Kent State Golden Flashes
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Mountain West Conference Logos
The Golden Flashes are the athletic teams that represent Kent State University. The university fields 19 varsity athletic teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division I level with football competing in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Kent State is a full member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and has been part of the MAC East division since it was created in 1998. Official school colors are Kent State Blue and Kent State Gold. Joel Nielsen is athletic director, a position he has held since May 1, 2010.
Athletic events were held during the very first semester at Kent State in late 1913, with several intramural teams for female students and a limited number of opportunities for male students. Early men’s athletic events, in basketball and baseball, were played against local high school, church, and company teams. The first intercollegiate athletic event, a men’s basketball game, was held in January 1915 and the baseball team held their first intercollegiate game later that year. A dedicated athletic field was built around 1920 and the school’s first gymnasium opened in 1925. Football also debuted as a sport in 1920, followed by wrestling, men’s tennis, men’s gymnastics, and men’s swimming. From 1932 to 1951, Kent State competed as a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference before joining the Mid-American Conference in 1951. The school’s first permanent football stadium and a new basketball gym opened in 1950.
Although women’s intramural athletics had been part of the university since it was first established, the first women’s intercollegiate athletic team was not established until 1964 when the women’s gymnastics team, the first women’s collegiate gymnastics team in the U.S., began intercollegiate competition after being founded in 1959. Additional women’s sports, including swimming, field hockey, basketball, and volleyball, were added as varsity sports in the mid-1970s following the passage and implementation of Title IX. Budget constraints and other factors led to the university dropping swimming, tennis, ice hockey, and men’s soccer during the 1980s and 1990s, with ice hockey becoming a club-level sport in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division I as part of the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League (GLCHL). The most recent changes occurred in the late 1990s when women’s golf and women’s soccer were added as varsity sports, followed by the addition of women’s lacrosse, which began play in 2019.
Several Kent State athletic teams have enjoyed success in the Mid-American Conference and at the national level over the years and the university has produced individual national champions in both wrestling and track and field. Both the men’s and women’s golf teams have been the most successful in MAC play having won the most conference titles in MAC history through 2017. The men’s golf team has also finished as high as 5th nationally in 2012 to go with 6th and 9th-place finishes, while the women’s golf team also claimed a 5th place finish in 2017. Additionally, the men’s basketball team made a notable run to the Elite Eight in 2002, the baseball team advanced to the College World Series in 2012, and the softball team qualified for the Women’s College World Series in 1990. Kent State also has had high national finishes from the men’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams, women’s gymnastics, and wrestling. A number of Golden Flashes alumni have gone on to play and coach in both college and major professional sports, such as Jack Lambert, Antonio Gates, Nick Saban, Lou Holtz, Thurmon Munson, and Emmanuel Burriss.