A comprehensive, thought-provoking ranking of the 26 names in Bearcat basketball history
Remembering the most miraculous team in Bearcat history
Debating the four most influential figures to come from UC in the past 198 years
A definitive ranking of the best Bearcats of the modern era
A brief history of Cincinnati basketball and the building that built the madness
A quick history of the football series between the Bearcats and Thundering Herd
The time sex, drugs, rock and roll, and violence took over Nippert Stadium
I spent a long time rooting around for Bearcats stuff in the Getty Images archives. Here are my findings.
I love Bearcats history and old UC photographs. There aren’t many available online, so sometimes it feels like I’ve seen everything. However, the Getty Images archive is a treasure trove of UC history. I spent some time looking through their oldest offerings and grabbed some samples of cool and historically significant Bearcats shots.
Left: Cincinnati professor Dr. Albert Sabin is famous for having creating the oral polio vaccine. Here he is sitting at his desk in his laboratory at UC.
Right: I believe this is from a series of photos taken of Oscar Robertson before his first varsity season in 1957. This is notable because he’s wearing #23, not the #12 he became famous for in Clifton that hangs on the wall of The Shoe today.
Left: UC archery club member Alice Kern poses against a target.
Right: A long time ago, UC students used to do something called Flag Rush. Think of it as giant game of caputure the flag that pitted the freshman against the sophomores. It started in the 1870s before ending around WW1. The game would sometimes last for days. Here, in 1908, is Flag Rush. This picture is taken on Carson Field (where Nippert now sits) and you can see the original McMicken Hall looming behind the fence in the background. For its age, the quality is phenomeal.
Left: 1916 photo of a student in the Pi Kappa Alpha house at UC.
Right: 1921 photo of girls in Greek costumes competing in the “Grecian Games” to benefit the UC athletic fund.
Left: President Roosevelt speaking in the rain at Nippert Stadium, October 1936.
Right: 18-year-old UC pitcher Sandy Koufax signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers just before Christmas 1954.
Left: Oscar Robertson after a workout at UC, 1958.
Right: Oscar Robertson vs Iowa at Madison Square Garden for LIFE Magazine. He scored 50 points.
Left: Oscar Robertson bent over in pain after getting poked in the eye in a game against Iowa.
Right: Oscar Robertson reads a newspaper while in NYC for a holiday tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Left: Oscar Robertson shakes hands with George Smith as his jersey is retired.
Right: UC’s Paul Hogue faces off against Ohio State’s Jerry Lucas as the Bearcats win the 1961 NCAA Championship.
Left: Bearcats vs North Texas, November 1968. This was the last season UC’s wore blank helmets for each game. (They also wore blank red helmets in 1967, but without the white stripe.)
Right: UC professor Neil Armstrong steps out of his office for his first day as professor, 1971.
Bearcat quarterback legend Greg Cook faces the Ohio Bobcats at Nippert Stadium, November 1968.
Left: Bearcat basketball legend Pat Cummings takes one to the hoop against Eastern Kentucky at Riverfront Coliseum, circa 1978.
Right: Nick Van Exel drives to the basket against Michigan State in the second round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament in Dayton.
Nick Van Exel vs Michigan, 1992 Final Four.
Left: Penn State’s Richie Anderson flies into the endzone in a 1992 game at Nippert Stadium.
Right: President Bill Clinton reacts to a call during UC’s win over the Arkansas Razorbacks, December 1995.
Nick Van Exel runs the point, hoists a shot at Fifth Third Arena.
Left: Melvin Levett, February 1996.
Right: Danny Fortson, February 1996.
Left: Melvin Levett rises for a huge block, February 1996.
Right: Current UConn coach Kevin Ollie runs the court in a game against the Bearcats, March 1995.
Kenyon Martin reaches for a rebound and the Bearcats hoist a trophy for knocking off #1 Duke in the 1998 Great Alaska Shootout.
Left: Kenyon Martin sits injured on the bench during the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
Right: Kenyon Martin NBA Draft photo.
Left: Tony Bobbitt soars for a dunk against Oregon, December 2002.
Right: Bob Huggins argues with an official during what would be his final game with the Bearcats, March 2005.
Basketball illustration from the 1907 edition of The Cincinnatian. (UC Libraries)
This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly chipping away at it. This is a really time consuming project that I would have preferred to complete all at once. However, you’ll noticed I stopped at 1971. The ’70s and ’80s are a weird dead space for UC history because it’s the period after early history (which is cataloged online) and it’s before recent history (which is cataloged online). I can find every uniform starting in the ’90s pretty easily, but that dead zone will be hard to fill. If you have any photos from the ’70s and ’80s, or ideas on where to get them, feel free to let me know. I’d love to finish Part 2 of this.
If you have a question, or if you see something I’ve messed up, let me know. I’m not perfect, this was a cumbersome project, and history can get murky. I’d rather just get everything correct.
A huge thanks to the online archives of the UC Libraries. I believe every image is from them. They’re the best.
Tip: Use CTRL+F (or command+F on Mac) to quickly jump to a specific year.
[NOTE: This wasn’t even a varsity team. (The first varsity team on record isn’t until 1901–02.) It’s not listed in the basketball media guide, but the 1897–98 edition of The Cincinnatian has a photo and team roster of what appears to be the first UC basketball team. They played one game that season, and it looks like it was an scrimmage against another UC club team. The game ended in a 2–2 tie.]
They didn’t have uniforms. What you’re seeing are the football uniforms.
Solid black with a Block “C”. The turtlenecks are what was worn by the football during that time period, so it looks like they just copied those.
Solid black with subtle striping. It’s hard to say for sure what the colors were, but UC hadn’t adopted red and black as official colors yet. They really could be anything.
1904, 1905, 1906
Solid black with “UC” inside a circle. I think it’s interesting how the wide shoulders resemble the more modern cut jerseys worn in the Adidas era. I also find it interesting that the team returned to pants after wearing shorts for three seasons. I can’t imagine anyone playing basketball in shorts and deciding heavy football pants were better.
1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911
Very similar to the 1904 uniforms, but now with just a “C” inside a circle. Again with heavy football pants. These even look like they have pads in them.
1912, 1913, 1914, 1915
Solid black with script “Cin’ti.” I don’t know the etymology of that, but it’s an abbreviation for Cincinnati that you see fairly often on older postcards and things of that nature. It’s the equivalent of a “Cincy” jersey nowadays.
Black and white stripes.
1918, 1919, 1920, 1921
Completely blank. Solid black and solid white. I’d like to see a team brave enough to try turning these into throwbacks. Imagine blank uniforms on ESPN.
Solid black with an elongated Block “C”. Since one player is wearing the same jersey in white, I’d assume they had home and away uniforms with the same design.
1926, 1927, 1928
1926 was the first time “Cincinnati” appeared on the front of Bearcats basketball jerseys. It was black font on a black uniform.
1929, 1930, 1931
1929 added black (or maybe even red) piping on white uniforms around the shoulders and at the bottom of the shorts. Piping around the shorts is still common to this day, and we first saw the trend on UC uniforms in 1929.
[Note: I couldn’t track down good enough photos of the 1930 team, so I can’t say for certain that they worse these uniforms. Based on the fact that they wore them in ’29 and ’31, I feel comfortable assuming.]
1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936
In 1932, uniforms featured a prominent belt buckle as well as something resembling modern sneakers. Those are the only two differences separating these from the 1926 uniform, as far as I can tell.
Similar to the 1929 uniforms but without piping around the shoulders, the addition of black belts, and black-striped socks.
Same as 1937, but minus the socks.
1939, 1941, 1942, 1943
Very similar to the 1932 uniforms, but it looks like shiny (silk?) shorts were standard starting in 1939.
In 1940, at least one uniform featured mismatched jersey and shorts. I’m not sure if the black road uniforms had white shorts.
1944, 1945, 1946, 1947
Similar to the 1938 uniforms, but these don’t have black piping around the shorts. “Cincinnati” is also changed, and this new version reminds me a lot of old Reds uniforms, for whatever reason. A much more subtle arc to the word itself.
The road uniforms were black on black, and thus nearly impossible to see in photos. Additionally, you can tell in the photo below that some jerseys had a number on the front but no “Cincinnati.” This happened on and off from 1944–47.
1948 is when the uniforms started to resemble what we picture when thinking of Bearcats throwbacks. The shorts featured piping with a triple stripe (white, black, white). The warmups were really spiffy, and are adorned by my favorite version of the bearcat.
1950, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959
These were a common version of the ’50s and ’60s era uniforms. The triple stripe piping on the shorts appears to be black-red-black. “Cincinnati” appears to be red outlined in black.
Below is a game against Cedarville in 1950 when at least one player wore mismatched jersey and shorts. I couldn’t find evidence of this being a trend, so I can’t say with confidence if this was something that happened for one game, one season, multiple season, or was nothing more than a wardrobe issue by a forgetful equipment manager.
These appear to be the same as the 1950 uniforms, but with solid black piping instead of the triple black-red-black. After a couple seasons, they abandoned that until 1966.
1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965
These are the classics, in my opinion. Simple and perfect.
The shoulder piping was nothing more than a heavy black stripe. The piping along the shorts appears to be a triple stripe of black-red-black. “Cincinnati” is now a solid, flawless black.
They wore these for five consecutive Final Four appearances and back-to-back National Championship victories. The Bearcats revived these (or something based off of these) in 2010–11 and 2011–12.
1966, 1967, 1968, 1969
Starting in 1966, the uniforms were essentially a combination of the 1960 uniforms (same jersey, it would appear) and the 1950 uniforms (similar single black stripe piping on the shorts).
These seem like a half-step away from the ’50s and ’60s standards, and the next edition in 1970 completes the full step.
Another small set of tweaks to the 1966 uniforms results in a completely different set of duds than the ones worn from 1948–1965. These uniforms are fine, although nothing special. They’re essentially a standard ’70s version of what was worn in the previous 20+ years.
