I haven't written much [if anything] concerning the University of Cincinnati's football team. Until recently, many people in our fine city had no idea a team even existed in Clifton, but on Saturday [or perhaps tomorrow if West Virginia lays an egg] the Bearcats have a chance to win the Big East championship and play in a BCS bowl game.
I've always loved football and, in my formative years, I chose to follow the Ohio State Buckeyes. Sure, when it came to college basketball I always returned to the hometown team . . . um, UC not Xavier*, but football always meant the Bucks. The reason I didn't cheer for UC football is because they played at a lower level; let's be honest: neither the Metro Conference nor Conference USA presented the best brand of football. And I'll admit even this: during the amazing 2002 Buckeye run to the national championship, I was rooting against the Bearcats as my OSU loyalties proved too strong. But I've been tracking the program for years and have watched practically every game they've played this season. This team is pretty good. And it's now an incredibly fun style of football to watch.
But UC's jump to the Big East [thank you, Bob Huggins, wherever you are] was a total game changer for the football program. There was now a BCS tie-in, which even presented the opportunity to compete for a national championship. Two years ago, when Bearcats AD Mike Thomas stated that UC would win Big East championships in every sport, I was sure football would be the last to arrive. And now, it's totally within grasp.
I wasn't sure if they could find someone to take over the helm of the program like Mark Dantonio, but Brian Kelly is on the verge of owning this town.** Sure, the rumors persist that he'll go to some larger program and I wouldn't blame him.*** But if he's patient, he has the opportunity to build a college football power in this town. I'm very serious: this new playing style will attract recruits, the campus facilities [sans the bandbox stadium] are spectacular, and this isn't a little podunk city. Regardless of what happens, things are looking good.
In short, it is a very good time to be a Bearcats fan. And as I continue to sport my practice-worn Gino Guidugli jersey, I embrace this new winning tradition in our fine city, eagerly anticipating a Big East Championship on Saturday.
*Even though they are crosstown rivals, I've always liked Xavier. I know their are some loyalists who can't fathom that relationship, but it works for me. Even though my future alumni status makes me take a greater interest in the Muskies, my ultimate allegience is still to UC.
**It should be noted that the way the mayor and city council treated Coach Kelly on Wednesday was flat-out bush league. These people need to realize that if you're going to honor someone, don't impose on their time. But Coach used to be involved in politics, so I'm sure he expects it from them.
***While I highly doubt that Coach Kelly will spend decades in Clifton, I just can't envision him going to Tennessee. The SEC is a bad fit for his system, and I'm not convinced he's survive in one of those southern football towns.