Cincinnati Has A Jersey Retirement Problem

(Howard Smith | USA TODAY Sports)

(Howard Smith | USA TODAY Sports)

The annual conversation made its return to the forefront last night when the point was brought up that Gary Clark should have his jersey retired when he graduates. I don’t disagree. If they retired Gary’s number you wouldn’t hear a peep out of me. Gary Clark has been one of UC’s best players for four years now, and is the most impressive human being you’ll find off the court. I don’t say this lightly, but you couldn’t engineer a human I’d be more proud to say went to my alma mater.

Cincinnati basketball has a very high bar for what constitutes a jersey retirement, and Gary doesn’t clear it. I understand holding yourself to high standards, but when excellent players like Gary Clark, Sean Kilpatrick, Steve Logan, or Danny Fortson aren’t meeting your criteria, I think you’re being too stingy. Those are all players any university would be honored to boast. Right now, none from that group will get more than a future UC Hall of Fame induction. I think that’s a problem. I have an idea how to fix it.

Before I go any further, let me say that my following solution is a compromise, not my first choice. I think Cincinnati basketball needs to get over itself and recognize these guys the same as they do with Twyman, Oscar, and Kenyon. However, I’ve given up on seeing that happen, so I came up with something else.

The Bearcats need to introduce a Ring of Honor. It’s the easiest solution to this predicament and should satisfy (most) players while making fans happy and propping up UC’s history. The fact that there is nothing, to my knowledge, in the arena that commemorates guys like Logan and Fortson is shameful. That’s untapped legacy. Fans see that. Boosters see that. Recruits see that.

The most confusing part of UC basketball’s lack of Ring of Honor is that UC football has one, and they do a better job of maintaining it, despite the fact that Bearcats football history pales in comparison to that of basketball.

One of the key aspects of having a jersey retired is the actual… retirement part of it. Nobody since Oscar has worn #12. With the Ring of Honor, those numbers remain active. We could have another #23 running around out there, but this time he’d be wearing a patch on his jersey commemorating the fact that SK left a legacy with that number. Back in 2013, the Boston Celtics wore a small, black stripe on their sleeves to honor victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. I loved how simple and understated it was, and I’m surprised we haven’t seen that idea resurface more as teams honor people. Imagine the next #23 having a subtle red sleeve stripe that says “Kilpatrick” on it. If a second player earns Ring of Honor induction in that same number, add a small stripe below the original one, or on the opposite sleeve.

When Cincinnati football unveiled its Ring of Honor during the 2007 season, they did so with an inaugural class of 13 former players. Cincinnati basketball can do the same by honoring the outstanding players they’ve let pass by over the years. I’ll put together a list of my choice for the inaugural 13-player class soon…