A newly completed Nippert Stadium, 1924. (UC Libraries)
Bearcats football was founded by Dr. Arch Carson in 1885. In 1895, plans for a stadium at the site of Nippert were conceived. The cost of the field would be $4,650 ($133k in 2016), and despite Cincinnati Mayor Julius Fleischmann contributing $2,000 ($57k in 2016), the fundraising effort took five years to complete. In 1901, work began on the facility, and UC won its first game at the site, beating Hanover 18–0. Wooden bleachers lined the playing field, along the sides of “conveniently located hills.”
A 1909 topographical map, showing why the location of Carson/Nippert was chosen. (uc.edu/Google Maps)
In 1910, the university officially named the field “Carson Field,” in honor of the father of Cincinnati football. It was then that they hatched a plan for a permanent, concrete stadium. In 1916, the first nine sections of the stadium were financed by a city bond. In 1920, two more sections were added with war reclamation funds. In 1921, another three sections were added thanks to student subscriptions. It was then, according to The Cincinnatian, that it appeared the well had dried up. The stadium wasn’t done and there was no feasible way to find the money to finish it.
In 1923, during a Thanksgiving game against “ancient enemy” Miami, center Jimmy Nippert was gashed by a cleat in the muddy conditions. His wound filled with mud, but he finished the game. He later developed an infection, fell ill, and found himself fighting for his life. On Christmas Day 1923, he died of blood poisining.
Six days later, Jimmy’s grandfather — James N. Gamble, son of the Procter & Gamble co-founder —wrote a letter to UC president Frederick Hicks, offering to pay for completion of the stadium, adding an additional 18 sections of seats to the 14 that had already been constructed. Original cost estimates were between $125,000 and $150,000, but the final sum paid by Gamble was $250,000 ($3.52M in 2016). The stadium included state-of-the-art training rooms (one for UC and another for visitors) that would allow for on-site medical care for injured players, essentially preventing other athletes from suffering the same fate Jimmy did.
Nippert under construction. (UC Libraries)
Nippert’s final words, “Five more yards to go — then drop!” were carved into his memorial at the south end of the stadium, just above a 10-foot etching of Jimmy himself.
A 1924 photo of the Jimmy Nippert memorial that overlooks the south end of Nippert Stadium. (UC Libraries)
The dedication ceremony took place on November 8, 1924, before the game against Oberlin. More than 10,000 fans were in attendance, according to the Enquirer. Among them were Jimmy’s parents, as well as representatives from colleges and universities in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia.
James N. Gamble (left) and UC President Frederick Hicks, Nippert dedication ceremony, 11/8/24. (UC Libraries)
The Cincinnatian dared to dream that games would be played at Nippert Stadium “long after we, our sons, and perhaps our grandsons” passed through the halls of UC. At the ceremony, James N. Gamble delivered a similar message in his address to the crowd:
In presenting the completed stadium to the University of Cincinnati, I feel deeply that this structure includes far more than mere brick, stone, and mortar — but that, like the invisible iron rods and steel girders which bind these concrete walls into indestructible solidarity, there is here a certain invisible but ever-present spirit of a noble, loyal, democratic youth who played the game of life according to the rules of that game and in recognition of the rights of his fellow men.
I should be, indeed, very happy in the assurance that, in this vast structure, in these tons of iron, concrete, brick, and stone, erected here on Carson Field, if there might be embodied all that is fine and noble in our American youth, so that each successive generation of students might be mindful, at all times, that the primary object of this athletic field is to develop sound minds in sound bodies, so that at the conclusion of life’s race, each contestant may truly say:
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith!”
The walls of this stadium will now and in future years resound with the joyful shouts of victories fairly won, as, no doubt, they will also witness heartbreaking defeats and bitter disappointments; but, remember, that whatever may be the result to the contending teams on this field, may it always be said that either in victory or defeat, good, clean sportsmanship is the sine quo non on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.
In this spirit, President Hicks, I deem it a great privilege to offer this stadium to the university, with the fond hope that victories in untold number may crown its loyal teams, and bring fame, honor, and glory to the fair name of the university and the city of Cincinnati.
It’s remarkable to me that any of this happened.
One thing you’ll notice looking back through UC history is the number of times that the football program nearly folded. Finances were tight. Talent was thin. War debts piled up. Fan support disappeared. Facilities were crumbling or non-existent. Each time the Bearcats had their backs against the wall, something happened. In 1923, it was the unexpected passing of one of UC’s brightest stars, who just so happened to be from one of the city’s wealthiest families. A freak accident on Thanksgiving in 1923, and suddenly the University of Cincinnati was gifted a stadium that’s hosted students and fans for nearly a century.
There’s no way James Gamble could’ve anticipated this on the chilly afternoon of November 8, 1924, yet here we are. Gamble died at his home in Westwood in 1932, but I can’t help but wonder what he’d think if he could see crowd of better than 40,000 people pack a stadium bearing his grandson’s name — tucked beneath a spaceship-looking structure filled with fans and press — and win a game broadcast to millions on ESPN. He wished for it in his address that afternoon, but he couldn’t have possibly imagined it happening, right?
(The Enquirer/Sam Greene)
Happy 92nd Birthday, Nippert. I love you.
UC falls to Oberlin in the first game at completed Nippert Stadium, 11/8/24. (UC Libraries)
Carson Field before construction on Nippert Stadium began. (UC Libraries)
Architect’s illustration of Nippert Stadium, 1923. (UC Libraries)
Original proposed Nippert plan in 1922 called for a full oval. (UC Libraries)
Nippert in the snow, 1924–25. (UC Libraries)
Nippert seating chart, 1925. (Enquirer)
Pogue’s advertisement centered around the Nippert dedication ceremony, 1924. (Enquirer)
Nippert after completion in 1924 compared to after renovation in 2015. (UC Libraries/Spencer Tuckerman)
Running down the top ten Cincinnati Bearcats references in rap music.
Basketball and hip-hop have had a tight-knit relationship since the inception of the genre. Because the Bearcats boasted such a ferocious brand of basketball during hip-hop’s golden era in the ’90s, there are traces of UC throughout rap music, starting in the mid-’90s and stretching for the next decade or so.
Occasionally I’ll stumble across a song with a Nick Van Exel reference. I finally decided enough is enough and set out to catalogue (some) instances of Bearcats popping up in rap music. The number of Nick The Quick name drops blew me away. I eventually had to cut it off.
The MVPs of this exercise are: Hi-Tek, who elicited two references to the Bearcats in general, not even a specific player. (Major props.) Jay Z, who worked Van Exel into a massive single and K-Mart into a mixtape track. Paul Wall, who somehow worked a K-Mart reference into each of his first two albums.
Dr. Dre rocking a C Paw in an episode of “Yo! MTV Raps.”
This list doesn’t include all of the references I found. I ignored some that were either too random, to0 lame, or too… vulgar.
[Note: The following music contains explicit lyrics. Heads up.]
Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek) — “Name of the Game”
Guess what? You could be coppin’ that
Nkiru Books for fifteen dollars flat
Cats who spit knowledge on tracks
And get bumped out the back of Impalas and Cadillacs
All my live Cincinnati Bearcats holla back
Released in October 2001, Train of Thought was a collaboration album between Cincinnati native Hi-Tek and Talib Kweli, a legendary hip-hop artist with roots in the Queen City. The album dropped two weeks before #1 draft pick Kenyon Martin’s NBA debut and a month before the #18 Bearcats started the 2000–01 season in Clifton.
[rapped by Talib Kweli — appears at :51]
Hi-Tek — “Money Don’t Make U Rich” (ft. Xzibit & Strong Arm Steady)
And I ain’t whistlin’, Dixie; this is Hi-Teknology wit me
You couldn’t find a finer designer to tailor fit me
To be, yeah ya n-gga Tone, Cincinnati’s own
Hometown favorite like the Bearcats run the zone
On the six-year anniversary of Train of Thought, Hi-Tek returned in with Hi-Teknology²: The Chip, the sequel to his solo debut. The project received strong reviews across the board, and the opening verse on the tenth track shouted out the Bearcats.
[rapped by Phil Da Agony — appears at :55]
Jay Z — “The Game Iz Mine”
50/50, you know how I handle mine
A nickel for you, give me my dime
Tell Paul Fireman, I got ’em on fire man
He ain’t been this hot since A.I. was signed
Now a n-gga talkin’ to Kenyon Martin
Shawn Marion, sh-t I might be startin’
As far as I can tell, “The Game Iz Mine” (sometimes referred to as “Lookin’ At My S Dots” because of its origins as a radio commercial for Jay Z’s tennis shoe) was a 2004 mixtape track. A high quality version of the song surfaced in April, but only the old version contains the second verse — and the Kenyon Martin line. Jay Z’s goofy shoes were made by Reebok, hence the corny reference to owner Paul Fireman, who sold the company to Adidas two years after this song was written.
[rapped by Jay Z — appears at :34]
Raekwon — “You Might Die” (ft. Doo Wop)
And now he Crip walking, I ain’t just talking
I do this thing often, ask Kenyon Martin
Last week, I gave his team a bone
And told him, ‘Take this with you to Boston’
(The kid’s awesome)
Wu Tang’s Raekwon released the first volume of The Vatican Mixtape in February 2007, right in the middle of Kenyon Martin’s lost season. That year in Denver, K-Mart played just two games before undergoing his second microfracture knee surgery in 18 months. He missed the remainder of the 2006–07 season for the Nuggets.
I need to say that I think Raekwon is stretching the truth in this tale. In the 2006–07 season, the Nuggets did play back-to-back games in Boston and Raekwon’s hometown of NYC. However, the Boston game was before the New York game, meaning if Rae caught up with Kenyon in New York, he had just come from Boston, not the other way around.
Sorry to blow the lid off of this one.
[rapped by Raekwon — appears at 1:28]
Paul Wall — “Know What I’m Talkin’ About”
If I see it, I want it
If I buy it, I flaunt it
A Kenyon Martin high school jersey
worth at least five hundred
Ignoring the fact that this guy named his debut album Chick Magnet, Paul Wall earns cool points for his admiration of Kenyon Martin. Retro jerseys were all the rage in the early 2000s, and this ’04 track brags about a K-Mart Bryan Adams High School jersey.
