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Spring football scrimmage moved to April 13

The Toledo Rockets have moved their annual Blue and Gold Spring Football Scrimmage to Friday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in the Glass Bowl due to an inclement weather forecast for Saturday.

Admission is free.

The scrimmage will use a running clock and is expected to last about one hour.

Players will be available for autographs after the game in the West Concourse.

Fans may enter the Glass Bowl via gate A, located on the west side of the stadium near the press tower. Fans can park in either lot 9 or lot 10.

Former Rocket greats and current NFL players Michael Roberts (Detroit Lions) and David Fluellen (Tennessee Titans) will serve as honorary coaches.

On Saturday, April 14, the Rockets will hold a free football clinic for youth in eighth grade or younger from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Fetterman Training Center (moved from its original location in the Glass Bowl). Registration and check-in will begin at 9:45 a.m. Register in advance here.

The 2018 season features seven home contests, including matchups with Miami (Fla.) Sept. 15 and Bowling Green Oct. 6. Season tickets can be purchased online or by calling 419.530.GOLD (4653).

Football youth clinic April 14 before spring scrimmage

The Toledo Rockets will hold a free youth football clinic at the Glass Bowl Saturday, April 14, at 10 a.m. prior to their annual Blue and Gold Spring Football Scrimmage.

Kickoff for the spring game is set for noon, and admission is free.

Toledo players and coaches will sign autographs on the West Concourse of the stadium after the game.

The football clinic is for youth in eighth grade and younger and will run from 10 to 11 a.m. Registration and check-in will begin at 9:45 a.m. at the Glass Bowl. Participants also may register online.

After the clinic, there will be activities, including poster making, corn hole, football toss, and photo opportunities with the Toledo mascots and the 2017 Mid-American Conference Championship trophy from 11 a.m. to noon on the West Concourse.

Toledo will open its season at home Saturday, Sept. 1, vs. VMI. Season tickets can be purchased online or by calling 419.530.4653.

Watch Rockets play Madonna Crusaders at Comerica Park

Tickets are still available for Toledo’s game against Madonna University at Comerica Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers, set to take place Wednesday, April 11.

First pitch is set for 7 p.m. with gates opening at 6 p.m.

Tickets for the game are $10 for adults and $5 for students and children; they are available through the UT Athletic Ticket Office. Fans can visit utrockets.com, call 419.530.GOLD (4653), or stop by the ticket office at Savage Arena.

“It’s such an exciting thing for our team to be playing in a major league stadium,” Head Baseball Coach Cory Mee said. “Especially with so many guys on the team who are from Michigan and grew up as Tigers fans. It will be a really neat experience for everyone.”

Seating will be available as general admission on a first-come, first-served basis for sections 118-137, located behind home plate from dugout to dugout.

Parking for the event will be available in lots 1 and 2 located in front of gate A for $6 per car.

The concession stand located in section 132 will be open during the game.

The contest will provide the student-athletes the chance to experience life at an MLB facility with the use of team clubhouses, batting practice on the field, infield and outfield practice, as well as use of the dugouts and bullpens.

Varsity ‘T’ Hall of Fame nominations due April 15

Nominations for the 2018 class of the Varsity ‘T’ Hall of Fame are being accepted through Sunday, April 15.

Nominations may come from any source. Nominations from previous years automatically carry over to the next year.

Criteria are:

• Any athlete who has performed with distinction at The University of Toledo. The athlete need not necessarily be a graduate.

• Any athlete who has been out of the University for at least five years and who has demonstrated good citizenship since leaving UT. For the 2018 class, nominees must not have been active on or after July 1, 2013.

• Any coach, administrator, trainer, etc. who has served The University of Toledo with distinction for a period of at least five years and who has been retired or resigned or otherwise disenfranchised from his/her position for a period of at least five years. For the 2018 class, nominees must not have been active on or after July 1, 2013.

The nomination form can be found here.

Email the nomination form along with all supporting data to Paul Helgren at paul.helgren@utoledo.edu.

Nominations also can be mailed to:
Paul Helgren
The University of Toledo
Athletic Communications Office MS 302
2801 W. Bancroft St.
Toledo, OH 43606

The Varsity ‘T’ Hall of Fame banquet will be held in the fall, with the 2018 class being presented at halftime of a Toledo football game.

Basketball player named to Lou Henson All-America Team

UT senior Tre’Shaun Fletcher has been named to the Lou Henson All-America Team.

