(Ofer Wolberger/The New York Times)
In the world of sports, there are two jobs that millions wish they could perform from the comfort of their couch: General manager and athletic director. I would love to take a spin at the AD job at the University of Cincinnati. “That coach stinks, so let’s fire him. This coach is rising fast, let’s pay him $8 million. The stadium is kind of run down, just build a new one. Let’s get different uniforms for every game!”
I recognize how hard these kinds of jobs are, and also how little the athletic director has control over. I know there is legal red tape, a lot of checks and balances within the administration, and also heavy financial considerations. Athletic directors are not all-powerful dictators with an endless cashflow. However, if I woke up tomorrow as the athletic director in Clifton and I had the ability to pull off just about anything, here are some things I’d try:
“The honest-to-God truth is, it was too easy.” (Michael Snyder)
- Bring back Midnight Madness. Back during what I call the Second Golden Age of Bearcats Basketball, Midnight Madness was magical. There were uniform unveilings. There were posters in the Enquirer. There was Melvin Levett rocking a chain and dunking over a freaking golf cart in 1998. Of course, this only happened after UC had refused to let him drive a car onto the court and after Bob Huggins refused to let him jump two golf carts. I want to go back to a world where more than 10,000 of us pile into the arena in the middle of the night and watch a guy settle for only jumping one golf cart.
- Bring back Armory Fieldhouse. I know this is kind of a financial and logistical mess, but this is my dream world, so watch me work. Armory Fieldhouse was the home of the Bearcats during what I call the First Golden Age of Bearcats Basketball. It was tiny then, and feels even tinier now. It was no-frills then, and feels even less frilly now. The place is barely more than a gymnasium, but it’s one of the most historical college basketball venues in America. It’s old and probably can’t meet any fire codes in 2016, so I understand why it’s sitting there virtually unused. However, there are kids at UC (probably most kids at UC) that probably don’t know that it exists or where it is. That kinda stinks. Set aside some money or hold a fundraiser and let’s nudge Armory into 2016. We don’t need to make it a world-class facility. Let’s just restore it to its original state and use it for special occasions. I would kill for a red and black basketball scrimmage at Armory, much less an early-season game. Maybe open it to the students and allow organized groups to play co-ed games there. Maybe give it to the volleyball team so they can stop holding matches in a massive, empty arena. (I’ve been to several matches. They’re fun and the team is good, but the atmosphere is abysmal for volleyball at Fifth Third.)
- Get some throwback uniforms for every sport. I spend most of my free time at the intersection of sports and history. Throwback uniforms are like crack to me. A short while back, men’s basketball had some glorious throwbacks that they wore for a couple years before they vanished. We need to bring those back, along with uniforms from other eras. Baseball and football have been left out in the cold. Don’t stop at basketball, let’s do it for every sport. UC has tons of athletic history that’s largely untapped. Let’s revive some of that with our uniforms. Under Armour would make a killing on these.
- Close off the north end zone of Nippert. There isn’t much I dislike about Nippert Stadium. It is honestly, without bias, one of the best venues in college football. The detraction is that it’s quite small. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but we should at least maximize what space we have. This brings me to me main Nippert renovation request: Clean up the north end zone. Nippert is fantastic and intimate, but look at all the wasted space at the north end. Swinging the north stands around to meet the sideline stands will have multiple benefits. First, it’ll give a slight bump to the capacity, which never hurts. Second, when the stadium is full, it will look even more crowded than it currently does. Third, it will allow even less space for noise to escape. And lastly, it will automatically create a kind of tunnel in the northeast corner where the players run out before the game. I’m not an architect or engineer, but I have a feeling something like this hasn’t been done because it’ll look kinda messy and because it’s probably more expensive than it’s worth. Neither of these things matter in my dream world.
- Put seats in Dieterle. For those of you who don’t know what Dieterle is, it’s that gorgeous building that overlooks the south end zone of Nippert Stadium. It was once called Schmidlapp Gymnasium, and it was the first permanent home of Bearcats basketball. It’s beautiful and full of history. These days, it’s nothing more than a vocal arts center for CCM, but we can bring back some athletic fun by putting some seats in there for football games. Very few have access to the building, and even fewer can get in during a game. Watching from inside the old building is an experience I’d pay for.