[rapped by Paul Wall — appears at :39]
Lil Wayne — “Momma Taught Me”
You don’t need me, you might catch cancer
Come back from treatment looking like Van Exel
Lil Wayne is a sports reference master, even appearing on ESPN occasionally to argue with people like Skip Bayless. In December 2005, he was working on the early stages of his era of dominance, and released the first installation of his critically-acclaimed Dedication series.
That year, Nick Van Exel was on the last leg of his career, playing just 15 minutes per game in his farewell with the San Antonio Spurs. In a way only Lil Wayne can, he rhymes “cancer” with “Van Exel” before comparing the bald Bearcat to a patient in chemotherapy.
Hey, at least it wasn’t the unprintable line Nicki Minaj dropped about Lance Stephenson in 2014 or the line about an early ’90s player’s criminal past that I didn’t have the heart to include here.
[rapped by Lil Wayne — appears at 1:53]
Beyonce — “Crazy In Love” (ft. Jay Z)
O.G. big homie, the one and only
Stick bony, but the pockets is fat like Tony —
Soprano. The ROC handle like Van Exel
I shake phonies, man, you can’t get next to —
Ask your average Bearcat fan to come up with a song containing a reference to a UC player, and this is probably the one you’ll get. Beyonce’s very first single in 2003 featured a guest verse from then-boyfriend Jay Z, and he threw the lob to the former Bearcat.
In was Jay’s first of two references to Bearcats in as many years. The single sold 2.3 million copies in the US alone, a much better look for Van Exel than the aforementioned Lil Wayne lyric.
[rapped by Jay Z — appears at 2:05]
The Pharcyde — “The Hustle”
Gettin’ twisted out of shape like a pretzel
Comin’ with more crossover appeal than Van Exel
In November 1995, The Pharcyde released Labcabincalifornia, their second album. The influential alternative hip-hop group was based in Los Angeles, where Van Exel was playing for the Lakers at the time.
[rapped by Randy Mac — appears at 2:25]
Public Enemy — “LSD”
Make it plain, the sound remains insane
Come the same, no holes closin’ up the lane
Don’t ask no questions on that simple level
Can the Magic get Shaq back, Knicks get Van Exel?
Even if you don’t know who Public Enemy is, you know who Flavor Flav is. In July 1999, the group was already on their seventh studio album, There’s a Poison Goin’ On. On the album’s third track, hip-hop godfather Chuck D mentions Van Exel in the same line as Shaq, which is pretty cool.
[rapped by Chuck D — appears at 2:13]
Kirko Bangz — “What It Do” (ft. Wale)
But it’s some of them that give us hope
Sniper Jones and Ty Law, if I can name a few
Sam Young and James White, my n-gga, what it do
So I’m the only one to do it without throwing ‘oops
Like I said with Lil Wayne, Wale is one of the best when it comes to sports references, probably because he got a football scholarship to FCS Robert Morris. 2013’s “What It Do” sees him recognizing stars from his hometown of Washington D.C. Sniper Jones (Kevin Durant), Ty Lawson, Sam Young, and former Bearcat James White are all from the DC area.
[rapped by Wale — appears at 2:03]
Kurtis Blow — “Basketball”
I used to go to dinner, then take the girl
To see Tiny play against Earl The Pearl
And Wilt, Big O, and Jerry West
Play basketball at it’s very best
Years before Lil Bow Wow remixed it for the blockbuster classic Like Mike, this track by hip-hop forefather Kurtis Blow gave a shoutout to the pioneers of a different game — basketball. Along with Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West was Bearcat Oscar Robertson.
[rapped by Kurtis Blow — appears at :56 — thanks to Twitter]
Think I missed a good one? As always, tell me I’m an idiot and then let me know.
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports)
The Cincinnati Bearcats finally have themselves in the AAC win column, and the next challenge on the list is the Temple Owls. Temple enters Saturday’s contest on a two-game winning streak after impressive victories over UCF (in a squeaker) and over USF (in runaway fashion). In what I anticipated to be a down year for the Owls, head coach Matt Rhule has steadied the ship after a disappointing season-opening loss to Army and has his team thinking about nine or more wins. If they want another 10-win season, they’ll need to take care of the Bearcats at home, a task which suddenly seems a bit more difficult after Gunner Kiel’s solid outing against ECU.
Read what I had to say earlier this week for a Gunner-centric preview of this year’s matchup. Here’s a series breakdown and a look at some notable games between the two schools:
All-time series record: Temple leads, 10–7–1
First meeting: 1973
Last meeting: 2015
Current streak: Temple won the last meeting
Record in Philadelphia: Temple leads, 7–3
Streak in Philadelphia: Cincinnati has won the last three
November 2, 1974 — Cincinnati 22, #19 Temple 20
The Owls entered the 1974 meeting at 6–0 on the year, sitting at #19 in the AP Poll. It was their first time ranked in just over 33 years, and they were riding high. They had won 14 consecutive games dating back to the 1973 season. They were good.
On November 2, they entered Nippert Stadium looking to squash a team that went 4–7 the previous year and entered this game at 3–3. The Owls thought they had a sure victory.
October 29, 1977 — Cincinnati 17, Temple 17
Entering the ’77 matchup, the series had been remarkably evenly-matched. Temple won the first meeting by a single point, the Bearcats beat the #19 Owls the following year, and then Temple won a four-point game in 1975.
In 1977, Temple returned to Nippert for the first time since UC’s monumental upset in ’74, and the two teams did the only thing possible: They played to a 17–17 tie.
The Owls finished the season 5–5–1 and UC wound up at 5–4–2, having tied with Louisville by an identical 17–17 score that September.
October 5, 1985 — Temple 28, Bearcats 16
Through the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Owls had a stranglehold on the series, and entered 1985 having won six of the previous seven matchups.
UC started strong and came from behind in the first half to mount a 10–7 lead at the break. However, with the help of a pick six, the Owls outscored UC 21–6 in the second half to steal a win, sending the Bearcats to their third straight loss after a 3–0 start. Temple had started the ’85 season 0–3, and the Bearcats were there second consecutive victory en route to a 4–7 season.
The Owls would have to wait a while for their next meeting with the Bearcats, and even longer for their next win at Nippert.
(Howard Smith / US Presswire)
November 10, 2012 — Bearcats 34, Temple 10
The Bearcats and Owls played in 2002 and 2003 when Temple was a member of the Big East. The Conference USA Bearcats won both meetings in a short home-and-home series. In 2012, Temple re-joined the Big East (having previously been kicked out) and faced the Bearcats, still searching for their first series victory since 1985.
A woeful Owl offense, led by quarterbacks Chris Coyer and Clinton Granger, was no match for a Bearcats team that entered at 6–2.
Brendon Kay tossed a pair of touchdowns, George Winn chipped in two more on the ground, and the Bearcats rolled to a 34–10 victory in Philly, their largest margin of victory in series history. Temple finished 4–7 that season, and the Bearcats landed at 10–3 with a share of the Big East title.
September 12, 2015 — Temple 34, Cincinnati 26
After a 2014 meeting that saw the Bearcats put together a dazzling defensive effort in a 14–6 win, 2015 couldn’t have gone more poorly.
Temple had sprung a 27–10 upset on Penn State the previous week, and headed to Nippert hoping to legitimize what many saw as the best Owls team in years. Instead, they sat back and let the Bearcats beat themselves, mounting a 34–12 lead on the back of three interceptions by Gunner Kiel and a special teams breakdown to start the second half that allowed a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown.
The Bearcats didn’t go quietly, and mounted a furious comeback late, only to have a fourth Kiel interception end the game on a 1st-and-goal with a shot for Cincinnati to tie.
For a team that was projected to compete in the conference, it was an ominous start that proved to be indicative of what was to come. The Bearcats finished 7–6, 4–4 in the conference. Temple rumbled to a 10–4 season after an AAC Championship loss to Houston.
As I wrote in my Gunner Kiel preview, the Temple game will be of paramount importance for Kiel (and for the team) for a third straight season. It won’t be a cakewalk in Philadelphia, but the challenge should be an exciting one. Cincinnati hasn’t lost at Temple since 1984, and they don’t want to start again on Saturday.
Cincinnati Bearcats products Ruben Patterson, DerMarr Johnson, and Kenyon Martin in 2006. (Getty Images)
Fans of Cincinnati Bearcats football know that graduates of the program who reach the NFL somehow always seem to congregate in Philadelphia. For whatever reason, the Eagles like their Bearcat products. On the current roster are Connor Barwin, Brent Celek, and Jason Kelce. Trent Cole also recently spent time in Philly, as did former Bearcats head coach Rick Minter. I was visiting Nashville last spring and a stranger pointed to my UC shirt and told me he became a Bearcats fan because he was from Philly and latched onto UC having watched the Eagles his whole life. It’s an oddity nobody can explain, but things are more bizarre on the basketball side.
Over a period of nearly 15 years, the Denver Nuggets’ roster boasted a Bearcats basketball alumni almost constantly. I knew in the back of my head that a handful of UC products played there, but I didn’t realize how prevalent it was until I started researching.
From 1997 to 2011 there was only one Denver Nuggets season in which there were no Bearcats on the roster. For five of those 14 seasons, there were multiple Bearcats. I suppose this type of thing is common with NBA factory programs like Kentucky and Kansas, but UC never has more than a handful of players in the NBA at once. To see them all spend time with one franchise is crazy.
During the 2001–02 season, there were seven Bearcats in the NBA: Corie Blount, Danny Fortson, DerMarr Johnson, Kenyon Martin, Ruben Patterson, Kenny Satterfield, and Nick Van Exel. Six of those seven players spent time with the Denver Nuggets at some point in their careers. The only player to avoid a stint in Colorado was Blount. This is perfect irony, because he boasts the most journeyed NBA career of any UC alum, having played for seven different franchises: Chicago, LA Lakers, Cleveland, Phoenix, Toronto, Golden State and Philadelphia. Yet somehow never the Nuggets.
Further adding to the bizarre nature of this whole thing: None of those six Bearcats were drafted by Denver. It would make sense if there were a scout or general manager with strong UC ties who liked the Bob Huggins brand of basketball and drafted UC guys when possible, but that’s not how it worked. Every UC Nuggets player was acquired via trade or free agency. Furthermore, the only UC product ever drafted by the Nuggets was Eddie Lee in the third round of the 1980 NBA Draft, and he never played a game for the franchise.
