UC-Miami 2013 (Madison Schmidt/News Record)
With the Battle for the Victory Bell looming this Saturday, I’ve seen the debate bubble to the surface on Twitter yet again. I hear it every year now: UC needs to do something about the Miami game. Why? Because for the last decade, not only have the RedHawks not been able to beat the Bearcats, but they haven’t been able to do anything else either. One winning season since 2005, poor attendance to go with fan support that has never been particularly strong, and the simple fact that they compete (or don’t) in the MAC, while UC has played major (or kinda-major) college football. The game is built into the Bearcats’ schedule, and it does very little to benefit them in the current landscape of college football. Let’s play athletic director and look at our hypothetical options.
Option 1: Do Nothing
If we’re being honest with ourselves, this is what will happen. If you’re an athletic director with 25% of your out-of-conference games scheduled for you, I bet you’re pretty happy. When the game is in Oxford, it’s a short ride for your team and a short drive for your fans to see a road game. When the game is in Cincinnati, you get yourself a nice little spike in attendance because it’s a “rivalry” game. Besides, eventually Miami is going to get better. They’ll always be a MAC school, but if you look at their history, the past decade has been an outlier for them. It’s unlikely they’ll remain this bad forever. At some point––like most MAC teams do––they’ll start winning. When they do, it’ll be nice to have a rival on the schedule who’s winning 10+ games. Besides, there’s way too much history in the rivalry.
Option 2: Don’t Play Every Year
There’s some merit to this one, but I’m not a fan. Playing the game every other year may mitigate some of the negative effects, but it’s also going to put a serious dent in a rivalry stretching back to the Grover Cleveland administration. Plus, imagine the scenario I mentioned above. Miami gets everything clicking and a perfect storm like 2003 comes to Oxford. They’re looking at 12 or 13 wins, and… UC doesn’t play them that season. No thanks. Sounds even more frustrating than the current set-up.
Option 3: Play At A Neutral Site
Easily the worst idea, and one that makes no sense. If this is your plan as hypothetical athletic director, you are nuts. Delete your account.
Option 4: Play Every Game At Nippert
This is what the teams did from 1899 to 1970, and it worked at the time. Now that we’ve been alternating, you can’t go back. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Miami would never agree to this, and I don’t really blame them. They’ve seen the benefits of bringing the game to Oxford, and they can’t afford to lose that completely. Besides, one of my biggest gripes with the rivalry is that Miami doesn’t have enough fans that care about football. Move the series to Cincinnati and that will get even worse.
Option 5: Switch to 2–1–2–1
Alright, here’s what I’m doing as hypothetical athletic director. It’s a more complicated set-up, and one that Miami won’t like, but they have no leverage at this point. UC should alternate two years at Nippert with one year in Oxford. After the last decade, it’s fair. When the game is at UC, it’s usually sold out or very close to it. It’s almost always broadcast on television, even if it’s just ESPNews (like this season). When the game is in Oxford, you’re lucky to hit 20,000 fans for a game broadcast on ESPN3, and then you have to drag your team and fans up there to make Miami money in the biggest game of their season. There’s no give and take. I went to the 2013 game in Oxford, and I swear UC brought more fans than the RedHawks average by themselves. It’s not fair. They’re lucky to win four games in a season, and now here comes UC with a bag of cash. If Miami starts winning eight or nine games again, we can switch back. Until then, this is what UC deserves if they’re going to keep this rivalry going.
Option 6: Treat It As The FCS Game
I also like this option, especially when combined with Option 5. A major gripe among fans is that the RedHawks are so bad that playing them can only hurt us. I agree, and I think the best way to alleviate this is to cancel the annual FCS game for the time being. Treat Miami as the annual cupcake team and schedule three competent G5 or P5 teams to fill out the rest of the out-of-conference schedule. The issue with this solution is two-fold. 1) Now you have to pay a better team to come in place of an FCS team. 2) By eliminating the FCS game, you eliminate an automatic home game every year. To make Option 6 work, I think you have to combine it with Option 5.
Option 7: Cancel It
The favorite option among Bearcats #HotTakers is to cancel the rivalry altogether. “You suck and we won’t play you!” I see the frustration, but I can’t bring myself to do it as hypothetical athletic director. You don’t cancel a rivalry after a lopsided decade. Miami didn’t do it to us when we were terrible. I know college football is different now and the conference landscape has all but cemented the RedHawks will be permanently beneath the Bearcats in stature, but we’ve seen enough rivalries cancelled because of expansion and TV money. I can’t imagine losing this one, too. Cancel the Miami game and Jimmy Nippert will roll over in his grave.
(Note: Now that I’ve written this, I’m fully prepared for Miami to beat us by 20 this weekend. Because karma.)