When the Bearcats defeated Rutgers this season, it made the team bowl eligible and a bowl berth almost a certainty, it was just a matter of when and where. After weeks of rumors, speculation and projections the Bearcats finally know where they will be bowling.
Wednesday, the UC accepted a bid to the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Al. and will play former Conference USA rival Southern Miss. on Dec. 22.
The bowl berth means a $300,000 payday for the Big East.
With a 9-3 record and victories over South Florida, Rutgers and UConn, the Bearcats had theirs eyes set on a higher-paying bowl, but say they are still happy to be given the opportunity to play in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
"We're very excited," quarterback Ben Mauk said. "Anytime you get to go to a bowl game it's a reward for your hard work during the season and the summer time as well."
The two teams last squared off in 2004 when the Gino Guidugli-led Bearcats dismantled the Golden Eagles 52-24.
This season, the Golden Eagles amassed a 7-5 overall record and 5-3 in Conference USA, placing them fourth in the Eastern Division of the conference.
"This is back-to-back years of being in a bowl game," head coach Brian Kelly said.
"That's a good thing because you get a lot of time with your kids and you get a chance to develop them, and last year, being in that bowl game gave us a great opportunity to do the things we did this year."
Kelly also questioned the absence of former Southern Miss. head coach Jeff Bower after 17 years.
"As a fellow football coach in a fraternity that understands the pressures of the job, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me," Kelly said.
With the success of the Cincinnati program and many high-profile coaching jobs suddenly available, speculation has risen around head coach Brain Kelly possibly looking at those jobs.
At the beginning of the Wednesday press conference, Kelly made light of the situation when asked if he was disappointed with the bowl game his team will be playing in.
"I was so busy, because I was interviewing in Nebraska and Michigan," Kelly joked. "It's been so busy, I haven't gotten a chance to think about it. After my wife wore me out, raking leaves and chopping wood, I've gotten a chance to get the news, and we're excited about being in a bowl game."
Are you excited about the Bearcats being selected to play in the Papa Johns Bowl against Southern Miss?
Kelly and Thomas Comment on Rumors
Mike Thomas, Director of Athletics
"We are proud of the job Coach Kelly, his staff, and the student-athletes have done this year bringing UC football to new and historic heights.
When you have a coach of Brian's caliber you want to do everything in your power to keep him. As such, Brian and I have been in constant dialogue and working together."
Brian Kelly, Head Football Coach
"Mike Thomas and I have been meeting. We have been working hard talking about the plans for the future of Cincinnati football. The meetings have been good. We are on the same page. We have been talking about all the things we need to do quickly to move the program ahead in a positive way."
Let us know what you think by going to our football message board The Red Zone to post your comments.