To come full circle, the newest Bearcat NBA player, Sean Kilpatrick, spent a 10-day contract with the Nuggets in early 2016 before finally landing a permanent home in Brooklyn.
Here’s a breakdown of the 14-year Bearcats Era in Denver:
1997–98 — Danny Fortson
1998–99 — Danny Fortson & Nick Van Exel
1999–01 — Nick Van Exel
2001–02 — Nick Van Exel & Kenny Satterfield
2002–03 — Kenny Satterfield
2004–05 — Kenyon Martin & DerMarr Johnson
2005–06 — Kenyon Martin, DerMarr Johnson, & Ruben Patterson
2006–07 — Kenyon Martin & DerMarr Johnson
2007–11 — Kenyon Martin
Danny Fortson (1997–1999) (Getty Images)
Nick Van Exel (1998–2002) (Nuggets.com)
Kenny Satterfield (2001–2003) (Getty Images)
Kenyon Martin (2004–2011) (Getty Images)
DerMarr Johnson (2004–2007) (Getty Images)
Ruben Patterson (2005–2006) (Getty Images)
Sean Kilpatrick (2016) (NBADLeague.com)
Andrew Gantz connects on a game-winning field goal in the 2015 matchup between UC and ECU. (USATSI)
The Bearcats head to homecoming in search of their first conference win. In their three conference games this season, they’ve been outscored 64–6 in the second half. They haven’t scored a touchdown since the second quarter of their game against USF on October 1. That was more than six quarters ago. Things in Clifton are on the verge of a nuclear meltdown, and the Bearcats will need to get past lowly ECU to get things back on track.
The Bearcats haven’t lost to the Pirates of East Carolina — which isn’t a state — since November 2001. They’ve beaten ECU five straight times, and the last two games ended with winning field goals by sharpshooter Andrew Gantz.
For the fourth time this season, the Bearcats will face an AAC team also in search of their first conference victory. If the Bearcats falter, they’ll be 0–4 in the AAC and be the source of first conference victories for four rivals. Needless to say, that would be very bad.
Here’s a series breakdown and a glance at a few notable meetings between the two programs:
All-time series record: East Carolina leads, 12–7
First meeting: 1986
Last meeting: 2015
Current streak: Cincinnati has won five straight
Record in Cincinnati: East Carolina leads, 5–4
Streak in Cincinnati: Cincinnati has won the last two
Tinker Keck saves a touchdown on a Troy Smith return. (AP photo)
November 13, 1997 — East Carolina 14, Cincinnati 7
By the 1997 season, ECU’s grip on the series was starting to slip. They had won the first seven meetings before UC pulled off two of three victories from 1994–96. The Bearcats would need more of the same in ’97, as they entered the season finale in Greenville with a 7–3 record, needing a win to match their best record since 1976 and safely ensure their first bowl berth since 1951.
ECU entered the game at 4–5, but a rain-soaked crowd of better than 25,000 and a Thursday night ESPN audience had the Bearcats rattled.
The Pirates put kicks through the uprights late in the first half and early in the second half to take a 6–0 lead before a 1-yard smash by fullback Landon Smith gave the Bearcats their first lead at 7–6. In the waning moments of the third quarter, ECU answered with a 5-yard touchdown pass followed by a two-point conversion to take a 14–7 lead heading into the final frame.
The Bearcats made it close before their offense stalled in the ECU red zone on their final possession and the Pirates held on to win.
In a twist, Rick Minter and his Bearcats made a bowl appearance despite the loss. In the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl, UC faced Utah State and won 35–19. It was their first bowl victory since 1949 and completed a remarkable 8–4 record after finishing 2–9 the season prior.
Olinger snags one of his three touchdown catches. (AP photo)
December 6, 2002 — Cincinnati 42, East Carolina 26
In the game that started UC’s run of recent dominance, the Bearcats again faced the Pirates in Greenville with their backs against the wall. The Bearcats entered the game 6–6, needing a victory to secure a share of the Conference USA title and punch their ticket to the New Orleans Bowl.
Gino Guidugli came out firing for UC and the Bearcats were ready. They staked themselves to an early lead with a 78-yard touchdown catch by Jon Olinger and a 12-yard pick six by Blue Adams. The Bearcats maintained a safe lead until the fourth quarter, when ECU made it a 2-point game on a 54-yard touchdown pass.
However, Guidugli hit George Murray on a 26-yard strike and the UC defense sealed it with a 30-yard pick six by Zach Norton on the ensuing Pirate possession.
The game’s MVP was Olinger, who had just four catches, but scored on touchdowns of 78, 49 and 48 yards. It was a historic game for the Bearcats. Olinger tied the UC record for touchdown catches in a game with three. Guidugli tied a record for passing touchdowns in a game with four. The game also set single-season records for Guidugli, as he pushed into first for pass attempts, completions, and passing yards. His 3,319 total yards eclipsed Greg Cook’s 1968 record. The win also gave the Bearcats a share of their first conference title since winning the Missouri Valley Conference in 1964.
The Bearcats lost to North Texas in the New Orleans bowl, finishing 7–7.
Chris Moore runs after a catch. (Gary Landers/Enquirer)
November 13, 2014 — Cincinnati 54, East Carolina 46
This game was fun and miserable. I watched this from front to back, and all I remember was being freezing cold (temperature at kickoff was 27 degrees) and feeling like one of the only people at Paul Brown Stadium (attendance is listed at just over 19,000 — which still feels generous).
Both teams entered with high-powered offense on one side and lackluster defense on the other. It had the makings of a shootout from the start, and it delivered.
Gunner Kiel opened the scoring with a 55-yard strike to Mekale McKay. ECU answered with a pair of field goals before Max Morrison caught one for 17 yards. The Pirates took the lead midway through the second quarter on a touchdown of their own before a 66-yard bomb to Chris Moore and a 2-yard punch by Rod Moore gave the Bearcats a 31–20 lead at the break. Freshman Mike Boone found the end zone to open the second half. UC had a commanding 38–20 lead when ECU mounted their comeback.
A 40-yard touchdown run and a 18-yard touchdown pass made it a four-point game early in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats were able to answer with a 36-yard strike to McKay before they began to hang on for dear life.
A touchdown by the Pirates made it a five-point game with fewer than four minutes remaining. The Bearcats got the ball back looking to salt the clock away. The drive stalled in UC territory and the ‘Cats faced a fourth down with two minutes left and a slim lead. What followed was, with zero exaggeration, the worst play call I’ve seen in my entire life:
ECU had the ball back, deep in UC territory, and they made the Bearcat coaches pay. QB Shane Carden scored on a run with 62-seconds remaining, but the two-point conversion failed. The Bearcats were trailing by one, and needed a field goal to win.
Johnny Holton got things moving in the right direction with a 31-yard return to the UC 35. With 57 seconds left, the offense took the field. 15-yard pass, 4-yard pass, timeout. Ball on the ECU 46. 16-yard pass, hurry to the line, incompletion, ECU timeout. With 26 seconds left on the ball on ECU’s 30-yard line, the Bearcat offense stalled. The Bearcats would need a career-long field goal from freshman Andrew Gantz if they wanted to win this one.
There were 19 seconds left. It was 11 PM. The temperature was probably closer to 20 degrees. The stadium was a ghost town. Out comes Gantz.
It would’ve been good from 57. The handful of kids left in the student section went wild. Gantz sprinted down the field towards us in celebration, and for a moment I was terrified that an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty would put the end of the game in jeopardy. Instead, ECU had time for one last play, and the Bearcats scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown to seal the win and keep themselves on track for a share of the conference title.
Andrew Gantz repeated his heroics in 2015’s matchup, this time connecting on the game’s final play to sink the Pirates. In 2016, UC will have to do it without him, as he sits for the remainder of the year with an injury. The Bearcats haven’t been this desperate for a win in years, and this is probably the AAC team they’d most like to be facing. A win here can get things on the road to salvation. A loss might help trigger program-altering changes come December.
1893 Bearcats football team (UC Libraries)
Bearcats football took the field for the first time on October 23, 1885 in a game against Mt. Auburn. 1885 is a long time ago, and UC football is older than every FBS team but nine. As an ardent lover of old things and Bearcat one-upmanship, I had to seize the opportunity.
The ‘Cats have a bye week and UC football’s birthday is just around the corner, so I figured I’d make a short list of things that came right after Cincinnati football did:
- Footballs in Cincinnati. This is one of my favorites. The 1927 issue of The Cincinnatian lays out the early days of Bearcats football, and credits Dr. Arch Carson for founding the team. Among other contributions, after all, “it was he who sent away to a big commercial house in the east for the first football, because there were none in the city of Cincinnati at that time.” That’s right. In 1885, footballs themselves weren’t even a thing in Cincy, but UC football was. (Also our colors were Blue and Brown at the time.)
- 12 states. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii all came after UC played its first football game.
- Coca-Cola. John Pemberton began serving it at his drugstore in Columbus, Georgia in May 1886.
- The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in October 1886, just over a year after UC football’s first game.
- Ballpoint pens. The ballpoint pen was invented by John Loud in October 1888.
- Kodak cameras. The first Kodak box camera was invented in 1888, bringing simple and inexpensive photography to the world.
- Inflatable tires. John Boyd Dunlop of Scotland invented the inflatable tire in 1888.
- Dishwashers. The first dishwasher was invented by Josephine Garis in 1889.
- The Eiffel Tower was opened in Paris in March 1889.
- The zipper was invented by Whitcomb Judson in 1891.
- The radio. The invention of radio is a disputed thing, but the internet credits a variety of people for creating radio some time between 1893 and 1900.
- Airplanes. The Wright Brothers’ infamous flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was in 1903.
So now if you were a real loser you could say something like, “Hey, do you know why UC’s first football uniforms didn’t have zippers? Because they weren’t invented yet.”
You’d probably come off really smug but it’s worth a shot anyway.
