned him his way into the Major League when he signed with the Chicago White Sox organization in 1966. He hit the Majors in 1970 with the White Sox and then he was traded in 1971 to the California Angels. He also saw duty with the Milwaukee Brewers (1976) and the Kansas City Royals (1978). The highlight of Kusnyer's 139-game major league career came on July 15, 1973 in Detroit when he was on the receiving end of Nolan Ryan's second career no-hitter. Since 1979 Kusnyer has been in the coaching end of baseball. He was the bullpen coach with the White Sox (1980-88) and since December 1,1988 has been in the same capacity on Tony LaRussa's staff at Oakland. The 1989 season will be a lasting memory for Kusnyer. He helped the A's capture the American League pennant and the World Series and he served on the coaching staff of the American League All-Stars who downed the National League All-Stars.