He is the third Rocket to be named to the Lou Henson squad, joining former Rockets Julius Brown in 2014 and Nathan Boothe in 2016.

Fletcher

Fletcher enjoyed a storybook season for the Rockets as he became UT’s first Mid-American Conference Player of the Year since 1981 in addition to being a first-team All-MAC selection. He was instrumental in Toledo posting a 23-11 win-loss mark, capturing the MAC West Division title with a 13-5 league record and appearing in the MAC Championship Game.

A 6-foot-7, 205-pound guard, Fletcher ranked third in the MAC with 18.1 points per game and fourth with 8.0 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game and was the only player to appear in the top 15 of all three categories. He scored a career-high 31 points vs. Marshall (Dec. 9) and paced the team with 29 double-digit scoring contests.

Fletcher registered the second triple-double in school history with 20 points, 11 rebounds and career-high 11 assists at Northern Illinois (Feb. 27), and his 12 double-doubles ranked third in the MAC.

Lou Henson coached 41 years and is the all-time winningest leader at both Illinois and New Mexico State. When Henson left the game in 2005, he ranked sixth all-time in career Division I wins with 779. He is one of only 12 coaches in the history of the game to take two schools to the Final Four.

The Lou Henson Award is presented annually to the nation’s top Division I mid-major player and will be announced April 2 in San Antonio, the site of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

Rockets, Kroger team up to aid Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank

The University of Toledo football program took part in the annual Kroger Sacks for Cash program in an effort to help fight hunger in the community.

The Rockets, who had 22 sacks during the 2017 regular season, earned $1,100 for the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank. For each sack during the season, Kroger donated $50 on behalf of UT and Bowling Green State University.

The Toledo football team earned $1,100 through Kroger’s Sacks for Cash program last season for the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank. At the check presentation last week were, from left, James Caldwell of the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank, UT junior Nate Childress, Coach Jason Candle, and Kroger representatives Amy McCormick and Dan Galway.

Head Football Coach  Jason Candle, along with junior defensive tackle Nate Childress, were on hand to represent UT and the Rocket football program at a recent check presentation ceremony, thanking Kroger for their continued support and for giving back to the community.

James Caldwell, CEO and president of the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank, thanked both Bowling Green and Toledo for their support.

Kroger was represented by Corporate Affairs Manager Amy McCormick, District Director of Operations Dan Galway, and Media Relations Manager Jennifer Jarrell.

“We’re proud to partner with Kroger to help a very good cause in the fight against hunger in northwest Ohio,” Candle said. “We certainly have a very spirited rivalry on the field with Bowling Green, but this is a goal we are happy to coordinate with them and to join as partners in the fight against hunger.”

Since 2011, when the Sacks for Cash program began, Kroger has donated a total of $8,875 to the food bank, the equivalent of roughly 31,000 meals.

Basketball coach signs contract extension through 2022-23 season

The University of Toledo and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk have reached an agreement that extends Kowalczyk’s contract through the 2022-23 season.

“Tod has proven himself to be a tremendous leader, and we are extremely pleased to extend his contract,” UT Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mike O’Brien said. “He and his staff have established our program as one of the best in the Mid-American Conference. Our outlook is extremely bright for next year and beyond. Even more impressive than our success on the court is the academic culture that’s been established which has our program at the top of the MAC.”

“I’m very thankful to our tremendous administration of President [Sharon L.] Gaber and Mike O’Brien for showing confidence in me and my staff,” Kowalczyk said. “I’m extremely proud of the culture we have in our program and the direction that we’re headed. My family and I absolutely love being a part of the Toledo community, and I can’t wait to build on this past season’s success.”

Kowalczyk was named the Rockets’ head coach in March 2010 and is tied for third place on Toledo’s all-time victory list with 142 wins. He has guided UT to a 104-62 (.627) win-loss mark over the last five seasons with the Rockets’ victory total during that span ranking second in the MAC. Included in that win total is a school-record 27-7 ledger in 2013-14, as well as a 23-11 campaign this past season that is tied for the third most victories in program history.

During the 2017-18 season, Toledo captured its seventh MAC West Division title, appeared in its sixth MAC Tournament Championship Game, and saw senior guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher become the program’s first MAC Player of the Year since 1981. The Rockets ranked No. 1 in the MAC and 14th nationally with a 40.1 three-point field goal percentage, a mark that ranks second in school history. The Rockets also were first in league play in three-point field goal percentage (41.8), three-point field goals per game (9.9) and three-point field goal percentage defense (32.5), and set school records for three-point field goals (327) and blocked shots (135) in a season.