You’d never know it by looking at campus today, but a massive dormitory used to lord over UC’s southeast corner. Completed in 1971, Sander Hall stood 27 stories tall and served as the school’s first co-ed dorm. While it wasn’t as tall as downtown buildings like the Carew Tower, Clifton sits on a hill, which made Sander Hall the highest point in all of Hamilton County. For comparison’s sake, Sander reached nearly 300 feet into the sky, meaning it was virtually the same size as the P&G towers downtown.
The southeast corner of UC campus, with the (approximate) location of Sander Hall highlighted in red. (Google Maps)
Right from the start, the dorm caused problems. Calhoun Hall is 12 stories tall and is home to plenty of its own rowdiness due to the simple fact that it houses 680 students, most of whom are freshmen living without parents for the first time. Imagine Sander Hall, which slept roughly 1,300. There’s a reason nobody makes dorms this size. It was chaos.
Here is a brief summary of some shenanigans that went down at “Sander Zoo”:
- A neighborhood woman became angry when she learned she wasn’t allowed to use the laundry rooms. “I’m a taxpayer,” she said.
- A local 15-year-old was caught tampering with a vending machine. When a supervisor tried to apprehend him, he tore through the lobby and ruined a $600 set of draperies.
- During the spring quarter of 1974, an arsonist snuck in and set four small fires.
- During the 1973–74 school year, 194 criminal offenses were reported.
- Someone threw a rock through an $1,800 window.
- A common prank was emptying the fire extinguishers located around the building. There were 107 of them, and they had to be checked––for safety reasons––every Monday. Generally 15–25 of them were found empty, according to a university official.
- People used to take pride in simply punching holes in the walls, according to a former resident.
- A student who was expelled after flunking his finals threw a five-pound dumbbell through a window.
- Students threw M-80s down the trash chutes, which “sounded like a cannon.”
- A resident on one of the upper floors had a beach party complete with kiddie pools and sand. The following morning, he dumped all the sand down the trash chute and it went everywhere.
- In 1981, there were a reported 47 false fire alarms in the first 45 days of winter quarter.
- A runaway kid took refuge in Sander, and was rumored to have been fed by students for a full week.
- The mirrored windows on the building’s exterior were installed backwards, meaning it was difficult to see out, but very easy to see in, especially at night.
- Students discovered the change machine in the lobby wasn’t very fancy, so they photocopied dollar bills and emptied it.
- Someone stole all of the furniture from the 26th floor within weeks of opening.
- Residents hosted a “Death To Disco” party, complete with kegs and a genuine casket filled with crushed disco records brought by partygoers.
- Someone tried to push a Coke machine down an elevator shaft. It got stuck. The fire department had to come get it out.
A common theme became the false fire alarms and bomb threats, an event which happened multiple times per week, according to the Enquirer. How funny it must have been to watch 1,300 students slowly stream out onto the road in the middle of the night. Eventually, some students (including most athletes, per a former resident) stopped responding to alarms. It became a game to hide in your room and avoid the RAs doing a safety sweep. This obviously became an issue when real fires occurred.
The building was approved in December 1968 and opened in 1971. In its first year, it failed to pass a fire inspection. The design was poor, with tight stairwells and unreliable elevators concentrated at the building’s core. Getting masses of students out to safety in a hurry was nearly impossible. According to a report, evacuating the building from the 11th floor took 40 minutes. Sander endured fires in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, and 1981. In the final fire, a student sustained minor injuries, probably when she hurled a chair through the (backwards) window to allow smoke to escape. It was a safety nightmare.
Sander Hall floor plan from 1982, showing the concentration of escape routes in the building’s core. (Enquirer illustration by George Longfellow)
According to a state auditor report, the dorm was deemed a “fire trap” and “unsafe” due to a “deplorable lack of supervision.” Despite all of the chaos––or perhaps because of it––the dorm was one of the most popular on campus. According to a 1976 report in the Enquirer, the dorm had an occupancy rate better than 90%. It was the most requested dorm on the east side of campus, and had fewer transfer requests from residents than neighboring dorms. In a June 2016 story by UC Magazine, most former residents sharing stories looked back on their time at Sander fondly.
It should be noted that the life of Sander Hall wasn’t all fun and games. The building was home to at least one rape, multiple sexual assaults and armed robberies, and several suicide attempts. Due to its size, location, and the age of its residents, the building was always a haven for crime.
Sander Hall crumbles, June 23, 1991. (uc.edu)
Following the 1981–82 school year, the university spent $2 million to add sprinklers and improve stairwells, hoping to mitigate fire safety concerns. Part of the renewed focus on safety included plans that would have required Sander residents to sign a waiver stating they had read a safety pamphlet. However, UC enrollment declined the following school year and the university repealed the rule requiring sophomores to live on campus, so the building was left vacant. It sat unused until the late ’80s, when it became an earthquake testing center. It was put through stress tests to see if it could safely survive a quake. The university announced final plans to level the structure in May 1991. One month later, they brought it to the ground with 520 pounds of dynamite.
The school turned demolition day into an event, and spectators packed Clifton on the morning of Sunday, June 23, 1991. Camera crews were everywhere. UC student government sold $1 raffle tickets to students for the chance to push a ceremonial (read: fake) detonation button at the same time as the wrecking crew. The university even made a postcard to commemorate the event.
In a way that was fitting, the implosion of Sander Hall didn’t go perfectly smoothly. Following a thunderstorm the night before, demolition crews had to make adjustments to their wiring on the building, which delayed detonation. When the structure finally came down, the dust cloud was larger than expected, the wind shifted, and asbestos dust spread for blocks. (There are multiple great videos of the implosion. Check Google or YouTube.)
(University of Cincinnati)
Sander Hall cost $12.5 million to build and $3 million to demolish––mostly due to the removal of asbestos. Throw in the millions of dollars spent on safety upgrades, and that’s a large chunk of change to spend on the 11 years of headaches UC endured while students lived there. On the bright side, the demolition got the school in the history books. At the time of construction, Sander was the second-tallest dorm in the country. At the time of demolition, it was the tallest building in America to be imploded. It was also the youngest.
The dorm was the last building constructed prior to the implementation of the university’s Master Plan. The demolition of Sander signaled a change in mentality at UC, with a shift towards “humanizing” the environment, turning it into what we know today as one of the world’s most beautiful campuses (according to Forbes Magazine). Sander was completed in 1971. The next dormitories to be built were Turner and Schneider in 2002, and those embody a totally different philosophy. Sander Hall was a disaster front to back, but perhaps we can apprieciate its place in UC history.
Now if only we could topple Crosley Tower.
I couldn’t have done this without help from the UC Historical Walking Tour (a fascinating resource that summarizes stuff like this well), this June 2016 piece by John Bach in UC Magazine (which gave me most of these anecdotes and photos), and about a dozen different issues of the Cincinnati Enquirer. This is a very brief (but hopefully thorough) summary of Sander Hall. If you want more, there is plenty available at those links or elsewhere online.
Coach William T. Foley and captain halfback Edward Adams (UC Libraries)
“The Worst of the Bearcats” is a series designed to make us grateful for what we have as Bearcats fans in 2016. UC has endured some absolutely putrid years of athletic performance, so we shouldn’t take even the tiniest bit of success for granted. Honestly though, I’m mostly doing this because it’s interesting. Black and white photos of terrible football teams make me laugh.
The year was 1906, and it was as special time for college football. To set the scene, the previous season ended with Chicago’s stunning upset of Michigan in the de facto national championship game, which was played in front of 27,000 fans––the largest crowd in football history. The final score was 2–0, with the difference in the game being a play in which Chicago dragged Michigan’s William Dennison Clark into the end zone for a safety on a punt return. (There was no forward progress rule at the time.) The loss snapped Michigan’s 56-game undefeated streak, which put Clark in the crosshairs for his crucial play. It wasn’t fair, but he forever became known as The Guy That Lost The Chicago Game. He shot himself in the heart in 1932, and in his suicide note he hoped that his life’s “final play” could help atone for his mistake in the 1905 game. Yikes.
A month before Cincinnati’s 1906 season kicked off, football’s first legal forward pass was completed in a game between St. Louis and Carroll College. It was a major revolution in the sport.
I say this to illustrate my point that football at this time in history was reaching newer heights in popularity and in innovation. It was the dawning of a new day. The 1906 UC team would not be participating in any of it.
Changes in leadership helped Foley secure the UC job. (Enquirer, 3/14/1906)
Things were doomed from the start. The team faced a major hemorrhage of talent following the 1905 season, as all but two players were able to return the following year. Some graduated, others were ineligible for unspecified reasons, and one was coaching the team. That’s right. William Foley, an active student and former player, was now running the football program. Foley was, as The Cincinnatian kindly put it, “the star of former games.” Not exactly a shimmering resume for a coach.
Following a 4–3 finish in 1905, head football coach Amos Foster took his 11–4 career coaching record to Nebraska––although he, somehow, continued to coach UC hoops through the 1909 season. When Foley took over the program in 1906, he had to rebuild the team from the ground up to make up for lost talent. This search for football players went predictably poorly.
Coach Foley remained unrealistically optimistic, and the Enquirer noted before the season that he expected his team to be on equal standing with the best in the Midwest. Spoiler alert: This did not happen.
Foley succeeded in nailing down a lineup of strong candidates, but then discovered “for various reasons the majority of his men were disqualified.” After great effort, he finally fielded a team of eligible players, most of whom had never played football. To give you an idea of how depressing this roster was, The Cincinnatian repeatedly made comments along the lines of, “Hey, considering what we had to work with, it really could have been much worse.”
Looking at their record, it really could not have been much worse.
A 1906 UC game. (I believe this was the game against Carlisle on November 24, but I can’t say for sure.) (UC Libraries)
The 1906 UC team opened the season at Carson Field on October 6 against Marshall, who was fantastic that year. Marshall shut out each of their first four opponents and allowed just five points on the entire season. The only game they didn’t win was this one in Clifton, which ended in a 0–0 tie. The scoreless tie is arguably the high point of the 1906 season.
