ACC Expansion Resume: Cincinnati

Will the Bearcats be Left Out in the Cold When Conference Realignment Stops?

Each week, we’ll examine schools that could potentially join the ACC at some point if/when the conference decides that 14 isn’t good enough. While it appears that conferences (ACC, and SEC soon) are content with 14 for now, any moves by conference cornerstone programs could cause even more shifting. With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at how each potential addition stacks up.

This week’s resume: Cincinnati Bearcats

School: University of Cincinnati

Team nickname: Bearcats

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Current League: Big East

Year Established in FBS: 1885

2011 W-L: 7-1

Overall W-L: 559-554-51 (incl. all games)

National Titles: 0

Bowls: 12 (2 BCS)

The Good: While never consistently good at football, Cincinnati did play in the state of Ohio’s first intercollegiate football game (versus Miami (OH), a rivalry that continues today). As has been the case with most ACC expansion nominees, the school’s current Big East membership allows them to continue rivalries with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, as well as cultivate new ones with potential partner Notre Dame (perceived to be the only way Cincy would garner an invite).Of late, Cincinnati football has enjoyed the best run of success in program history, playing in seven bowls in the last 10 seasons, winning three of those. Taking home back-to-back Big East titles in 2008 and 2009, the Bearcats have also played in two BCS games, and finished the 2009 regular season undefeated.

The Bad: Though we’ll avoid harping too much on the past, before 1997, Cincinnati had only appeared in three bowl games (in over 100 years of football). Their home field, Nippert Stadium, only sits 31,500 fans and is rarely full. Not only in competition with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, they also vie for fans with the University of Louisville — and seem to lose pretty resoundingly in a city that has been steadily shrinking in population over the past 30 years. Academically, the school is well outside the top 100 (number 143), another big factor in the ACC likely ignoring them. As mentioned above, the Bearcats only real shot as an expansion candidate lies in the conference possibly wanting another Midwest team to pair with Notre Dame. Also, in the two BCS games the team played in, they were thumped pretty resoundingly.

Our Vote: While it can be argued (successfully), that when looking at the past decade, Cincinnati actually brings the most football value of all the expansion candidates we’ve looked at so far, there’s also not much else going for them. Plus, as we discussed several times already, they fail to fit in geographically unless Notre Dame is brought into the fold. Academics are another problem, since the ACC has taken such a strong stance to bring only the best institutions aboard. But if the other options (outlined in the links below) are all cut off — a real possibility — we could see the Bearcats added even in spite of all the negative factors weighing against them.

Previous Resumes: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Louisville

5 thoughts on “ACC Expansion Resume: Cincinnati

  1. With all due respect, John, you really don’t have a strong grasp on your subject. UC’s stadium seats 35,000 – not 31,500 – and it’s often sold out. Last year, they averaged 37,000 because two games were moved to Paul Brown Stadium and drew over 40,000. That’s higher than a few current ACC schools. UC doesn’t compete for fans with Louisville. At all. You’re correct when you say that they do with the Bengals. The city’s population has gone down, but the metropolitan population (which is what really counts, and includes eyeballs on the televisions) continues to increase. Academically, UC is in the top 20 in the country in research dollars (a very important measure, much more so than US News and World Report) it brings in.

    • Apologies, Glenn. The article I’d originally grabbed had said 31,500 for attendance — was just basing it on the info I’d found. Last year, the official attendance number was 32,293 according to this — but fair enough, I’ll admit the “struggling to fill seats” comment was based on games I’d watched, not the official figures. If it came down to it, I’d love for the ACC to add the Bearcats, but no one can claim they’re among the first four choices. I have nothing against UC since I am a Syracuse fan, and continue to play against them currently in the Big East. If I’d done these again today, sure, they’d be more in-depth than they were six months ago. But when taken as at-a-glance snapshots of expansion candidacy, I think these still accomplish what they were supposed to.

      Thanks for commenting, though! Always happy to see intelligent counter-arguments on posts here..

