When a person from Cincinnati thinks of UC athletics what comes to mind? That answer is probably UC Basketball 8 of 10 times. When a person from outside of this city sees a University of Cincinnati Athletics team what comes to their mind? That answer is the city of Cincinnati itself. I am going to make a general comment that I believe holds true among the masses
People outside of this region associate UC Athletics with the personality of the people of the city. What do I mean you ask? I'm glad you did. This may not be the case for everyone but I am more than sure than when people see a USC basketball or football game "Hollywood" comes to mind. If you do not believe me, just ask O.J. Mayo and Matt Leinart. When West Virginia comes on television, maybe some people think "Coal Miners" or "Crazy Fans"?
How about when a Detroit team of any types takes the field, court or rink? I'm willing to bet my Christmas presents that "Blue Collar", "Slum Village" or even "Crime Haven" may come to some people's minds. The truth of the matter is that a city's athletic teams are to be the refuge for pride and unity. I do not think there is an argument that Boston fans have a tough connotation about themselves which resonates as a characteristic of the people that live there. Other cities will judge your city based upon how your team plays or your reaction to how your team plays.
Case in point is the UCONN Huskies. When UCONN takes the field, no matter how good their record is in a particular season they will still be known as a "basketball" school. Once you see that they have over 45,000 fans in the stadium every game, you may still walk away proclaiming that UCONN is a "basketball" school. The difference will be that they are a basketball school that loves their football. Even if you could care less, you have more respect for their program and the people of Hartford, CT. If you think that I'm wrong about that, just ask the Meineke Car Care Bowl Coalition.
The ironic scenario is that citizens of the Queen City want to be associated with other programs that symbolize winning in their eyes such as Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville, although they cannot reap the benefits of their success. I liken that to a guy that brags about his buddy's model girlfriend. Why brag on her if you cannot have her, so you might as well love the one you are with, or get one that you can love. At least that way, some other guys may have respect for your girlfriend and maybe gain respect for you because you decided to date her. But instead of gaining respect and building off of that you do not get the model girlfriend and you have no pride to stand on. You just have insults because you are in love with your friend's girlfriend.
Consider this, if the people of Cincinnati and "closet" UC fans would have supported the Motor City Bowls, New Orleans Bowl, International Bowl etc. then it is conceivable to say that UC would have been selected to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
As a result of the lack of participation during home games and bowl games the fans have decided the fate of a team that brought so much excitement during the year. The consequences of these actions were the loss of a bigger cash payout, better competition and another opportunity to capture national respect. The fans or lack thereof allowed the support of a team that cannot practice with the Bearcats let alone play with the Bearcats steal the benefit that the players earned. It is equivalent to being upset that your daughter is ugly, but you refused to get her hair done or buy her a new dress. That is not her issue, it is her parent's issue.
As residents of Cincinnati , what has happened to the Bearcat football program can no longer be blamed on not having a conference, not having players, or not having coaches even - but more so on not having the backing that other big programs and striving programs have.
So what is the thesis of this argument??? As the Nature Boy Rick Flair always said, "To Be the Man, You Gotta Beat the Man - WHOA!!" Now the real question is, well how does UC beat the powers to gain supremacy or to even become a player in "major" college football?
Some would argue that UC needs talent. With how many UC players that currently play in the NFL, CFL and AFL, and considering the players off of this team that will play next year at a higher level illustrates that the talent exists. If you can find 3 safeties better than Haruki Nakamura, or 5 defensive ends better than Angelo Craig, or 2 freshman wide receivers better than Marcus Barnett or 3 tandems of cornerbacks better than Mike Mickens or DeAngelo Smith then I'll pay in Papa John's Pizza for each that you can find. Let us remember, that bigger, or faster doesn't mean better, nor does when you get drafted determine better (i.e. Ryan Leaf vs. Peyton Manning or Drew Henson vs. Tom Brady).
Some people would argue conference affiliation. Well if that's the case the National Champion WILL come out of the Big East this year and that is enough validation for a conference for me. Some would argue coaching. With all of the rumors surrounding Brian Kelly I do not think that I have to defend that. Some others would argue facilities and my rebuttal is name me all of the teams that have a "bubble" practice facility that will not be in a BCS Bowl game. I guess UC should pattern the program after Notre Dame and get the number one recruit in the country, over pay for NFL coach to keep him, practice in bubble and win 2 meaningless games. Maybe that will draw attention.
Bottom line: If the people of Cincinnati are looking for a good investment for their entertainment dollars, city recognition and opportunity to be apart of a program that has been on the incline for 15 years then UC Football is the way to go. UC has made steps every year to becoming a national power. Although that goal has not manifested itself yet, UC is well on its way.
UC has gone from lonely independent, to Conference USA Champion, to perennial winning seasons and bowl bids, to the Big East and National Rankings. If you do not think that is a sign of progress then maybe going to the playoffs one time in 17 years like the Bengals is?
Or just maybe the fans are always looking for the grass to be greener on the other side just as the many coaches that have used UC's program as a stepping stone to better their careers, when the champion they were looking for resides in Clifton, inside of the City limits of Cincinnati , Ohio the entire time
Do you agree or disagree with Jason? Let him know by posting on our football message board called The Red Zone
Jason Collins-Baker is the newest member of the BearcatLair.com staff. He has a unique perspective regarding UC Athletics because he played wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bearcats from 1997 through 2000 and worked for the UCCATS office for a few years.