The Enquirer was not impressed. In the game’s recap the following day, they penned perhaps the most fantastic summary of all time:
The following week, Miami came down from Oxford. Again, UC failed to score. Again, they we able to force a tie. Through two weeks, they hadn’t scored a point, but they also hadn’t lost a game.
UC failed to reach the end zone in the first four games of the season, getting outscored by opponents 24–0 in that stretch. The scoreless trend had continued for Cincinnati, but a losing trend had began.
When Ohio University came down from Athens on November 3, the Bearcats had what must have been the most exciting moment of the season as QB Hayward Ackerson made a “spectacular run down the entire length of the field” to score a touchdown, which was worth five points at the time. UC lost that game 16–5. Ackerson’s touchdown was Cincinnati’s only points of the season.
UC closed the year losing 12–0 to Wittenburg, 51–0 to Marrietta, and 18–0 to Carlisle before a big road trip. The season’s final game was a brutal 41–0 loss to Nebraska… in Lincoln… on Thanksgiving… against their former coach. Misery.
The red and black managed just five points in nine games that year, while surrendering 162. In 127 seasons of Cincinnati football, no offense has been more incompetent.
UC didn’t field a varsity team in 1907, and William Foley never coached again. Instead, he became a surgeon and lived in Clifton until he died in an car accident in Lawrenceburg, Indiana in 1964.
The fullback from the 1906 team, Ralph Inott, came back to coach the Bearcats in their return to varsity football in 1908. They finished just 1–4–1, but he succeed in winning a game. Long live Ralph Inott.
1906 UC football illustration (UC Libraries)
Gino Guidugli gets six against UConn in 2001. (Jeff Swinger)
Coming off a brutal loss at the hands of the South Florida Bulls, the Bearcats travel to Hartford for a morning kickoff against the Huskies of UConn. It’s a sorry state of affairs for these two teams, as they each enter the game at 0–2 in AAC play. The loser falls to 0–3, which is going to essentially hit the death knell on either team’s season. Given that’s the case, it’s a deceptively high-stakes matchup.
I also believe that each team is better than their record indicates. 2–3 UConn is not the doormat of years past, and is finally starting to trend in the right direction under head coach Bob Diaco. The Bearcats, on the flip side, are 3–2, but boast a lot more talent than your average 3–2 team. This game could be scary, but it’s one I feel that UC can and should win. Here’s the full series breakdown and a glance at some notable past matchups.
All-time series record: Cincinnati leads, 10–2
First meeting: 2001
Last meeting: 2015
Current streak: Cincinnati has won five straight
Record in Connecticut: Cincinnati leads, 3–2
Streak in Connecticut: Cincinnati has won the last two
Zach Norton runs back an interception for a touchdown. (Jeff Swinger)
November 3, 2001 — Cincinnati 45, UConn 28
In the first meeting between the schools, the Huskies trekked to Nippert Stadium in their second season as an FBS team. UConn was bad, entering the game with a 5–13 record as an FBS team, with one of those wins coming against an FCS team, three coming against the MAC, and other coming against Rutgers. Basically, UConn hadn’t done a thing as a big-time football program. UC fans responded as such, and just 17,588 fans came out to Nippert. The Bearcats didn’t play an FCS team that season. This was their FCS game. It was that kind of matchup.
LaDaris Vann grabs a touchdown pass. (Jeff Swinger)
Coming off a tough loss to rival Louisville the previous week, the Bearcats — behind QB Gino Guidugli — struggled to get going against 2–6 UConn. Finally, at the end of the third quarter, Zach Norton picked off a Dan Orlovsky pass and streaked for the end zone, giving the Bearcats a 38–21 lead and sealing the win. It wasn’t pretty, as the Bearcats allowed a weak Huskies offense to rack up 382 yards. But five forced turnovers by UC was the difference, and the red and black got the victory at home over the hapless Huskies.
The Bearcats finished the 2001 season at 7–5 after losing to #25 Toledo in the Motor City Bowl. The Huskies closed the season with six straight losses to finish 2–9.
Mardy Gilyard reels in a pass. (AP/Bob Child)
October 25, 2008 — UConn 40, Cincinnati 16
By 2008, both the Bearcats and Huskies were hitting their stride in the Big East. The Bearcats would make their first BCS bowl that season, and UConn (believe it or not) would have their second of four consecutive eight-win seasons.
The Bearcats entered the 2008 game riding high. They were 7–1 in their last eight games, with the only loss coming on the road against the #4 Oklahoma Sooners. Things were rolling under Brian Kelly until disaster struck in Hartford in front of a sellout homecoming crowd of 40,000.
QB Tony Pike had broken his forearm in September against Akron and was returning as starter for the first time. After experiencing “progressive numbness” in his left hand, his day ended at halftime. A 13–10 Bearcats lead evaporated as UConn outscored the red and black 30–3 in the second half.
Brian Kelly coached 40 games at Cincinnati, and this was the only conference loss by 20 points or more. For reference, Tommy Tuberville has done that in both conference games so far this season.
The Bearcats bounced back from the loss, beating #24 South Florida, #20 West Virginia, and #20 Pittsburgh in the next four games. They finished the season 11–3 after a loss to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Isaiah Pead scores a fourth quarter touchdown to seal the victory over UConn. (GoBearcats.com)
November 7, 2009 — #4 Cincinnati 47, UConn 45
The Bearcats magical 2009 season saw them finish a perfect 12–0, but they nearly slipped up at home against a tough UConn team.
A Jacob Rogers field goal on the final play of the first half gave the Bearcats a 27–10 lead at the break, but the Huskies didn’t quit. In the third quarter, a 46-yard touchdown run and an 86-yard punt return brought the game to 37–24 entering the final frame. Another Rogers field goal put UC up by 16, but then UConn made their move.
Two more Jordan Todman touchdown runs (his third and fourth of the night) cut UC’s lead to just two points after a failed two-point conversion. With five minutes remaining, the Bearcats needed another score. QB Zach Collaros, starting again in place of the injured Tony Pike, marched the Bearcats 56 yards with the help of an Isaiah Pead touchdown scramble on fourth down. The Huskies had time to answer back, but it wasn’t enough and UC held on to improve their record to 9–0.
Not only did the win preserve UC’s Top 5 position in the AP Poll, but it also capped what’s arguably the best three-game stretch by a quarterback in program history. Collaros finished this three game stint without Pike with an absurd stat line: 66-for-82 (80%), 1,028 yards, eight touchdown passes, and zero interceptions. Without Collaros, the 12–0 season isn’t possible. He was masterful.
Solomon Tentman holds the Big East Championship trophy following UC’s 2012 win over UConn. (
December 1, 2012 — Cincinnati 34, UConn 17
In what would be the final game of the Butch Jones tenure, the Bearcats travelled to Hartford to face UConn with a share of the 2012 Big East title on the line. You may remember this game being on the same day as Cashmere Wright’s incredible buzzer beater against Alabama. A handful of us hung out in the student section after the basketball game to watch the Bearcats put away UConn on the big screen. That was a good day.
The game was the Brendon Kay and Travis Kelce show, as the pair connected with each other for three scores. Kay threw two touchdown passes to Kelce and Kelce returned the favor with a touchdown strike to Kay on a trick play in the second quarter. After the opening drive of the second half, it was Kay/Kelce 21, UConn 10. The Bearcats added a George Winn rushing touchdown and a pair of field goals to put the game away and close the regular season at 9–3. The loss dropped UConn to 5–7, securing back-t0-back losing seasons in Hartford for the first time since 2005 and 2006.
The Bearcats are 5–0 against UConn since 2010, and the only memorable game in that stretch was the 2012 game that secured a share of the Big East Championship. If you’re a fan of blowouts, you’ll like the 2014 game, which UC won 41–0. However, the Huskies won just a single FBS game that year, so I have a hard to beating my chest over that victory. The 2016 edition figures to be a the most evenly-matched battle since 2010, so maybe I’ll have something notable to add to this list.
The Bearcats celebrate with the travelling fan contingent following their 2007 win in Tampa. (AP/Mike Carlson)
The South Florida Bulls turned the corner in 2015, winning eight games and returning to national relevance for the first time in five years. The Bearcats, meanwhile, squandered away multiple games before getting blasted by the surging Bulls in Tampa. USF has never beaten Cincinnati in back-t0-back seasons, and the Bearcats will take the field Saturday with the goal of making sure that remains the case. Here’s the Cincinnati-South Florida breakdown and a look at some notable games:
All-time series record: Cincinnati leads, 8–5
First meeting: 2003
Last meeting: 2015
Current streak: South Florida won last year
Record in Cincinnati: Cincinnati leads, 5–1
Streak in Cincinnati: Cincinnati has won the last two
Mike Daniels scores a first quarter touchdown. (AP photo)
October 31, 2003 — South Florida 24, Cincinnati 17
The Bulls joined Conference USA for the 2003 season, which set up their first matchup with the Bearcats. UC packed up and flew to Tampa for a Halloween game in front of what looked to be a very sparse crowd.
Mistakes were a theme, and the Bearcats seemingly did all they could do lose the game. After a defensive stand that forced USF to tie the game rather than take the lead, the red and black worked themselves into field goal position to take a shot at a 41-yard game-winner with four seconds left. The attempt was blocked, and the teams went to overtime tied at 10.
The Bearcat defense, having played tough all night, quickly came unravelled and allowed touchdowns on USF’s first two possessions. Following a UC first down in 2OT, Gino Guidugli’s pass bounced off of the shoulder pad of Richard Hall and into a defender’s hands to end the game. The whole mess is on YouTube, if you’d like to watch.
The win pushed the Bulls to 5–3 on their way to a 7–4 finish. The double overtime victory over the Bearcats was USF’s second of three double overtime victories on the year. The loss dropped the Bearcats to 4–4 on the year, and they’d go on to lose three of their remaining four, signaling the end of the Rick Minter era and making way for Mark Dantonio in 2004.
To be fair, I’m not sure anyone cared about this excruciating loss, because:
Butler Benton runs for a 48-yard touchdown in the second quarter. (Enquirer/Meggan Booker)
November 20, 2004 — Cincinnati 45, South Florida 23
The Bulls made the trip to Nippert for the first time and took their first shot at Bearcat head coach Mark Dantonio. UC swung hard and didn’t miss, storming to a 45–23 victory at home.