The Rockets have displayed tremendous academic success under Kowalczyk, as well. UT has garnered the National Association of Basketball Coaches Team Academic Excellence Award in three of the last four seasons (2013-14, 2015-16 and 2016-17), one of just 12 programs in the nation to be honored. Toledo’s Academic Progress Rate also ranks first among MAC men’s basketball programs with its score of 990 during the four-year period from 2012-13 to 2015-16.

Prior to becoming UT’s head coach, Kowalczyk posted a 136-112 record in eight years as Wisconsin-Green Bay’s head coach. The Phoenix advanced to post-season play and notched back-to-back 22-win seasons in his last two years. In addition, every player who completed his eligibility while Kowalczyk was Green Bay’s head coach received his degree.

Kowalczyk is a native of DePere, Wis. He and his wife, Julie, have two children, Race (11) and Rose (9).

In her quest to find ‘home,’ UT graduate student wins Sahara marathon

As her feet pounded the dirt road — mile after mile — through the Sahara Desert in northern Africa, the wind whipped sand through Inma Zanoguera’s hair and up her nose.

Camels lifted their heads, their long-lashed eyes following her as she ran by. Up and down the rocky dunes under the cloudy sky, The University of Toledo graduate student and former basketball player ran.

Based on last year’s winning time, Inma Zanoguera knew she had a shot at winning the Sahara Marathon — and she did, becoming the first Sahrawi to win the 26-mile race. (Photo by Damien Patard)

What was she chasing?

To while away the hours, Zanoguera filmed herself talking to her family on the GoPro she carried. She recited poetry. And she returned to her favorite running song, Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA”:

I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA…
Got war and peace inside my DNA
I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA
I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA
I was born like this…

This song meant a lot to Zanoguera on so many levels. It was her DNA that brought her to the desert, the birthplace of her biological mother. She was on a quest of sorts, a search for her roots.

Inma Zanoguera’s journey to Africa was about much more than the marathon. In her search for her roots, Zanoguera said she found more questions than answers. She said she relishes the connections she made with people in the camps, who were gracious and hospitable. (Photo by Michelle-Andrea Girouard)

As she crossed the finish line, completing her first marathon, Zanoguera fell to her knees. A race representative scanned her bar code. It was official: She had won the race with a time of 3:48:11 — the first Sahrawi woman to win the 18-year-old event.

The 2018 marathon was historic. For the first time, Sahrawis won both the men’s and women’s marathons.

A search for ‘home’

Adopted when she was a toddler by a family in Mallorca, Spain, Zanoguera discovered last year that her birth mother was a Sahrawi.

In 1975-76, Sahrawis fled their home in Western Sahara as Moroccan soldiers invaded during the Western Sahara War. Zanoguera’s mom was fortunate to land in Spain. But many others ended up in refugee camps in Algeria. They are still there, four decades later.

The marathon route traveled through three of the five refugee camps.

Zanoguera said she tried not to have any expectations of her trip to Africa. She wanted to remain open to whatever she saw and felt. A few weeks later, back in Toledo, she is still processing the experience.

Inma Zanoguera looked at her award for winning the 2018 Sahara Marathon; the awards were made by artist Mohamed Sulaiman Labat, who lives in Smara, the refugee camp where Zanoguera stayed while in Algeria. (Photo by Michelle-Andrea Girouard)

After the race, she stayed in Smara, one of the camps, for a few days. The people there knew who she was by then — the girl who won the marathon. Some of them knew her story, that her mother was a Sahrawi. They peppered her with questions: “How do you feel being back home?” “Do you feel Sahrawi?”

“Those were big questions,” Zanoguera said.

She didn’t have ready answers.

The question of “home” has always been one that troubles her, she said. She never felt quite at home in Spain, where the only people who looked like her were her brother and sister.

She decided to come to America in part because it had black and brown people. But when she got here, she said she was still seen as “other,” as a foreigner.

“I never feel at home anywhere,” she said. “Part of me unconsciously wanted to find a home [on this trip to Africa].”

At the award ceremony the day after the race, Inma Zanoguera raised the Sahrawi flag, the flag of her birth mother’s homeland. (Photo by Michelle-Andrea Girouard)

After she won the marathon, the Sahrawi minister of sports held a reception for the 2015 UT alumna.