Bearcats hockey uniform concepts by
- Bring us Bearcats varsity hockey, and stick them in Armory. I actually remember suggesting this as half-joke last year, and on Tuesday I got a tweet from Luke Woerner suggesting the same thing. I’ve only been inside Armory Fieldhouse twice––both on my first day as a student and again on my last. It’s not a large room, so I’m not entirely sure a hockey rink would comfortably fit inside of it. However, let’s be real, that isn’t the most limiting part of this scenario. I’m not much of a hockey fan, but it’s one of those sports that’s incredibly fun to see live and in person. I would be a huge supporter of UC hockey. Putting it inside a smaller venue in the heart of campus would be perfect, and it would bring new life to the dormant Armory Fieldhouse. As Luke also suggested, we could join Miami’s conference and they’d be a rival while repeatedly kicking our ass to balance out the last 11 years of Victory Bell humiliation. (Note: UC does have a hockey team, it just isn’t a varsity sport. At the time of this writing, they’re off to an 8–0 start to their season.)
UC baseball playing at the south end of Nippert, 1927. (UC Libraries)
- Play other sports at Nippert. I’m a sucker for sticking sports in unique venues where they don’t belong. Hockey at a baseball stadium? Yep. Football at a racetrack? Yep. Basketball on an aircraft carrier? Yep. UC basically fulfilled this wish at the beginning of soccer season this year when the Bearcats women squared off against NKU in the first edition of the Riverboat Rivalry. The game was a huge success, drawing 4,722 fans––the most for a women’s soccer game in Ohio’s history. Keep it up. The stadium is too small for baseball anymore, but we can certainly get UC soccer in there on an annual basis. A hockey game would also be fantastic. If not UC’s club hockey team, then maybe the Cyclones would be down to play a “Winter Classic.” This would probably be an expensive endeavor, but it’s my dream world so it doesn’t matter. Plus, the fan turnout would be great.
- A football-basketball doubleheader. The first person I remember suggesting this was Chris Bains, back in the day. As someone who can’t possibly get enough of the Bearcats, I always loved the idea. Imagine a noon football game followed by a 6-7 PM men’s basketball game. Crazy, right? Fans could get rolling early in the morning tailgating at The Grid, jump into Nippert for a football game, go back to the grid for more tailgating and dinner, and head to Fifth Third Arena for an early-season basketball game that evening. Let’s turn this up to 100 though. Want to spice it up a little? Maybe sell 13,176 combo tickets that allow fans to attend both events at a discounted price. What to spice it up a lot? Bear with me here: November doubleheader homecoming against Miami. I call it MegaHomecoming. I know, I know. Basketball starts in mid-November and homecoming is usually 3–4 weeks earlier than that. But how cool would it be to save homecoming for the beginning of basketball season and play Miami in both sports with all of the alumni in town? Plus––if you lined it up perfectly––it could be Senior Day for football and Opening Night for basketball on the same day, both against rival Miami. It would be the perfect transition from football to basketball season and would be a great excuse to have a blowout day. How incredible is that? Right? Right?! This is my best, most insane idea. I’m in love with it.
- Move the band from the southeast corner to the north end zone (idea via Will Hughes). I never would’ve come up with this, but I like it a lot the more I think about it. The band in it’s current location doesn’t make a ton of sense. I do kind of like having them by the students, but at the same time you’re putting the loudest portion of the stadium in one spot. Spread it around. We’ve already talked about how much space there is at the north end of the stadium. Put staircases on either side of the north stands to allow the band to enter after running down the steps and performing before the game. Not only will this allow fans to sit in those “better” seats in the southeast corner, but it puts the loudest members of the crowd at opposite ends of the field, maximizing home field advantage. (I know the fans who sit in the north end zone won’t like this one. They tend to love those seats.)
If you have a good, crazy UC athletics idea, tweet me. I may add it here. I know I have had crazier ideas in the past, and you guys might trigger something.
If you’re idea is related to personnel, save it. Your “Fire Tuberville” concept is not unique, and I’ll be asking you guys in a couple months which coaches are on your wish list anyways.