After a critical turnover near the end of the first half, USF knotted the score at 17. However, the Bearcats drove 80 yards down the field on the ensuing drive to take a 7-point lead into the break. After halftime, the offense and defense turned things up to pull away for the win behind stellar performances from Guidugli and the entire running back corps.
The win made the Bearcats bowl eligible and helped toward a 7–5 finish. USF limped to their first losing season, a place they wouldn’t return to until 2011.
WR Marcus Barnett slings a 76-yard pass to Mardy Gilyard in the second quarter. (AP/Mike Carlson)
November 3, 2007 — Cincinnati 38, #20 South Florida 33
2007 in Tampa was like 2009 in Clifton. Building on years of success, the Bulls finally were getting things to fall into place. They opened the season 6–0 with wins at #17 Auburn and at home over #5 West Virginia. The Bulls had arrived, and they were ranked #2 in the country by mid-October. Then things started to fall apart. First it was a 3-point loss in New Jersey to Rutgers, then a 7-point loss in Hartford to UConn. The Bulls limped home in November to face Brian Kelly’s Bearcats, hoping to get back on track.
On the first drive of the game, USF picked off a Ben Mauk pass and took it 73 yards for a touchdown and a 7-point lead. UC was able to equalize with a 63-yard Mauk touchdown pass, but USF returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, giving them a 14–7 lead.
The Bearcats responded well, answering with a field goal, a blocked punt returned for a score, a 79-yard interception return, and a 16-yard touchdown catch by Dominick Goodman. This was all before the end of the first quarter. UC was suddenly leading 31–14.
The Bulls made it interesting late, but their comeback bid fell short, and their plummet from #2 continued following a third consecutive loss. They never really recovered that season, finishing 9–4 following a loss in the Sun Bowl. The Bearcats couldn’t quite get past #5 West Virginia two weeks later, and settled for a victory in the PapaJohns.com Bowl, capping a 10–3 season.
October 15, 2009 — #8 Cincinnati 34, #21 South Florida 17
The Bearcats returned to Tampa in 2009 as a Top 10 team. The Bulls were a respectable #21, but had won five straight games against ranked teams, two of which were Top 10. The Bearcats were good, but the Bulls liked their chances, especially at home in front of a packed crowd of nearly 64,000 at Raymond James Stadium.
USF scored first, taking a 7–0 lead on a BJ Daniels touchdown pass, but the Bearcats held a 17–10 halftime advantage after two first half connections between Tony Pike and Armon Binns. Early in the third quarter, Pike re-aggravated a 2008 injury and was replaced by sophomore QB Zach Collaros, who promptly split the Bulls defense for a 75-yard touchdown that effectively put the game away.
Collaros scored on another touchdown run for good measure, and the Bearcats got the win in Tampa, pushing them to 6–0 at the midpoint of what would be a perfect 2009 regular season. It was the fourth consecutive win for UC in the series, the longest by either team.
Zach Collaros scores on a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Fred Bellet)
October 22, 2011 — Cincinnati 37, South Florida 33
By 2011, Collaros was a senior, and ready to bookend his Bearcats legacy with another Big East Championship. After a blowout Week 2 loss in Knoxville, the Bearcats headed to Tampa with a 5–1 record to face a team that beat the Bearcats in 2010 and opened 2011 with a win over #16 Notre Dame in South Bend.
The Bearcats started slow, playing to a 10–10 halftime tie. UC let the third quarter get away from them, and the Bulls opened up a 10-point lead to start the fourth. A Collaros touchdown run made it a 3-point game before a touchdown pass to Alex Chisum gave UC its first lead of the half.
The Bearcats had their work cut out for them after a BJ Daniels touchdown pass with 1:27 remaining, but the always-poised Collaros crafted a 7-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that ended with the game winning score with 12 seconds remaining.
Two weeks later, Collaros fell to injury, causing the Bearcats to lose two consecutive games on their way to a 10–3 finish. The Bulls, who had entered conference play 4–0 and ranked #14, finished the Big East slate at just 1–6, capping a disastrous second season for Skip Holtz.
(Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
November 20, 2015 — South Florida 65, Bearcats 27
The Bearcats’ disappointing 2015 season went from bad to worse in Tampa, as a crowd of fewer than 27,000 had plenty to cheer about in USF’s beatdown of UC. A 44-yard Andrew Gantz field goal saved UC from being shut out in the first half, but the red and black saw only red with the scoreboard reading 51–3 at the break.
Things got a bit better in the second half (which isn’t saying much) as Chris Moore reeled in a 54-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Moore to clinch the Bearcats career receiving touchdowns record.
For the Bearcats, the loss was a preview of what to expect in the Hawaii Bowl. For the Bulls, the win was another stepping stone in the return to relevance. USF won eight games and made a bowl appearance, both of which hadn’t been done in Tampa since 2010.
So far, the Bearcats seem to be much-improved defensively in 2016. The game is in Cincinnati, where USF has just one win in six tries. The Bulls have never beaten the Bearcats in back-to-back seasons. If history and statistics are any indication, I like the Bearcats’ chances this weekend. A win here would likely be the biggest conference win for Tommy Tuberville since the Bearcats fended off Houston at the end of the 2014 season to win the AAC title. UC played strong for three quarters against a Top 10 team two weeks ago. Saturday they’ll have a chance to prove that wasn’t a fluke, and move one step closer to facing Houston again in December.
Captains from Miami (left) and Cincinnati (right) shake hands before the game in 1915. (UC Libraries)
Because of recent history, the Battle for the Victory Bell is a tough one to summarize. Cincinnati and Miami have been meeting since 1888, making it the oldest non-conference rivalry in America. Going by total games, it’s the second-oldest rivalry in FBS football, trailing only Minnesota-Wisconsin.
Considering the winding histories of the two schools, the rivalry is remarkably close. After 120 meetings, Miami holds just a five-game lead in the series. What’s more, I ran the numbers prior to last year’s meeting, and the total score blew me away. Heading into Saturday, UC leads 1,947 to 1,940. If you want to get mathematical, this means that the “average score” of a UC-Miami game has the Bearcats winning 16.23 to 16.17. It goes without saying, but that is insanely close, especially for a rivalry of this age.
The sad part, for me, is that it feels like the game has lost its luster. I wasn’t a Bearcats fan back when this meeting actually meant something, so I can’t really speak on what has changed since the glory days. All I know is that since Ben Roethlisberger left Oxford, things are different. The Bearcats hit a golden age, the RedHawks took a nose dive. Cincinnati joined a power conference, Miami struggled to compete in the MAC. UC won ten in a row, MU seems lucky to keep it close.
I have a hard time even pounding my chest about that, because there is so little emotion involved. However, it’s the one football rivalry the Bearcats still have, so I’ll treat it as such. The current state of affairs doesn’t change the storied history. There are an impossible 120 meetings to sort through, so please allow me to shorten things and pick some notables.
All-time series record: Miami leads, 59–54–7
First meeting: 1888
Last meeting: 2015
Current streak: Cincinnati has won ten straight
Record in Cincinnati: Miami leads, 43–41–5
Streak in Cincinnati: Cincinnati has won six straight
December 8, 1888 — Bearcats 0, Miami 0
In December 1888, Ohio became the 20th state to officially join the college football world, as Cincinnati and Miami met for the first official game in the state’s history. The contest was played in freezing rain, there were no officials, and nobody had uniforms. The players wore “track suits and gym shoes,” and who knows what those looked like in the 1880s. According to Miami, the Oxford squad averaged 140 pounds and included both students and faculty. The teams battled it out to a 0–0 draw, and a rivalry was born.
1894 Cincinnati football team (UC Libraries)
October 20, 1894 — Cincinnati 6, Miami 0
It was just the fifth meeting in series history, and the Cincinnati yearbook was already referring to Miami as “our old rivals.” A 98-yard UC drive late in the first half was capped with a rushing touchdown by Cincinnati RB John Howard Melish (pictured above, sitting on floor, far left). UC held on to win its first game in the series by a score of 6–0.
(Trying to avoid tangents here, but here’s a small one: Melish was born in Milford in 1874, graduated from UC in 1895, went to Harvard for a year, got a four-year degree from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, came back to UC to serve as university chaplain until 1904, and then moved to Brooklyn to serve in Holy Trinity Church. He died in March 1969, which means he was around to see Bearcats QB Greg Cook get drafted #5 by the Bengals in the ’69 NFL Draft.)
November 25, 1909 — Cincinnati 10, Miami 6
Cincinnati and Miami meeting on Thanksgiving would become a tradition, and this was the first Turkey Day matchup. The Bearcats sprung the upset, and a large Miami contingent quietly left, according to the Enquirer. Following the victory, fans stormed the field, “throwing caps, hats, canes, and horns over the goal post,” and hoisted head coach Robert Burch and captain Ernie DuBray onto their shoulders in celebration.
The game was played in Cincinnati at League Park, also known as Palace of the Fans. Three years later, Crosley Field would be built on the site.
“Cincinnati trying to block Miami’s forward pass” (UC Libraries)
November 27, 1914 — Miami 20, Cincinnati 13
In truth, I don’t think there’s anything very notable about this game. I chose it because it’s the first Miami game that I have a photo for.
UC took Carson Field for the final game of 1914 against a much bigger Miami squad, and stunned the large crowd by surging to a 13–0 halftime lead. In the second half, with star UC players like Leonard “Teddy” Baehr sidelined, MU stormed back to win. If Teddy sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the Bearcats namesake. The name “Bearcats” was first used following a game against Kentucky that October, in reference to Mr. Baehr.
Muddy conditions vs Miami (UC Libraries)
November 29, 1923 — Cincinnati 23, Miami 0
The 1923 matchup is the most infamous of all. Conditions at Carson Field were so bad that all players were forced to wear mud cleats to improve grip. Being the team’s center, James Gamble “Jimmy” Nippert was battling it out in the trenches. At some point during the game, Nippert was gashed by a cleat, and the wound filled with mud. He didn’t realize how bad he’d been cut, and remained in the game until the final whistle.