“He welcomed me home,” she said. He told her he was happy to have her back, even though this was her first trip to her mother’s homeland. She was offered dual citizenship.

As she wandered the camps, she knew she stood out. Once again, nobody looked like her. She wasn’t wearing a melhfa, the traditional full body cloth that Sahrawi women wear. But at the same time, she said, it was like holding up a mirror to herself when she looked at them.

She said she was touched by their hospitality, their willingness to answer her questions. She had so many. “What do you think about someone like me coming to the camp and calling herself Sahrawi? How do you find meaning in the camps?”

Inma Zanoguera befriended 18-year-old Mohamed Moulud on the day of the race’s award ceremony. He convinced Zanoguera that she should raise the Sahrawi flag when she claimed her prize.

Zanoguera found the answer to that last question when she met an artist, Mohamed Sulaiman Labat. He showcases his art in Germany and England and had every opportunity to leave the camps. But he didn’t.

“The world has enough art,” he told Zanoguera. “They need me here.”

He built a studio in the camp and creates art out of whatever he can find — wood, cloth, clay, metal. He made the colorful, creative awards that Zanoguera and the other runners received.

Zanoguera said she thought she might have some kind of mystical revelation as she ran. She didn’t. But one evening at sunset, her guide took her and Canadian filmmaker Michelle-Andrea Girouard, who is making a documentary about Zanoguera’s search for her roots, to the dunes near the camps.

As she gazed out over the endless horizon, Zanoguera said she had a moment of sadness. There isn’t much beauty in the camps, she said, but here, there was indescribable beauty.

Inma Zanoguera took this photo of the endless Saharan dunes near the refugee camp.

“I realized that the beauty, the oil, the [natural resources] were so out of reach for those who belong to the land. They didn’t get to enjoy this,” she said.

Finding her place

The marathon and the connections she made to her mother’s people were healing for her, Zanoguera said.

“This trip was part of the learning process and acceptance,” she said. “I am Spanish, and I am Sahrawi, and I feel like a part of me also is American because I came here at such a young age. I am all these things, not just one.”

She said she has more questions now than when she started.

“I don’t know yet what it means for me and how it will affect my daily life,” she said.

Zanoguera and Girouard raised $1,200 for the refugees. Zanoguera said the two want to be smart and use it to create a sustainable program for the refugees. They’re considering starting a sports program for children, a way to distract the kids from life in the camps and share the many lessons that Zanoguera learned from athletics.

Her new friends in the camps asked if she was going to come back to visit. Zanoguera said she’s not sure. She said she would love to come back when their film is finished and present it at FiSahra, the film festival the camps hold each year.

Celebrating her victory

At the award ceremony the day after the marathon, Zanoguera leaned against a fence as she waited to receive her prize. She was torn. She’d never really felt a strong allegiance to any flag. When she played basketball for the Spanish national team, she said it never felt right to her to raise the Spanish flag.

But here, among the Sahrawi people, it felt right to raise the Sahrawi flag.

“But how do you dare raise a flag that signifies so much persistence and honor after only three days of being in this camp?” she said.

As she waited, she struck up a conversation with Mohamed Moulud, an 18-year-old refugee, who stood on the other side of the fence. She asked him what he thought. Would he be offended if she raised the Sahrawi flag?

“You absolutely must,” he told her.

She turned to the crowd and asked to borrow someone’s Sahrawi flag. As she walked to the stage — the first Sahrawi woman to win the Sahara Marathon — she carried the flag of her mother’s country and raised it high.

Basketball player named to AP All-America Honorable Mention squad

University of Toledo senior Tre’Shaun Fletcher was named to the Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention team Tuesday.

The last Rocket to be named to an All-American squad was Steve Mix, who earned a spot on the Helms Foundation All-American Team in 1969.

“To be recognized among the top players in the country is an incredible honor for Tre’Shaun and a tremendous reward for the hard work and contributions he made to our program,” Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “He was unbelievably consistent with his positive energy and leadership the entire season and, in my opinion, he’s one of the best players to ever play at The University of Toledo.”

Fletcher enjoyed a storybook season for the Rockets as he became UT’s first Mid-American Conference Player of the Year since 1981 in addition to being a first-team All-MAC selection. He was instrumental in Toledo posting a 23-11 win-loss mark, capturing the MAC West Division title with a 13-5 league record and appearing in the MAC Championship Game.

