Former JCU head coach Tom Arth achieves first win at Akron


Akron Zips YouTube Page

Tom Arth after the Akron vs. Bowling Green football game.

Kyle Kelly, Sports Editor

It’s been a long time coming for Tom Arth ‘03 and the University of Akron Zips football team.

Arth’s Zips defeated Bowling Green State University 31-3 at Infocision Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 5. The victory over the Falcons marks the first win for Arth as a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coach.

It was more than just a win for a former Blue Streak head coach and quarterback. Arth’s staff at Akron is littered with former JCU coaches and grads. Among them are Conner Bogard ‘20, Ray Brewster ‘18, Anthony Cicione ‘19, Brian Cochran ‘90 (2007-16), Matt Feeney ‘14 (2014-16), Sam Kukura ‘19, Tommy Zagorski ‘10G (2010-14) and Jake Schaefer ‘16. 

As first reported by The Carroll News, Arth was hired by Akron in 2018 following a two-year stint at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His first 16 games as head coach of the Zips resulted in losses. A much different accord to Arth’s tenure when he began as head coach at John Carroll University in 2013.

The Blue Streaks players and coaches have been accustomed to winning football games in University Heights. During Arth’s final year at JCU, the Blue and Gold advanced to the Division III final four. Now, they can finally get off the schneid in Akron.

“I am so grateful for this team,” Arth told reporters after the game, clenching the game ball like a running back. “We’ve been through a lot together. This group of men come back every week. They don’t come back defeated, daunted by the challenges in front of them or feeling sorry. They come back with the right mindset and ability to focus on the vision and process of what it takes to become successful. 

“That’s rare. To have a group of men 18-22 years old, to be able to do that says so much about them. It’s just not football, it’s life. Life is hard. What these young men are starting to prove to themselves is that if you continue to hang in there, fight and do the right things, the right way, good things are going to happen.”

Arth opened up his press conference with an emotional tribute to Joe Perella ‘63, who passed away on Nov. 29. Perella played at JCU in the early ’60s and served as the offensive coordinator from 1994-99. He recruited Arth to JCU from Saint Ignatius (Cleveland) and served on Arth’s staff from 2013-16. 

“He and I had a really incredible relationship,” Arth said, fighting back tears. “Coach Perella was with me every step of the way. When I first became a head coach, I asked Coach Perella to be with me and help me out. He was going through some tough times and struggling from dementia. I know that he was with us today.”

Perella was with Arth and the Zips in spirit on Saturday, as Akron snapped a 21-game losing streak aided by a strong second quarter performance.

After both teams traded field goals in the first quarter, Akron added a touchdown early on in the second to go ahead 10-3. A blocked punt, which was returned for a score, put the Zips ahead 17-3 with 3:46 remaining in the second half. 

The Zips scored touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters to secure the victory. Akron outgained the Falcons in first downs (15-13) and rushing yards (195-160). 

“We were able to go out here and capitalize on the opportunities,” Arth said in the post-game press conference. “We put ourselves in great situations to make plays. We did it today. … I thought they had a great mindset coming in. I thought we played well as a team.”

Although the offensive output was encouraging, the key plays came on defense. The Zips forced three turnovers and sacked BGSU quarterback Matt McDonald three times. 

“We had great plays by our defense against an offense that is capable of moving the football and scoring points,” Arth told reporters. “They have some really talented players. Our defense came out and did a fantastic job.”

The team has finally experienced winning a football game, however, Arth acknowledged the work is far from over. 

“It’s not going to get any easier,” he said. “It’s not over. The hard time and challenges are still going to be there. Our players [now] know what it takes to overcome those obstacles and challenges.”

Akron is 1-4 this season and will play No. 24 Buffalo on the road on Saturday, Dec. 12. The Bulls, who are ranked for the first time in program history, open up as a 30-point favorite over the Zips.