After the game, he returned to his family home in Westwood. Drugs and medical care were lacking during that time, so his condition quickly worsened. On Christmas Day, he died of blood poisoning.
Jimmy’s grandfather, James Gamble of Procter & Gamble, donated $250,000 ($3.52m adjusted for inflation) to UC to have the stadium completed in his grandson’s honor. The new Nippert Stadium included state-of-the-art training rooms that would allow for on-site medical care for injured players, essentially preventing other UC athletes from suffering the same fate Jimmy did.
Out of the 1923 game, UC lost a star player and student but gained a stadium that continues to shine 92 years later.
November 27, 1924 — Cincinnati 8, Miami 7
The first Cincinnati-Miami game at Nippert Stadium was a thriller. The stadium was dedicated three weeks prior, and fans filled the stands to see the old rivalry in a pristine venue.
The game was scoreless for the first three quarters. To open the fourth, Miami found the end zone to take a 7–0 lead. I’ll defer to the Enquirer, because I thought this passage was hilarious:
Then Miami scored and the stands groaned.
One spectator remarked, “It’s all over now, we’ve lost another one.”
That spectator, however, did not know of the fighting heart which the Bearcats beloved coach, George McLaren, had instilled in them.
With the words of their coach ringing in their ears that they are never beaten until the final whistle sounds, the Bearcats stepped out and began playing the greatest ball any U. of C. team has ever played.
“Miami’s Funeral. Nippert Stadium. Tomorrow. 2:30.” (UC Libraries)
With eight minutes to play, Lee Hallerman stormed through the Miami line to block a punt that would turn into a safety. UC was on the board, trailing 6–2. Four minutes later, UC got the ball back and Bearcats captain Anthony McAndrews dashed 13 yards for the winning score.
It would go down as the first of many remarkable games in Nippert history, and it came against the red and black’s oldest rival. Jimmy Nippert was avenged.
28–30,000 fans pile into Nippert Stadium on Thanksgiving Day, 1946 (UC Libraries)
November 28, 1946 — Cincinnati 13, Miami 7
The 50th meeting of the Battle for the Victory Bell was one for the books. Fans packed Nippert to see the rivalry’s Golden Anniversary, and the home crowd got a treat.
“Students crowd into the stadium to cheer UC to victory” (UC Libraries)
The Bearcats were trailing by a point with fewer than 30 seconds remaining when freshman UC quarterback (and Hughes High School product) Tommy O’Malley was inserted into the game and was able to find senior captain Elbie Nickel for a game-winning touchdown. The stands erupted, and the victory capped an 8–2 regular season and sent the Bearcats to their first ever bowl game, where they beat Virginia Tech.
The 1946 game can be pointed to as the dawning of second golden era of the rivalry, following the intense meetings in the ’20s. Here’s why:
- World War II was in the rearview mirror. The Bearcats didn’t play football in 1943 or 1944, and in 1945 the sport was still recovering. 121 schools played the 1942 season, but that number dipped drastically during the war. 1946, however, was finally a return to strength. 120 schools fielded teams and 11 bowl games were played.
- The Victory Bell returned. UC students stole the bell from Miami in the 1890s, and a tradition was born, with the bell going to the winning team each year. At some point in the 1930s, the bell went missing. It resurfaced in time for the 1946 match, perhaps an omen of the rivalry’s returning fervor.
- Cincinnati and Miami would share a conference. That’s right. The nation’s oldest non-conference rivalry was played within the MAC for six seasons from 1947–52.
- Fan interest was at an all-time high. The 1946 match (pictured above) boasted an attendance of somewhere between 28,000 and 30,000, depending on who you ask. Either way, it was a Nippert Stadium record.
- Both teams were really good. In the ten seasons beginning with the 1946 game, UC and Miami split the rivalry down the middle. Each team won five games. Bearcats coaches during that period were Ray Nolting (winner of UC’s first bowl game), Sid Gillman (one of the greatest UC coaches ever, stolen from Miami, only coach in college and pro Hall of Fame), and George Blackburn (also stolen from Miami). Miami’s coaches were Sid Gillman (mentioned above), George Blackburn (mentioned above), Woody Hayes (legendary Ohio State coach), and Ara Parseghian (legendary Notre Dame head coach, coached Rudy). In the six years the schools shared a conference, UC won four MAC titles. In the other two seasons, UC lost to Miami in the final week, finishing in second place while MU won the conference. Seriously, this was an incredible rivalry at the time.
November 21, 1964 — Cincinnati 28, Miami 14
Miami was in the midst of the Bo Schembechler era, winning a MAC title in 1962 and 1965 before Bo fled north to Michigan. The Bearcats struggled to two wins in 1962 before managing a 6–4 record and an MVC title in 1963. More importantly, the Bearcats were struggling in the series. In the previous four meetings, UC lost by two, three, and four points as well as a 38–16 blowout in 1962. They were frustrated.
17,000 fans came out to Nippert despite freezing temperatures to see the Bearcats put themselves back on the map. Legendary Cincinnati QB Brig Owens and RB Al Nelson tore apart the Redskins defense, racking up 343 yards rushing and putting up 28 points, the most by UC against a Miami team since 1952. The win pushed the Bearcats to 7–2 before a Houston win made it eight on the season. It was the best mark since the Gillman era a decade earlier.
UC gets its only touchdown of the day on a botched Miami punt. (Enquirer/Dick Swaim)
November 20, 1971 — Miami 43, Cincinnati 7
In 1971, the rivalry returned to Oxford for the first time since 1898. It could not have gone worse for the Bearcats, as Miami scored their most points of the series and UC could only counter with a freak special teams touchdown early in the second half. Even the weather was bad, and just over 9,000 fans stood out in the cold and wet to see the beatdown.
The Bearcats were pretty good that year, finishing 7–3 if you choose to ignore the Oxford Debacle. Maybe agreeing to alternate stadiums was a bad idea for Cincinnati, because they would lose eight of nine in the series after playing in Oxford in ‘71.
September 13, 1986 — Cincinnati 45, Miami 38
Heading into the 1986 matchup, the Bearcats had lost 12 of 15 in the series, and things looked bad. Miami had finished 8–2 the previous year and looked strong again. The Bearcats, meanwhile, had a losing record in 1985 and didn’t look to be much improved in ’86. Things were tracking for a blowout.
Instead, the Bearcats fought hard.
A crowd of nearly 24,000 came to Riverfront Stadium and saw the highest-scoring game in the rivalry’s history (at that time) as 5'7" Bearcat RB Reggie Taylor racked up an incredible 259 rushing yards and two touchdowns to give UC the comeback victory over the favored Redskins.
The Bearcats fell behind early before surging late and building a 14-point lead. Miami made it a one possession game in the final minute before a controversial onside kick ruling gave the ball back to the Bearcats to run out the clock.
Miami would go on to reach their first bowl game in more than a decade while UC struggled, losing six of its last nine to finish 5–6 on the season. However, the victory was the first of four straight in the series for the Bearcats.
Miami fails to block a 58-yard field goal from Jon Bacon. (Enquirer/Gary Landers)
September 17, 1994 — Cincinnati 17, Miami 17
The game has finished in a deadlock seven times, and this is the most recent. In a script you can’t write, UC kicker Jon Bacon drilled a Yager Stadium-record 58-yard field goal to give the Bearcats the lead with 1:19 remaining. Before he could bask in the glory, Miami got the ball back and stormed down the field to tie it on the game’s final play.
“I was in shock,” he said after the game. “The only thing I can compare it to is like getting a winning lottery ticket and having it taken away from you.” It was Bacon’s first career field goal, and it was spoiled.
The 1994 season was even worse for the Bearcats, as they finished 2–8–1 in the first year of the Rick Minter era.
Gino Guidugli gets sacked (Enquirer/Jeff Swinger)
September 27, 2003 — Miami 42, Cincinnati 37
Here are two things that sound foreign now:
- In 2003, the UC-Miami game was sold out… in Oxford.
- In 2003, Miami finished in the Top 10.
What may be the best team in Miami history was led by future Super Bowl QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Bearcats would finish with a losing record that season, landing at 9th in Conference USA. Things looked bleak in Clifton and beautiful in Oxford.
The RedHawks surged to a 28–0 first half lead as UC struggled to simply record a first down. After a Miami touchdown early in fourth quarter, the lead grew to 42–17.
The Bearcats started scoring. First a 98-yard touchdown drive. Then a blocked field goal returned 78 yards for a touchdown. Then an onside kick and another 50-yard drive. Suddenly, it was a one-possession game. The Bearcats defense held on the ensuing Miami possession and UC was going to get the ball back with a less than a minute remaining and a shot to win.
Heartbreak happened when UC returner Thaddeus Lewis fumbled the punt and Miami recovered to win the game. The Bearcats had scored three touchdowns in just over six minutes, but it wouldn’t be enough.
At the time, I’m sure the game felt like a a turning point for the two teams. The victory propelled Miami to a 13-win Top 10 season and pushed UC into the C-USA basement and toward the firing of Rick Minter. I’m sure few could see where things were headed, as the Bearcats hired Mark Dantonio the following year, joined the Big East, and embarked on their own golden age. Miami toiled in the years since, recording just one winning season since 2005, and beating Cincinnati just once since the 2003 escape.
September 19, 2015 — Cincinnati 37, Miami 33
Last year’s meeting was the closest Miami has come to victory since winning in 2005.
The Bearcats floundered in the first half, leading just 24–23 at the break. Early in the third quarter, UC was dealt a blow as a roughing the passer call against Miami knocked Gunner Kiel out of the game. Having never faced an FBS team, freshman Hayden Moore trotted out onto the field to try to preserve the win for UC. Things didn’t go too well.
Four Hayden Moore turnovers later (two fumbles and two interceptions) the Bearcats found themselves trailing 33–30 to their rivals with four minutes remaining. If Miami was going to win, this is how they’d do it. Suddenly, the kid found his footing and embarked on a 66-yard drive capped by a touchdown run of his own with just over a minute remaining.
The freshman had piloted a Houdini act in Oxford, and the Bearcats won their tenth straight in the series.