      • UC isn’t as weak academically as your are making them sound. The med school, law school, engineering school, nursing school, D.A.A.P, and criminal justice are all highly ranked. 3 of the 6 listed above are in the top 5 of their fields. The engineering is top 25 and the medical school is one of the top medical research schools in the nation with a long line of world changing discoveries (Benadryl and the live virus inoculation for polio lead the way). The Liberal Arts departments are currently dragging the school down… in the end we are a state school. The U of L is much much much worse academically. If you have a pulse you can get in (a minimum score of 20 on the A.C.T.s gets you in…. aka if you can feed and clothe yourself you are accepted)

  2. I’ve always said that the best for Cincinnati is the ACC. The Big 12 offers a better football conference, but what are the odds that we (Cincinnati) could really do damage and compete with Texas or Oklahoma for a Big 12 Title year in and year out? Not very high.

    While you say Cincinnati is indeed outside of the geographic foot print of the ACC, isn’t that what a lot of expansion is about? New markets and TV dollars. Not to mention, Cincinnati ranked #7 in the country in terms of basketball viewership on ESPN. With 1.5 million people in the Tristate area, thats a huge percentage of the population that is in to watching sports on television.

    UC also has a huge commitment to academics and have been increasing their rankings each year. UC is no longer the the joe schmo school of Ohio that anyone can get into. I’m a recent alumnus and I am not completely sure I could get in to UC out of high school with grades and ACT score I had (and I was a decent student at that).

    The renovation and expansion of Nippert Stadium and 5/3rd Arena (basketball) is also on the table and slated to start within five years (according to AD Mike Thomas). Attendance numbers will continue to improve in football as the ‘football generation’ of students begin to graduate and buy into the program. Lots of traditional UC fans haven’t gotten into the program yet because it was irrelevant until about 7 years ago.

    If the ACC is truly interested in protecting its football interest it will add Louisville, UC and UConn. Those three Big East schools add the most to football, geographic footprint, and add to the ACC basketball dynasty. UConn has the least to offer in football, but does have recent success and the basketball program has been phenomenal. Louisville and UC add a midwest TV market that does not stretch travel out to far. With Louisville you create a midwest travel partner
    Rutgers is the school I don’t understand. The only thing they have going for them is the supposed NYC market..and that is debatable at best. I have friends in NYC. The only school that city remotely cares about is Syracuse and they are an afterthought with all the professional teams. Rutgers has no commitment and no recent tradition in basketball. And they waste about as much money as the federal government on their football program and have returned lackluster results. Rutgers is the girl who appears to be attractive, but underneath the layers of make up and plastic surgeries it’s evident its a lot of hype and very little substance.

    Adding those three Big East schools and Rutgers is assuming the ACC gets raided and Clemson, FSU, Va. Tech, and another school head to the SEC.

  3. A couple of little nuances you didn’t consider. Cleveland is still a Top 20 TV market because Akron, Canton and Mansfield are lumped in. If Dayton didn’t have it’s own set of TV stations, Cincinnati-Dayton would be just as large (Springfield would probably get lumped in with Columbus, making it larger as well). UC doesn’t have a lot of fans in Dayton, but the population is there if they want to see an ACC game. I can see the ACC being on the WB affiliate in Dayton or on cable for the basketball.

    Also, Cincinnati has had some pretty decent success since Mark Dantonio laid the groundwork for a football resurgence. The Cincinnati market is prosperous financially and has some southern leanings (everything south of I-70 starts looking southern if you know the Ohio landscape. Also, 20% of the Cincinnati metro population is in Kentucky. Most are rabid Kentucky fans, but that goes back to the southern orientation I was talking about.

    UC traditonally had a strong football program and is a decent school, or at least in the top half of Ohio’s public universities. From the standpoint of an Ohio State alum, I like the move because I don’t see ACC membership as cannibalizing Ohio State’s recruiting base whereas being in the Big 12 might do that.

    I’m probably in the minority on this, but I think Rutgers and Maryland are good additions to the Big Ten. I’m looking at this academically as much as from a sports perspective. Maryland is ranked in the Top-20 about the same as Ohio State. Rutgers about the same with Minnesota. Of course, that’s just what US News says, but it shows. If you look at football recruiting rankings, based on “stars” given players by the recruiting services, I saw one article that ranks both in the middle of the Big Ten pack.

    All in all, I think the ACC should grab Cincinnati. It is a good opportunity in a good market if the ACC wants to take a flier like the Big Ten did with Rutgers.

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