A 6-foot-7, 205-pound guard, Fletcher ranked third in the MAC with 18.1 points per game and fourth with 8.0 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game, and was the only player to appear in the top 15 of all three categories. He scored a career-high 31 points vs. Marshall (Dec. 9) and paced the team with 29 double-digit scoring contests.

Fletcher registered the second triple-double in school history with 20 points, 11 rebounds and career-high 11 assists at Northern Illinois (Feb. 27), and his 12 double-doubles ranked third in the MAC.

Remembering John F. Savage: Businessman, benefactor, father

Twenty-five years ago, John F. Savage passed away at age 62. This has been an emotional time for me as I reflect on his life and how much I have missed him the last quarter of a century. 

Many in the financial services industry knew John as a mesmerizing speaker whose memorable quips and concise financial lessons inspired thousands. Locally, John was known for founding and building — along with his brother, Bob — a successful, independent and diversified financial services firm, Savage & Associates. 

John and Mary Kay Savage smiled at the 1988 press conference when it was announced Centennial Hall would be renamed John F. Savage Hall. A 1952 UT alumnus, Savage was co-chair of a campaign that raised $10 million for the facility, which later adopted the name John F. Savage Arena. The longtime University benefactor was a past president of the UT Alumni Association and a former member of the UT Foundation Board of Trustees. He received an honorary doctorate from the University in 1985.

He is known equally or more in northwest Ohio from the countless known (and many unknown) philanthropic efforts, primarily fundraising in service of the poor, the Catholic Church and The University of Toledo.

Me, along with my eight siblings, knew John Savage as dad, and I am sharing from that perspective. The story I will share about John Savage is not known by many and will truly put in perspective how his success was so improbable. It is truly an “only in America” story.

My father grew up in what, at best, could be described as a working-class neighborhood in Toledo with his eight siblings in a small home. His mom died when he was 7 leaving his father to raise nine children while owning a small corner grocery store, Savage Market. Out of necessity, all nine worked in the grocery store. This scenario does not seem like the right recipe to produce a man who would later be inducted into the City of Toledo Hall of Fame for his philanthropic and business achievements, but it did. His family instilled a work ethic, values, and a burning desire to do better.

He and all eight siblings remarkably graduated from college, and he began an entrepreneurial career in his 20s. 

John Savage and his son, Sean, 18, posed for a photo during a trip to Alaska in 1989.

By the time I came along as the eighth child of my parents, the business was growing, and his community work was well-known. 

How did John Savage go from growing up poor and without a mom to advising CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, raising millions of dollars for charity, and, with my mom, building a strong family?

From my view, there are a few key ingredients:

• Positive energy. My dad exuded confidence and positive energy to everyone he encountered. People loved being around my dad because they felt better about themselves and what they could accomplish. He was on his death bed and still positive and thankful.

• Work ethic. He was a relentless worker and was driven to do well in all endeavors. He rose early and worked late. He poured everything he had in every day. He instilled a work ethic in us children that, for me, has lasted a lifetime. Even when my parents were able to give us things, they took the better and less traveled route of “teaching us how to fish instead of giving us a fish.”

• Values. My dad did the right thing. He was principled and led by example. His commitment to high standards in business and in his personal life was a tremendous example to me and my siblings. What a blessing for a child to witness in their parents.

• Guts. He started with nothing and so his view was that he was risking nothing by taking chances in life. He was fearless in asking for business and raising money for causes.

• Loyal. Even after becoming a household name in Toledo and the industry, he never forgot his roots. He remained a loyal friend to the guys from the old neighborhood and was forever grateful to The University of Toledo for allowing him to be educated on a nothing budget.

• Humble. After all the success and accolades, he remained grounded. He made sure all his children understood what it took to do well in life, and once you do well to not change.

• Balance. My dad believed in a life-work balance, which involved a focus on family, spirituality, work, physical well-being, and doing acts of charity. He was far from perfect, but he did a good job in each of these areas.

Twenty-five years ago, I was just out of college and about 120 days from getting married. My dad’s death shook me at my core, but I turned to the valuable life lessons I was so fortunate to have been taught by my parents. 

Today, my wife, Carolyn, and I feel so blessed with our six children, and I feel particularly blessed to walk into an office each day my dad walked into for so many years. 

Looking back, I am still amazed at how far my father came in his life, and the good fortune I had to be under the same roof with him for 22 years. God speed, dad!

Sean Savage is a financial adviser at Savage & Associates in Toledo.